To be honest, I dreaded the day the Fiesta arrived at our office, not because it's a bad car, but because I knew it would come with a manual transmission. I'm new to driving stick, and my experiences up to that point had only brought me stress, frustration, and the sound of honking horns. But luckily, the Fiesta and I ended up making a good match. With its forgiving clutch and smooth shifting, the car revealed itself as perfect for young drivers to ease into the world of manual transmissions.
Once I got past the terror of driving a manual, I started noticed the car's other positive qualities, from its high feature content to its good fuel economy. At the same time, I couldn't help but compare it to competing subcompacts, which are getting more spacious and gadget-stuffed by the minute.
Model and PriceWhile the 2014 Ford Fiesta is also available as a sedan, we ended up driving the hatchback model. The Fiesta hatchback is offered in several trim levels, with the cheapest priced at just $14,600 and the most expensive starting at $21,400.
Our Fiesta hatchback was the loaded Titanium model, which is second from the top in terms of price and feature content. Specializing in comfort, convenience, and chrome, the Titanium hatch starts at $18,800 and comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. The model we drove also included an optional navigation system for $795. When you add in a destination and delivery fee, our car's total price came to $20,390.
Safety and Key FeaturesStepping up to the Titanium model gives buyers a range of standard cosmetic and convenience features. Push-button start, a Sony audio system, and heated, leather-trimmed front seats definitely made the drive much more comfortable than it would have been on any other model. And although MyFord Touch is a troublesome system, the Titanium also adds this feature so drivers can hook up their phone and stay connected on the road.
But just how safe is this tiny hatch? In government crash tests, the 2014 Ford Fiesta earned four stars overall, but there was a small caveat. While the Fiesta earned four stars in front and rollover tests, it only received two stars in side crash tests. In IIHS tests, the Fiesta nabbed top scores in every category except for the troublesome small overlap test, in which it earned a rating of "Marginal." This test--which simulates what happens when the corner of a car crashes into a pole, tree, or other object--has proven difficult to master for many cars, especially small ones. Standard safety features on the 2014 Ford Fiesta Titanium include seven standard air bags, electronic stability control, a safety belt reminder system, LATCH points, a post-crash alert system, and an anti-theft system.
Family Friendliness and UtilityWe don't expect too many large broods to purchase the Fiesta, as it is better suited for individuals or growing families. The Fiesta features very little room in the back seat, rendering it fit only for children and short passengers. All the seats themselves, even the ones in the front, are particularly small. The car's trunk space is also limited, making it difficult to transport groceries for more than one person. None of these things are uncommon for subcompact cars, but we felt that there were places the Fiesta could improve upon.
Many smaller cars tend to make the most of their limited interior space with small storage cubbies and inlets. The Fiesta had just a few of these, featuring only two legitimate cup holders, a tiny glove box, and some wasted space. To make things worse, the back seats do not fold flat, making it hard to maximize cargo room. Those looking for more utility in their subcompact may want to look out for the redesigned Honda Fit, which promises to increase interior space significantly. The current Accent also feels pretty large inside.
Comfort and QualityUnless you can deal with the tiny, stiff seats, the interior of the Fiesta is far from perfect. Inside the Fiesta Titanium are plenty of useful tech goodies. But run your fingers on the dashboard and the side doors, and you will find plenty of hard plastics. And despite Ford's effort to sprinkle in a unique pattern on these surfaces, the interior still feels bare and stiff.
The dash layout is remarkably simple. Those who prefer touch to buttons are in luck because the controls center around the screen. Unfortunately, the screen offers a few too many menu options, and this is only exacerbated by the fact that the screen is a tiny 6.5 inches. Some cars in its segment, including the Chevy Sonic, offer larger screens and better infotainment systems.
How it DrivesDespite the interior faux pas, the Fiesta is suited for effortless driving. On Fiestas equipped with the manual transmission, the large shift knob helps drivers keep track of the gears, and shifting is smooth and simple. The forgiving clutch makes it more difficult than usual to stall. Plus, the Fiesta's standard hill start assist holds the car in place on steep inclines for an extra few seconds after the brake is released, giving drivers more time to apply the throttle.
The "easy" theme extends to the car's power and handling. The car is equipped with a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 120 horsepower, and this proved at least adequate for highway acceleration. You may not pass too many cars, but at least you can blend in with the crowd. The real fun comes on turns and tight roads, where the crisp handling shines. Fuel economy is also a strong point for this car, coming in at a competitive 27/38 mpg city/highway with the manual.
SummaryOk, maybe the Fiesta isn't the most memorable car. If it hadn't saved me from rolling down hills and stalling in the middle of the freeway, I may never have given the car much more thought once I submitted my review. My unique experience will always make me smile whenever I see a grey Fiesta hatch on the road. But other than this, I also appreciate the car's peppy drive, commendable fuel economy, and high feature content. It may not be the best choice in terms of space, but it does offer a unique fun to drive personality that will suit many buyers. We would recommend buyers start the search process looking at the SE level, which grants keyless entry, upgraded upholstery, and power windows.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $20,390
EPA City: 27
EPA Highway: 38
EPA Combined: 31
Cargo Space: 7 grocery bags
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Fair
Estimated Combined Range: 385 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Average