Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta SE

2014 Ford Fiesta SE front

After years of hiatus (remember, the Fiesta was actually available from 1978–1980 in the U.S.), North America once again got the Fiesta as a 2011 model. It was praised for its nimble handling, peppy engine, and willing chassis. For MY2014, the Fiesta retains all of those qualities, but gets some changes to keep it fresh.

Ford Fiesta taillightMost of the changes are on the exterior, the most notable of which is the addition of Ford’s corporate grille. Personally, I prefer the older style, as not everything looks great with an Aston Martin mouth on it. However, it’s not just the grille that’s different; the while front fascia has been revised. Gone are the vertical LED running lights (legitimate fog lamps are available). In addition, the hood is slightly different and features a bulge. Finally, the taillights are restyled. I still think the Fiesta is an attractive looking subcompact car, even after a few model years. I also happen to think it looks particularly good in the Ingot Silver Metallic paint. If you were wondering, our SE came with 15” wheels wrapped in 185/60/15 Hankook Optimo tires.

Ford Fiesta radio
Not much has changed on the Fiesta interior except for the addition of automatic headlamps. The cockpit still feels modern if not a little bit busy. The infotainment and center stack controls still take a bit of getting used to. Once you’ve mastered their controls, operation is simple. There is a bit of a learning curve, however. Front seats are comfortable and reasonably supportive. I always have felt the driving position feels as if the dashboard is too tall or that you’re sitting slightly lower than you’d like, but that’s just me. Construction feels solid, and I didn’t notice any rattles or squeaks.

A nearly universal criticism of the Fiesta—it’s back seat—still remains and it’s still tight. My 5’7” self found my knees against the back of the seats. It’s definitely sung back there. In addition, the rear seat still doesn’t fold 100% flat, limiting cargo carrying capacity. Whether in the front or back, materials feel above average, and you never feel like you’re in a lower-priced vehicle, and that’s a nice trait to have in a car this inexpensive.

The first time I drove a Fiesta, I remember being impressed. The car was really tossable; steering feel was well weighted and fairly quick; and it was a willing participant in the corners. It cornered sure-footedly, and was more than just basic transportation—it was entertaining. When I got into the 2014 Fiesta SE, all those feelings came back to me. I’d forgotten how much fun the Fiesta was to drive; it’s a hoot, especially with the five-speed manual transmission. While the shifts are a bit long, they’re precise. The whole thing just comes together and impresses. The engine revs willingly and the gear ratios work very well for both city and highway performance. The Fiesta still is at the top of its class in terms of driving enjoyment and fun.

side shot of a 2014 Ford Fiesta

Oddly, fuel economy is actually down for 2014. Our Fiesta is rated at 27 city, 38 highway, and 31 combined with the five-speed manual. The 2013 model with the same transmission is rated 29 city, 39 highway, and 33 combined according to FuelEconomy.gov. It’s likely a negligible real-world change, but interesting nonetheless. One other oddity: The rear tailpipe. While not outwardly visible in our pictures, the tailpipe looks like an afterthought. How about a chrome finisher or something? Then again, I remember feeling the same way about the 2001 Ford Focus ZX3 I owned, which looked like a piece of conduit was used as a tailpipe.

The Fiesta SE comes well equipped with power everything, Ford’s Sync Infotainment system, alloy wheels, interior ambient lighting, keyless entry, and all the important three-letter safety acronyms. The total MSRP, including $795 for destination, comes to a reasonable $16,845. Along with the Mazda2, which shares the same chassis, the Fiesta is one of a handful of subcompacts that definitely keeps the driving enthusiast in mind, regardless of the price and size.

So while there have been some changes to the Fiesta for 2014, the good stuff remains. The new fascia is subjective, but I did prefer the previous generation. Yes, the back seat is still tiny. But for driving fun, European good looks, and an overall value, the Fiesta still remains at the top of its game, and toward the top of the subcompact car pile.

2014 Ford Fiesta SE back

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