2014 Ford Fiesta SE First Drive

The 2014 Ford Fiesta makes its way to the top of the subcompact segment.

When you imagine driving down the California coast, you don't think of cloudy skies and murky beaches . But that's just what we found during our drive of the 2014 Ford Fiesta, although when we got into the mountains, the sun came out and provided us with ideal driving weather. We had the choice of every model that Ford offers for the Fiesta, and ended up in the Fiesta SE. Not quite a base model, not quite a mid-range model. Equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, our Fiesta handled the Malibu roads with ease, gripping corners and shifting easily between gears. Ford has been upping its game with the edition of more fuel-efficient and stylish models. Does the 2014 Fiesta stack up to all the expectations placed on it?

Model and Price

The 2014 Ford Fiesta SE, with a base price of $16,050, is offered in both a hatchback and sedan model; we drove the SE hatchback with a manual transmission, with a price tag of $16,340 before destination charges. Our test car featured only one option, the $290 comfort package, which included heated front seats, dual power heated side mirrors, and electronic auto temperature control. Standard features on the 2014 Ford Fiesta include a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power locks, windows, and mirrors, air conditioning, and a six-speaker sound system. Ford Sync is also included, along with keyless entry, metallic interior trim, as well as a front center console with an armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and ambient lighting are also standard on the SE models.

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Safety and Key Features

The 2014 Ford Fiesta hatchback has earned an overall four-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating. Standard safety features on the new Fiesta include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control and hill launch assist, dual-stage front airbags, driver knee airbag, side-impact and side curtain airbags, as well as Ford's Smart passenger occupant detection system. Other standard safety features include child safety locks, height-adjustable retractable seat belts, seat belt pretensioners, tire pressure monitoring system, and an anti-theft engine immobilizer and a perimeter alarm.

Family Friendliness and Utility

For a subcompact car, the 2014 Ford Fiesta is surprisingly roomy. Although taller passengers will have limited head and legroom, sitting self-behind-self, my 5-foot 9-inch frame fit comfortably in the back seat with a little room to spare. LATCH points for child seats are easily accessible, but larger child seats may be difficult to place in the back seat with taller front seat passengers, making this vehicle more suited for children who no longer need infant or full-size car seats. The hatchback offers decent cargo room for a total of 14.9 behind the second row seats, and with the seats folded, that number expands to 25.4 cubic feet.

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Comfort and Quality

The interior of the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE left much to be desired. Almost every surface was covered in hard plastics, which had been given a unique texture to make it seem like it was more refined...it fooled nobody. The cloth-covered seats were comfortable, although it was hard to get just the right seating position with the manual seats.

The amount of buttons on the center stack was absurd. We lost count after thirty buttons and knobs. Since there was no infotainment display, all the buttons were laid out, with a full number pad for phone functions. Ford definitely could have done something a little different with the layout and number of buttons cluttering up the center stack, but unfortunately it's something we've come to expect from the automaker.

How it Drives

The Fiesta's fluid manual transmission is great for someone who wants to learn how to drive a stick shift, and even has an arrow on the dash that displays when you should shift gears for maximum fuel economy. The feature that had me feeling confident was the hill launch assist which prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards down a hill for a few seconds after releasing the brake, but before engaging the clutch. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine delivered 120 horsepower, which was plenty for the Malibu roads of our test drive. Road noise at our low speeds was relatively non-existent, and with comfortable seats, the 2014 Ford Fiesta handled the winding mountain roads and coastal streets of Malibu with ease.

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The 2014 Ford Fiesta is making a name for itself in the subcompact segment, and with its array of standard features, hatch and sedan models, it's quickly maneuvering itself to the top of that list. Within the first six months of the year, the Fiesta handily outsold the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris; combine their numbers and the Ford Fiesta still takes the cake. With a 64-percent conquest rate just here in Los Angeles--that is, Ford's getting people who previous had bought another brand--Ford must be doing something right with the 2014 Fiesta. Not only does it have best-in-class fuel economy, it comes in three different trim levels, with one for everyone, whether you want a more upscale model or a toned down first car. The only downfall of the Fiesta is the choice of interior materials and the cluttered buttons surrounding the center stack. Performance-wise, the Fiesta remains solid, whether you choose the standard five-speed manual or the six-speed automatic transmission.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $17,135
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 27
EPA Highway: 38
EPA Combined: 31
Estimated Combined Range: 385
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: N/A

Kevin Michalski
Kevin Michalski

plus it just got onto Car And Driver magazines 10 best.