Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Ford Fiesta S include 1.6L I-4 120hp engine, 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, driver knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 15" steel wheels, ABS and driveline traction control, AdvanceTrac electronic stability, power mirrors.
Starting at: $13,960
With the base engine and fine 5-speed gearbox, it takes some work to be happy with the performance; you have to keep the revs up because there isn’t a lot of torque. But at least you can find that happiness, at least, if you can ever be happy with ten seconds from zero to sixty miles per hour. But don’t forget, it’s an engine that can get 36 highway miles per gallon.
For us, it’s harder to be happy with the higher-tech 6-speed twin-clutch automatic manual transmission. It doesn’t always downshift promptly or upshift as smoothly in the lower gears as an automatic transmission. We’d say it does a poor impression of an automatic, with these clunky and poorly timed shifts.
Not unlike the original Mazda Miata, the Fiesta’s good steering and suspension tuning makes it feel hotter than it really is. The electric power steering is just right, in its weight and feedback. The Fiesta is nimble, responsive, and secure on the highway.
At least it’s secure on a smooth highway. With a short wheelbase, the Fiesta tends to hop over rough pavement, and the nose dives under hard braking.
If 120 horsepower and 36 highway mpg is okay with the base engine, 123 horsepower (with more torque) and 43 highway mpg seems worth $1000 extra for the three-cylinder turbo. It has a distinctive exhaust note, to boot; three-cylinder engines tend to howl. You still have to shift a lot to run with the fast guys, but it’s fun.
But for real fun, it’s the 197-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged Fiesta ST. And since it comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission, there’s no twin-clutch downside (but there’s also no upside, for those who would like an automatic). Its 214 pound-feet of torque comes at just 1400 rpm, so response is always there. When you add a lowered and stiffened suspension, rear disc brakes, quicker steering ratio, and torque vectoring to minimize if not erase torque steer, the ST can easily take on the Mini Cooper S, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, and Volkswagen GTI.
The Fiesta five-door has a crisp profile, with a wedge shape and arched roofline. The headlamps sweep back into the fenders, while a wide mouth with low fascia makes it look almost mean, for a subcompact.
The proportions aren’t the same with the sedan. Definitely not crisp. Its long body and short greenhouse make it look tall and narrow from every angle.
The ST brings it all together, emphasizing the confident lines with an aggressive air dam and black mesh grille, along with a low stance on chunky wheels, and cross-patterned rear diffuser with twin exhaust tips.
The cabin hasn’t changed much since the Fiesta joined us seven years ago, and it shows. The plasticky feel lingers, and the infotainment screen isn’t integrated. Other subcompacts have managed to find more interior room with their redesigns, but the Fiesta still feels cramped and busy inside, with too many switches and knobs on the dash.
The S model seats are flat and unsupportive, although we can’t think of any subcompact with good seats in their model that’s stripped for the sake of low entry cost. And the driving position itself is excellent. The SE seats have better fabric and contours, but still feel like bar stools. And like in a bar, you might be rubbing elbows with the person next to you. The optional $2000 Recaro seats on the ST are great, but for two grand we expect no less than greatness.
In back, legroom and headroom are very tight; three adults don’t fit. And the 60/40 rear seats don’t fold flat.
There isn’t anywhere near the amount of cargo space in the rival Honda Fit, for example. The Fiesta offers 26 cubic feet, while the Fit has twice that. At least the sedan has a good-sized trunk, with 12.8 cubic feet.
Thank heaven for small things. The soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, around the plastic, are fine. And the Sync 3 system, with its 6.5-inch touchscreen, is a feature you might expect on a more expensive car. The cupholders are well placed, and there are plenty of small storage bins. The cabin is also fairly quiet for a subcompact, with a sound blanket under the hood to dampen the coarse-sounding engine, and a laminated windshield.
The ST goes the other way, with piped-in intake noise. In that car, we like it.
Each Fiesta hatchback model has its virtues. The ST offers superb value in a pocket rocket. The 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo offers superb value in a spirited high-mileage car. But we say avoid the 6-speed twin-clutch transmission with its problematic shifting, which leaves you with a standard manual. And the interior is tiny.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.
The 2017 Ford Fiesta comes in S, SE, Titanium, and ST models.
Fiesta S sedan ($13,660) and hatchback ($13,960) are very basic, with rollup windows and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, but at least they have air conditioning, and Bluetooth, a 6-speaker sound system, and adjustable steering wheel. The 5-speed manual is standard, and three-cylinder engine costs another $1000. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Fiesta SE hatch ($15,190), comes with fabric upholstery but of a higher quality, while adding power windows, cruise control, keyless ignition, ambient lighting and theft alarm.
Fiesta Titanium ($18,950) adds leather, heated seats, automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, a Sony audio system, and the more sophisticated Sync 3 infotainment system.
Fiesta ST ($21,140) is equipped like the SE, except with all the sporty things, such as sport seats, black interior trim, aluminum pedals, black headlamp rims, a tall spoiler, special bodywork, and 17-inch alloy wheels. This in addition to the mechanical upgrades to the engine, suspension, steering and brakes. Options include Recaro seats.
Seven airbags are standard, but, stunningly, a rearview camera is only available on the Titanium, as an option.
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