The smallest Ford in the showrooms gets a mild update for 2014. The Ford Fiesta has thus far been something of a surprise for Ford; it's a diminutive city car smaller than most Americans would normally consider, but packed full of technology and creature comforts, yet still affordable. The company recently held a 2014 model year product briefing at its headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., providing an opportunity for a (very) brief drive of the redone Fiesta.
Changes for 2014 are minimal. New front and rear styling looks very similar to the outgoing 2013 model, and if shoppers park them side by side, they'll likely be unable to discern which one's new. That's not necessarily bad, as both models are still attractive — in hatchback form. The sedan's tall and narrow body with a high trunklid still looks mighty awkward from just about any angle.
Power still comes from a carryover 1.6-liter engine making 120 horsepower, channeled through either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
My test vehicle was a Titanium-trim hatchback equipped with the five-speed manual. All 120 of those horses work hard to get the Fiesta moving, with acceleration best described as "eventual." It is possible to drive the Fiesta quickly, but it requires a style of driving most people would find tiresome and nearly all passengers, uncomfortable.
Handling is light, with highly boosted steering that does allow for cut-and-thrust driving in mixed traffic. Highway ride is impressively quiet and well damped, as is the case with many Fords, but doubly impressive in such a small car. A sixth gear for the manual transmission is a rather surprising omission, however, causing the little motor to rev higher at highway speeds than it otherwise should.
The reward for putting up with glacial acceleration is decent fuel economy — most Fiestas are rated at 29/39/32 mpg city/highway/combined; the SFE package pushes that to 30/41/34. Coming later in the year is an optional 1.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine; Ford hints it'll be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle in America. On the other end of the spectrum is the new-for-2014 Fiesta ST, featuring a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine making 197 horsepower. Sadly, neither of those models were available for test drives, but with its six-speed manual transmission, sport seats, lowered suspension and more power, the ST should be far more entertaining than lesser Fiestas.
At least the cabin is a pleasant place to wait for the car to get up to speed, although the seats are small (everything inside is small). The Titanium trim is especially nice, with decent leather, soft-touch panels on the doors where elbows touch, a meaty steering wheel and a truly fine optional Sony audio system. New for 2014 is the incorporation of MyFord Touch, but whether this is a positive development is debatable, given our general distaste for the system's function.
Overall, the Fiesta still remains a top choice for the subcompact class. Quiet, smooth and well built, it's not hard to see why buyers tend to drive into Ford dealers with large vehicles and drive out in Fiestas. With the Fiesta ST on its way and a new 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder fuel-economy champ in the works, Ford is also apparently committed to keeping the Fiesta interesting and fresh.