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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Ford Fiesta S include 1.6L I-4 120hp engine, 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, driver knee airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 15" steel wheels, ABS and driveline traction control, AdvanceTrac electronic stability, power mirrors.
Starting at: $14,580
The Fiesta weighs 2600 pounds so it’s not quick, but acceleration is okay in the base 1.6-liter with the good five-speed manual transmission, and revs up. Zero to 60 in about 10 seconds. Meanwhile the 6-speed PowerShift automatic is a dual clutch that doesn’t do the job. It’s lazy on downshifts and clunky on upshifts.
The Fiesta reminds us of the original Mazda Miata, in that the driving dynamics are so good you think it’s faster than it really is. What the Fiesta is mostly all about is handling, with excellent steering and suspension tuning. The electric power steering system feeds back the feel of the road precisely, and makes the car responsive and nimble, while being secure for the freeway. The steering has Pull-Drift Compensation to help keep the vehicle going straight on crowned roads or in heavy crosswinds.
The ride finds some suspension flaws, however. The Fiesta can hop on rough surfaces, and it takes a nosedive under quick braking.
The one-liter three-cylinder engine is quicker and more efficient than the base four-cylinder. The tiny turbo has a distinctive exhaust note, a little howl that grows to a thrumming sound as revs increase. You have to shift a lot to run with the fast cars on the highway, as the torque is at a fairly high range, but the very fact that you can run with the fast cars is impressive and praiseworthy.
If you want to run with the really fast cars, there is the Fiesta ST. It’s for supercar dreamers with standard salaries. The suspension is lower and stiffer, the steering ratio quicker, brakes better, tires grippier, and there’s electronic torque vectoring to keep the maximum 214 foot-pounds of torque at the front wheels under reasonable control. But even at a low 1400 rpm, the engine makes 148 lb-ft, so casual acceleration is good too.
The hatchback is a crisp flowing wedge, and looks way better than the sedan. The wide-mouthed Ford grille makes it look macho. The rear pillar nips and tucks, as the taillights climb to the pillars.
If you don’t want anyone to look at you twice, get the sedan that looks tall and narrow. If you want them to stare get the ST, a hot hatch with a low stance, black honeycomb grille and big air dam, and wheels that mean business.
The first impression of the cabin makes the Fiesta look like a more expensive car, with quality fabric seats and coordinated colors and soft textures, as well as the 6.5-inch touchscreen of Sync 3. But after a while the standard seats feel unsupportive and a little flat, the back seat doesn’t fold flat, and there’s engine noise in the cabin.
So you climb into an ST, with available Recaro seats and Sound Symposer, piping the engine’s intake noise into the cabin, to create a sporty tone.
If it’s a subcompact five-door you need, it’s hard to think of a reason not to buy the Fiesta, in each of its guises: base, fun and eco, or hot rod, each one expressive and nimble. Wait, we just thought of a reason. The automatic transmission sucks.
The 2016 Ford Fiesta comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions.
Fiesta S ($14,580) is the stripper, with steel wheels with hubcaps and roll-up windows, but it does have air conditioning. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) Fiesta SE ($15,810) has better cloth interior.
Fiesta Titanium ($18,530) is the loaded one, with a rearview camera and better Sony audio. Fiesta SFE uses the new three-cylinder 1.0-liter engine. The hot Fiesta ST ($21,460) only comes as a five-door.