The Fiesta was born in Europe in 1976 and quickly established itself as a "best seller."
With more than 16 million units sold to date in markets around the globe.
And yet it wasn't even for sale in North America between 1980 and 2010. It took the everincreasing price of gasoline and a concern for the environment, to create a growing demand on this continent for a sub-compact, fuel-efficient family car.
Happily, Ford had only to look to Ford of Europe to find the answer. And that's good for consumers because the Fiesta comes with 38 years of steady development behind it and a European DNA that includes perky performance, nimble handling and sophisticated styling.
The 2014 version, available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, is the seventh generation Fiesta.
It comes with a number of changes and refinements that meet or exceed the best of what has become a very crowded market segment that includes the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, Mazda2, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic and Fiat 500. The Fiesta takes them on with four models starting with the $13,969 S, followed by the SE, Titanium and high performance ST.
The base engine is the 120 horsepower, 1.6-litre four-cylinder that delivers 112 ft-lbs of torque to the front wheels via a standard five-speed manual transmission (that's more power than Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Fiat rivals). A six-speed Power Shift automatic transmission with manual mode is optionally available on all but the ST.
This is the 'hot' model that comes with the class-leading 197 horsepower, Ecoboost fourcylinder engine with unique "overboost" feature that can extend peak torque for up to 17 seconds at a time. A slickshifting five-speed manual transmission provides the perfect match for the ST. Our tester was the Fiesta SE five-door Hatchback finished in Tuxedo Black Metallic with Medium Light Stone Cloth seating. Styling counts and the Fiesta now sports the same handsome, chrome-accented grill seen on the Fusion and C-Max.
All four wheels are pushed out to the corners giving the car a well-planted stance while the Quad beam, Halogen headlamps flow back from the grill, defining the swell of the front fenders. Bold cut-outs for optional fog lamps flank the lower air intake giving the Fiesta a sporty look while a rising crease line sweeps up through the door handles emphasizing the car's aggressive 'nose-down' attitude.
Dramatic, 12-spoke, 16-inch wheels (optional) add an upscale quality to the overall appearance.
The twin-cockpit cabin has a decided European 'feel' with all major and secondary controls placed for maximum driver convenience. Both manually adjustable front buckets are heated and offer excellent under thigh and torso support. The leatherwrapped tilt-telescoping steering wheel has fingertip controls for audio, Bluetooth, cruise and trip information. Ford gets my thumbs up for the bold white on black gauges for tachometer and speedometer placed in the driver's direct line of sight. Too often these gauges are poorly defined and almost impossible to read on bright sunny days.
The trip information screen sits between them providing easy access to instant and average fuel economy, range, ambient temperature and other programmable data. With the increasing awareness of the dangers of 'distracted driving' Ford has refined and simplified its Ford SYNC system to provide maximum voice control for virtually all communications functions.
SYNC also includes 911 Assist with GPS location reporting. A 6.5-inch LCD colour screen on top of the centre stack is the hub for your Navigation System, XM Sirius Satellite Radio (with six months complimentary service), two USB ports, SD card reader and audio/video input jacks. The six-speaker audio system includes AM/FM stereo/single CD player with MP3 capability.
The rear 60/40-split seat can fold forward (not quite flat) to increase the cargo volume from 286 litres (10.1 cu-ft.) to 719 litres (25.4 cu-ft.) while the wide hatchback and low sill make loading a snap.
Fiesta's European DNA is evident in the drive. With its short wheelbase, firm but supple suspension, quick electric steering and instant accelerator tip-in, it performs with all the agility of a Jack Russell terrier chasing a Frisbee.
You won't frighten any Mustangs with your acceleration but the Fiesta is quick out of the gate with 100km/h showing up in about 10.0 seconds. At highway speeds, the car is remarkably quiet with the engine turning a modest 2500 rpm and returning 5.0 L/100 km (56 MPG).
The six-speed automatic is actually a manual transmission with an automatic clutch (instead of your left foot) and shifts are therefore quicker and smoother than a conventional automatic and they've been sharpened further for 2014. A simple toggle in the top of the gearshift lets you Select Shift for yourself. Once I started using it, I was hooked. The Fiesta keeps a grip on the road with AdvanceTrac ESC (electronic stability control), four-wheel power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS and hill launch assist that prevents roll back when restarting uphill.
The power, heated outside mirrors incorporate turn signals and have a split image with a wideangle view in the outer top edge that gives a clear view of the traditional 'blind spot.' Standard equipment includes solar tinted glass; remote keyless entry; day/night rear-view mirror; power door locks and windows with driver one-touch up/down; electronic, automatic climate control; rear spoiler and wiper plus the easy fuel filler (no more gas caps. Just insert the gas nozzle directly into the filler neck). The safety package includes six airbags plus a driver knee bolster and the LATCH system for child car seats.
"With the addition of MyFord Touch plus onboard Navigation and EcoBoost technology, the redesigned 2014 Fiesta is proving again that big things come in small boxes," says Rob Willoughby of Steve Marshall Ford Lincoln. "And this car is not your 'run of the mill' box."
Alan McPhee is a Canadian automotive journalist and is former editor of Carguide Magazine. His articles appear each week in this space.
FORD FIESTA SE
Type: FWD, sub-compact 5-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6-litre, I4
Horsepower: 120 @6350 rpm Torque: 112 lb-ft @5000 rpm
Fuel economy: City-7.0 L/100 km; highway - 5.0 L/100 km
Base price: $16,599
Price as tested: $20,949
Vehicle provided by Steve Marshall Ford Lincoln.
© Copyright 2013