2012 Ford Fiesta Hatch SES Quick Drive

Ford's Euro-inspired hatch looks to add intrigue at the entry-level

The 2012 Ford Fiesta Hatch is the latest in a series of European-inspired economy cars that look to deliver more than a small price tag. Until fairly recently, entry-level models were grudgingly lackluster excuses for transport. But the segment is undergoing a renaissance, one inspired by fun driving dynamics and efficiency, by better styling, and significantly upgraded interiors. Entry-level cars like the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Mazda2, Chevrolet Sonic, and Kia Rio have all added features and enhancements that would be unthinkable a few years ago. So where does the 2012 Ford Fiesta Hatchback fit in all of this? We spent a week with the Fiesta to find out.

Model and Price

The entry-level 2012 Ford Fiesta S five door starts at $14,895 after delivery, and is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine capable of producing 120 hp. Entry-level trims are paired to a five-speed manual transmission. The most basic Fiesta comes with 15-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, and a four-speaker AM/FM radio with an auxiliary jack. The mid-level SE model ups the starting price to $16,465 after delivery, and adds power windows and doors, a CD player, and 16-inch "premium painted" wheels.

Our hatchback was the top of the line Ford Fiesta SES, which starts at $18,295 after delivery. Our model featured a leather-wrapped steering wheel, nice ambient lighting in the cabin, and added two packages. The first was the Premium Sport Appearance Package, which for $795 added heated seats, an alarm, and a chrome accented beltline. The Premium Interior Package costs $925, and adds "premium" floor mats, aluminum to the leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather trimmed seats. Add it all up, and our Fiesta test car was $20,835 after delivery.

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Safety and Key Features

The 2012 Ford Fiesta SES comes equipped with front airbags, side curtain airbags, and a driver's knee airbag, unique in the class. Other safety features include stability and traction control, and antilock disc brakes. The Fiesta was awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation, and received a score of "good," the highest possible in frontal offset, side impact, rear impact, and roof strength testing.

The Ford Fiesta SES model we drove was equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, available on the model's highest trim, which is a rarity these days. But it also goes to show that Ford is serious about giving its econo-hatch a European inspired semblance of fun. Our model also had a red and black, leather-trimmed interior which is also not common in the segment.

Family Friendliness and Utility

The 2012 Ford Fiesta Hatchback has competitive interior room, and rear cargo room is on par with the subcompact segment. The rear seats however, don't fold completely flat, and if maximum interior cargo room and versatility are a concern, a Honda Fit would better serve you. While the Fiesta does have LATCH anchors, rear seat room is cramped, and securing a child seat regularly would be a bit of a hassle.

Comfort and Quality

The Fiesta SES features a modern, sporty cabin, enhanced by the Premium Interior Package. With solid fit and finish and dramatically styled interior, the Fiesta represents a drastic departure from the cheap and lackluster entry-level interiors of the past. Our editors did find the seats to be comfortable, but this is a small car, and they're placed very close together. The leather trim includes vinyl covering on the seats, but if the interior touches -- door inserts, center stack inserts and ones on the steering wheel too -- are too much, you can opt for a simpler pattern with cloth seats. And while the center console is button-heavy, Ford's Sync system allows for an effortless Bluetooth connection, and the climate controls are logical and simple to operate.

How it Drives

Ford intended the 2012 Fiesta to offer a sporty ride, and it does a good job of delivering. The clutch is light and the manual transmission is defined by long smooth throws, and is easy to shift. Associate editor Jacob Brown noted that the two-to-three upshift was consistently clunky, but we otherwise like the transmission. The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder boasts 120 horsepower, which is more than the Mazda2's 100 hp, but considerably less than the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, at 138 hp. But the Fiesta gets the most of its engine, and power generally wasn't lacking. The Fiesta seems at home in the city, offering a fun way to zip around town, and easily sliding in to parking spots larger cars roll past grudgingly. There is occasional highway chop, but that's both common for the segment, and expected with a suspension tuned to be slightly sportier than the competition.

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The 2012 Ford Fiesta Hatch SES is the top of the line model, and features Ford's Sync media system, and niceties such as leather-trimmed seats. We like the five-speed manual transmission paired with the 1.6-liter, 120-hp four-cylinder engine. In fact, there's a lot we like about this car, but there's one glaring issue: the price. At almost $21k, you'd be better off looking at cars in the segment above -- such as a Civic or Ford Focus -- or simply opting for lower-level model, which would knock off a few thousand dollars, and some equipment. If paying a premium for an entry-level car isn't an issue, the Ford Fiesta Hatch SES offers pleasing driving dynamics, a modern, premium interior, and is a fun way to skirt around town.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $20,835
Fuel Economy:
EPA City: 29 mpg
EPA Highway: 38 mpg
EPA Combined: 33 mpg
Cargo Space: 12.8 cu.-ft., average for the segment. Seats do not fold completely flat.
Second Row: Like other subcompacts, rear space comes at a premium, and maneuvering a child seat and securing one requires a little effort. Fair rating.
Estimated Combined Range: 409 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Average

Notebook Quotes

"The iPhone connected without issue to the Fiesta which is really important to the age group that will most likely buy them. Parking it on the street proved to be elementary thanks to the tiny wheelbase." -Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor
"I sat behind myself and found my knees deep into the driver's back rest. Unless all of your friends are 5-feet 2-inches, it's basically useless. It's not a bad piece of car, but $21,000 is asking a lot for it." -Jacob Brown, Associate Editor


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