The 2014 Fiesta ST packs 197 horsepower and comes slathered...

The 2014 Fiesta ST packs 197 horsepower and comes slathered in sporty bits such as big wheels and a six-speed manual transmission. Sorry, no automatic. Credit: Ford Motor Company

Well, your job just got a little tougher.

It's not because the 2014 Ford Fiesta looks better, which it does, it's because this sub-compact sedan/hatchback now includes a thrifty turbo option as well as a hot hatchback with close to 200 horsepower. Decisions, decisions.

Since its 2011-model-year launch, the European-designed, Mexico-built Fiesta along with its Focus counterpart has given Ford ample small-car credibility in North America. The four-door sedan - a model created specifically for this continent - offers great looks, but the more youthful hatchback is the one that garners the most attention and is arguably the most practical in terms of passenger and stowage space.

The 2014 Fiesta continues that theme, but Ford's stylists have done a major number on the front bodywork. The result is a proboscis that pays tribute to the 2013 Ford Fusion sedan. The open-mouth grille really seems to suit the car and is a significant improvement over the tiny air inlet on the 2013 version.

From the nose on back, the Fiesta remains pretty much unchanged. As with most sub-compacts, the car is narrow at the waist and a tight fit for adult-size rear-seat riders. But the interior is also an exercise in good taste, with ergo-friendly switches and controls and quality seat coverings and door panels, especially on up-level models. The Fiesta was given an improved "Sync" communications/infotainment system with upgraded voice command software, more workable hands-free Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity and an easier-to-use optional navigation system.

While the split rear seat doesn't fold flush with the floor, it's sufficiently flat to give you at least double the capacity compared to the sedan's quite spacious trunk, even though the hatchback's body is 13 inches shorter.

Back for another go is the Fiesta's base 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. It's hooks to a five-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automated manual that does away with the torque converter found in conventional automatics. It shifts all by itself, or manually. It's your call.

Later in the model year, the base 1.6 will be joined by an optional 1.0-liter (999 cubic-centimeters, to be more precise) three-cylinder powerplant. But don't let the diminutive size fool you as this engine is a member of Ford's turbocharged EcoBoost lineup has become well-known for extracting maximum power and fuel economy from minimal displacement. In the Fiesta's case, the tiny 1.0 puts out 123 horsepower and, more importantly, 148 pound-feet of torque.

At this point Ford is being coy concerning the littlest turbo's fuel numbers, other than to state that its highway rating will top the 1.6's 40-mpg figure.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the new Fiesta ST model promises a lively driving experience for the serious enthusiast. Its turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, which is also available in the Fusion, delivers 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque.

As with the Focus ST, proficiency in using a six-speed manual gearbox is a must since it's the only transmission available.

Other ST components include a blacked-out honeycomb grille, unique 17-inch wheels (15-inch wheels are standard) and rear spoiler, quicker-ratio steering, larger brakes and a sport-tuned suspension. On the inside, heated sport-style cloth bucket seats are standard, but you can upgrade to Recaro-brand front buckets with leather inserts.

To ensure everyone aboard is aware that all 197 horses are working at full gallop, the ST's engine sounds are actually piped into the cabin using what's called a "Sound Symposer."

The ST is on-the-road-priced at $22,200, but add another $2,000 for the Recaro seat option. That's about $7,400 above the price of a basic Fiesta S sedan, but that should be considered pretty reasonable for a sports hatchback possessing that level of power.

Along with the high-strutting ST, the fun-injected Fiesta lineup for 2014 continues to party on for frugal small-car lovers.

What you should know: 2014 Ford Fiesta
Type: Four-passenger-door, front-wheel-drive sub-compact sedan/hatchback
Engines (hp): 1.6-liter DOHC I4 (120); 1.0-liter DOHC I3, turbocharged (123);
1.6-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (197)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; six-speed automated manual; six-speed manual (ST)
Market position: The Fiesta has been a popular seller for Ford and really seems to resonate with sub-compact buyers. By offering a wider choice of powerplants, the automaker is providing additional reasons to shop the brand.
Points: Front-end 2014 restyle is nicely executed; Carryover 1.6-liter engine could use more power, but optional turbo engines will be a hit; Ford would likely sell additional ST models if only it would offer the automated manual transmission; Hopefully, troubles are over with Snyc infotainment system; Sporty looks plus great fuel economy is a potent combo.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 29/40 (base 1.6)
Base price (incl. destination) $14,800


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