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.)
7.4 city/5.1 highway/9.0
The base Fiesta S Hatchback and S Sedan start at a compelling $14,499.
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