Fi­esta facelift

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Yip

THIS is the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the Ford Fi­esta, which started pro­duc­tion in 2008 for Euro­pean mar­kets. In Canada, Fi­esta sales started in 2010 as a 2011 model. It shares the same plat­form as the Mazda2, and while this de­sign is ag­ing, the Fi­esta SE is hold­ing up well and still a rel­e­vant car. The five­door hatch­back body style is ver­sa­tile and with new styling tweaks this year, it has plenty of curb ap­peal.

For 2014, the Fi­esta gets a facelift. The large, open grille has been re­lo­cated from be­low the car’s hor­i­zon­tal cen­tre line to above it. The grille’s out­line and five hor­i­zon­tal strips have a chrome-like fin­ish, giv­ing a com­mon Ford fam­ily ‘face’ the Fo­cus, Fu­sion and Taurus pas­sen­ger cars now sport.

The restyled head­lights are more ex­pres­sive this year and, on the side, two straight char­ac­ter lines lead the eye from the front fender up to­ward the C-pil­lar, and sig­nal lights in­te­grated into the side mir­rors add eye ap­peal. The wheel arches are mildly flared and a roof spoiler adds vis­ual ‘weight’ to the sharply an­gled hatch. The car’s an­gu­lar wedge shape, with four side win­dows, is mod­ern and stylish.

One of the main sell­ing fea­tures of sub­com­pact cars is their price point. The base Fi­esta S Hatch­back and S Sedan start at a com­pelling $14,499. Our test ve­hi­cle was a mid-range SE hatch­back with a rare-th­ese-days five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion ($16,599 base price), but loaded up with some $4,100 in op­tions, giv­ing it a sug­gested re­tail price of $22,252 (in­clud­ing desti­na­tion charge and AC tax).

The power moon roof, SE Ap­pear­ance Pack­age (with 16-inch al­loy wheels — 15-inch steel wheels are stan­dard — with low-pro­file tires) and Com­fort Pack­age (with heated seats and au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol) were the big-ticket items that added most to the bot­tom line.

Sub­com­pact cars are, by def­i­ni­tion, small. The Fi­esta’s cabin will be prob­lem­atic for those out­liers who fall on the XL side of the bell curve. The in­te­rior is snug and feels tighter than the Toy­ota Yaris or Honda Fit. For me, en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing the driver’s seat was tricky. With the seat cor­rectly po­si­tioned for my 5-7 frame, ex­it­ing the ve­hi­cle had me catch­ing my feet on the door frame. I re­sorted to slid­ing the seat back a few notches to ex­e­cute a clean es­cape.

The driver’s side footwell is also tight, es­pe­cially where the clutch pedal is lo­cated. If you’re sport­ing men’s size 11 clod­hop­pers, you’ll want to test drive the Fi­esta to be sure it fits you. I found the dead pedal (where you rest your left foot) an­gles up awk­wardly and forces my leg to bend too much.

‘Fit’ is mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence; the Fi­esta may suit your physique. As al­ways, try be­fore you buy.

The five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion makes the most of the Fi­esta SE’s fuel-stingy 1.6-litre four­cylin­der en­gine. Its 120 horse­power is stronger than com­peti­tors such as the Mazda2 (100 hp), Nis­san Versa Note (106 hp), Toy­ota Yaris (106 hp) and on par with the Honda Fit (118 hp). The trans­mis­sion shifts eas­ily and the clutch is light.

One of the ad­van­tages of sub­com­pact cars is their light weight, and that helps the Fi­esta SE feel re­spon­sive and ag­ile (but the Honda Fit is still the most fun to drive in the seg­ment). Road and wind noise are well con­trolled and the sus­pen­sion puts the car among the best in class for ride qual­ity.

One odd char­ac­ter­is­tic I no­ticed when driv­ing the Fi­esta gen­tly was the en­gine cu­ri­ously in­creas­ing revs by about 200 r.p.m. when de­press­ing the clutch to shift gears. I spec­u­late that’s an emis­sion-con­trol sys­tem quirk.

The Fi­esta SE has a lot of con­ve­niences one ap­pre­ci­ates in daily use, such as anti-drip wipers (that wipe once more af­ter turn­ing them off to get those pesky drips); one-touch lane-change sig­nal; in­te­grated wide an­gle/blind spot mir­rors; a ra­dio that stays on af­ter re­mov­ing the key; voice com­mand (that mostly works) for var­i­ous func­tions, in­clud­ing ra­dio op­er­a­tions; Ford’s bril­liant ‘cap­less’ fuel filler; and front-seat warm­ers that get hot fast.

A few de­sign fea­tures made us grumpy, but none are deal-break­ers. The sec­ond-row seats don’t fold flat; the door-lock but­ton is on the cen­tre stack (exit the car to re­trieve an ar­ti­cle from the back seat and you have to reach waaaaay in­side the front of the car to un­lock the rear doors); and the sec­ond-row seat­back re­lease knobs are awk­wardly mounted in­board of the head re­straints.

Over­all, the 2014 Ford Fi­esta SE re­mains a com­pet­i­tive sub­com­pact car. It’s a great-look­ing car, the five-door hatch­back style is ver­sa­tile, and the fivespeed man­ual trans­mis­sion is a good match to the 120-hp, 1.6-litre en­gine.

Fuel econ­omy is very good and, with the man­ual trans­mis­sion, the Fi­esta makes a much bet­ter com­muter car than the Toy­ota Yaris (with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion) we tested re­cently, es­pe­cially if high­way driv­ing is part of your daily com­mute. (The Yaris is hob­bled by its four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion; to main­tain speed, it down­shifts too eas­ily and causes the en­gine to rev nois­ily.)

In the sub­com­pact class, price point is crit­i­cal and there are lots of good choices. We’d cross-shop the 2014 Ford Fi­esta SE against the Hyundai Ac­cent five-door (from $13,749), Honda Fit (from $14,580) and Nis­san Versa Note (from $13,348.)

Sub­com­pact

7.4 city/5.1 high­way/9.0

TIM YIP, DRIV­ING

The base Fi­esta S Hatch­back and S Sedan start at a com­pelling $14,499.

TYPE OF VE­HI­CLE:

EN­GINE:

FUEL-CON­SUMP­TION RAT­ING (L/100 KM):

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