The Ford Fiesta is a tiny car with a tiny engine, but nimble handling makes it fun to drive while its dimensions make it easy to park. Fiesta comes in sedan and hatchback versions. Three engines are available, ranging from frugal to fun.
We prefer the hatch.
The standard engine is a 1.6-liter four cylinder making 120 horsepower that isn’t quick but feels peppy enough with the 5-speed manual transmission, if you work at keeping the revs up. The Fiesta only weighs 2600 pounds so that helps. It gets an EPA-rated 31 miles per gallon Combined city and highway with the five-speed. There’s also an available 6-speed dual-clutch automatic manual.
The newest engine is Ford’s tiny 1.0-liter three cylinder, turbocharged to make 123 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. You still have to keep the revs up, with the five-speed manual gearbox, but the little three-cylinder likes it. Before the engine was put in the Fiesta, it was successful in Europe, where fuel mileage matters a lot because of high taxes on gasoline. The EPA rates it 36 mpg Combined; we got 41.9 miles per gallon on a 350-mile road trip that was two-thirds highway and one-third city.
The turbocharged Fiesta ST is indeed a fiesta when underway, with a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine making 197 horsepower and 214 impressive pound-feet of torque, in overboost mode. It only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, along with tighter steering, suspension and brakes, with summer tires. A Fiesta ST can easily take on the Mini Cooper S, Hyundai Veloster Turbo, and Volkswagen GTI, three hot hatches. The little hotrod ST gets 29 Combined mpg.
Crash test scores are good with NHTSA and IIHS.
2018 may be the last model year for Fiesta.
The 2018 Ford Fiesta comes in S, SE, Titanium, and ST models.
The S sedan and hatchback are basic, with rollup windows and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, but they do have air conditioning, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker sound system, adjustable steering wheel, and a rearview camera. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, and the three-cylinder engine is optional.
The Fiesta SE hatch gets better fabric upholstery, plus power windows, cruise control, keyless ignition, ambient lighting and theft alarm.
Titanium adds leather, heated seats, automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, a Sony audio system, and Sync 3 infotainment system. It uses Ford’s PowerShift 6-speed twin-clutch automatic manual.
Fiesta ST features performance upgrades to the engine, suspension, steering and brakes, plus sport seats, black interior trim, aluminum pedals, black headlamp rims, tall spoiler, special bodywork, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Recaro seats are an option.
The Fiesta five-door hatchback has a crisp profile, with a wedge shape and arched roofline. The headlamps sweep back into the fenders, while a wide mouth with low fascia makes it look almost mean, for a subcompact.
The proportions aren’t the same with the sedan. It does not look crisp. Its long body and short greenhouse make it look tall and narrow from every angle.
The ST brings it all together, emphasizing the confident lines with an aggressive air dam and black mesh grille, along with a low stance on chunky wheels, and cross-patterned rear diffuser with twin exhaust tips.
The cabin hasn’t changed much over the eight years of this generation, and it shows. A lot of plastic, infotainment screen not integrated. Other subcompacts have found interior room in new designs, but the Fiesta still feels cramped and busy inside, with too many switches and knobs on the dash.
The soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, around the plastic, are fine. The Sync 3 system, with its 6.5-inch touchscreen, is a feature you might expect on a more expensive car. The cupholders are well placed, and there are plenty of small storage bins. The cabin is also fairly quiet for a subcompact, with a sound blanket under the hood to dampen the coarse-sounding engine, and a laminated windshield.
The ST goes the other way, with piped-in intake noise. In that car, we like it.
The driving position is excellent. The S model seats are flat and unsupportive, though we can’t think of any subcompact with good seats in their base model. The SE seats have better fabric and contours, but they still feel like bar stools. If you want to talk seats, jump to the optional Recaro seats on the ST, which are great, though, of course, they are costly.
In back, legroom and headroom are very tight; three adults don’t fit. And the 60/40 rear seats don’t fold flat.
There’s 26 cubic feet of cargo space. The Honda Fit has twice that.
The sedan has a good-sized trunk, with 12.8 cubic feet.
With the base engine and fine 5-speed gearbox, it takes some work to be happy with the performance; you have to keep the revs up because there isn’t a lot of torque. And its acceleration isn’t exactly quick, from zero to sixty in 10 seconds. Consolation is 36 highway miles per gallon.
Though updated, we found the 6-speed twin-clutch PowerShift transmission doesn’t downshift promptly or upshift smoothly in the lower gears. We preferred the manual gearbox.
The Fiesta is nimble and responsive. The electric power steering is just right, in its weight and feedback. Not unlike the original Mazda Miata, its steering and suspension make it feel hotter than it really is.
It’s secure on a smooth highway, but with a short wheelbase, the Fiesta tends to hop over rough pavement. And the nose dives under hard braking.
The three-cylinder turbo seems worth the $1000, considering it brings more torque and five more miles per gallon. The exhaust note has the howl of a three-cylinder engine. You have to shift a lot to run with the fast guys, but it’s fun.
Upping the fun ante is the ST, with its 197 turbocharged horsepower, 214 pound-feet of torque at a way low 1400 rpm, and 6-speed gearbox. Now lower and stiffen the suspension, quicken the steering ratio, and bolt on bigger brakes. Not done; there is electronic torque vectoring to minimize torque steer and rotate the front-wheel-drive car around corners. It’s a little gem.
The 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine offers excellent value in a spirited high-mileage five-door hatchback. The ST offers fantastic value in a pocket rocket. But if you avoid the 6-speed twin-clutch automatic, you’re left with a standard shift. The interior is cramped, no matter what.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.