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2014 Ford Fiesta Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost front quarter view
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Introduction

It took a while, but most Americans seem to have accepted four as a sufficient number of cylinders for their car's engine. Even many $50,000+ sedans are now sold with four-bangers. So auto makers have moved on to the next challenge: selling Americans on the viability of three-cylinder engines.

The only U.S.-market 2013 model with a three-cylinder engine was the barely-a-car Smart fortwo. Then, for 2014, three cars with back seats gained threes: the new, widely panned Mitsubishi Mirage (feeling no need to pile on, I haven't reviewed the car), redesigned Mini Hardtop, and refreshed Ford Fiesta. Of these, Ford has most actively promoted the advantages of its new, turbocharged three-cylinder engine (also available in the larger Focus this year). Is the EcoBoost 1.0 really good enough to not only take the place of the Fiesta's standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but command an option price of $995?

Looking beyond the engine, reviewers' favorite B-segment car, the Honda Fit, has been redesigned for 2015. Why might someone buy the updated, EcoBoosted Fiesta instead of the redesigned Fit?

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost front quarter view

Attractive egg-shape undermined by the wheel covers that replace alloys with the EcoBoost engine. more Fiesta photos

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE interior

The Fiesta's interior looks and feels like that of other recent Fords. Very nice for the price.

Tested: 2014 Ford Fiesta

4dr Hatch turbocharged 123hp 1.0L I3 5-speed manual FWD

Compared: 2015 Honda Fit

4dr Hatch 130-horsepower 1.5L I4 7-speed shiftable CVT FWD

Why the 2014 Ford Fiesta?

  Compared to the Fit
Quietness
Quietness: Much better Better Worse

Before the Fiesta, the first and last car I had driven with a turbocharged three-cylinder engine was the 1987-88 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. The Sprint's 1980s-tech engine was good for only 70 horsepower, but the car weighed a mere 1,600 pounds, so it felt quick. Problem was, the made-in-Japan-by-Suzuki hatchback also felt noisy, rough, and cheap. It was very much the sort of small car that made Americans feel the need for a much larger one.

Current small cars tend to be far smoother, quieter, and more solid than that Sprint. And the Fiesta is the smoothest, quietest, and most solid of the bunch. It sounds and feels like a premium car. The redesigned Fit remains considerably louder inside, if still quiet compared to that old Sprint.

And the EcoBoost triple? Three-cylinder engines are inherently unbalanced because, given their odd number, one cylinder cannot travel upward whenever another is traveling downward to largely cancel both movements out. To counteract the new engine's inherent vibration, Ford has unbalanced the flywheel and accessory pulley and has carefully tuned the engine mounts. These steps, while not entirely effective, reduce low-speed vibration to a level that shouldn't bother anyone interested in this class of car.

And the engine's sound? The three actually sounds better than most four-cylinder engines. Instead of the mild buzziness that emanates from under the hoods of the standard Fiesta and the Fit, the three voices an enticing growl. It sounds more like a six (half of one, anyway) than a four.


Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: Much better Better Worse

Covered when discussing quietness, but worthy of separate mention: the Ford Fiesta rides unusually smoothly for a subcompact. The Fit doesn't ride harshly, but it feels less poised, solid, and upscale.


Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost rear quarter view

My favorite lines on the Fiesta are back here. Note how thoroughly the tail lamps are integrated.

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE instrument panel

Odd controls. Perhaps they're more intuitive for European buyers?

Materials & workmanship
Materials & workmanship: Better Better Worse

Continuing in the same vein, the Ford Fiesta's interior materials look and feel European (no surprise, since the car was designed primarily for the European market). These materials are a cut or two above others in the segment, including the more plasticky (though not "cheap") Honda.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: About the same Better Worse

The ostensible point of a three-cylinder engine is superior fuel economy. Fewer cylinders generate less friction. On top of this, the Fiesta's new engine is smaller, just one liter compared to the regular Fiesta's 1.6 and the Fit's 1.5. It is turbocharged to compensate for this size difference. The payoff: EPA ratings compared to the regular Fiesta improve from 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway to 31 and 43, respectively.

With a manual transmission, the Honda rates just a bit better than the regular Fiesta, and well short of the Fiesta EcoBoost on the highway: 29/37. But fit the Fit with a CVT (continously variable transmission), and its ratings roughly match those of the manual-only Fiesta EcoBoost: 33/41.

In real-world driving, the Fiesta EcoBoost's fuel economy varies widely depending on how much you exercise the turbo. The trip computer reported suburban averages as high as 51.7 mpg, and as low as 28.6. When I drove the car casually but without care to maximize fuel economy, the trip computer reported about 37 mpg. With some care, about 45. Very good, certainly, but some other small cars with less expensive, more conventional engines (such as the Nissan Versa Note, EPA 27/36 with a manual but 31/40 with a CVT) are about equally good.


Why Not the 2014 Ford Fiesta?

  Compared to the Fit
Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Much worse Better Worse

Just as the Ford Fiesta has some clear strengths, it also has some clear weaknesses. Its rear seat, though comfortably positioned well off the floor, is the tightest in the segment. At 5-9, I can barely squeeze behind myself. The Fit's rear seat is far roomier.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Much worse Better Worse

The Ford Fiesta has even less room for cargo than for rear seat passengers. I managed to fit the family's weekly grocery run behind the rear seat, but with far less room to spare than in most hatchbacks. Fold the rear seat, and you'll find the resulting floor far from flat.

The Fit's cleverly engineered rear seat folds flat and low. So configured the Honda has over twice the cargo volume of the Ford, 52.7 vs. 25.4 cubic feet.


Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost front view

All Fiestas gained a new Fusion-like face for 2014.

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE rear seat

The Fiesta's rear seat cushion is comfortably high, but room is in short supply.

Feature availability
Feature availability: Much worse Better Worse

Befitting the Fiesta's somewhat upscale character, you can get it with some somewhat upscale features, including leather upholstery, navigation, a rearview camera, a sunroof, and heated seats. But the leather, nav, and rearview camera aren't available with the EcoBoost engine. Nor are alloy wheels. Though these are standard on the SE trim level, the EcoBoost option package replaces them with steel wheels. Most limiting of all, the turbocharged three-cylinder engine is only offered with a manual transmission. While I personally prefer a manual, the great majority of car buyers require an automatic.

With the Fit, you can't get leather upholstery or a nav system with the manual transmission, but these are available with the CVT, which happens to be the most efficient powertrain in the car. So if you're looking for these amenities, a self-shifting transmission, and optimal fuel economy all in the same car, the Fit scores a clear win.


Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Worse Better Worse

You also can't get the MyFord Touch infotainment interface with the three-cylinder engine. This isn't entirely a bad thing. This interface remains difficult to operate, and is even more difficult in the Fiesta than in other Fords. Tthe touchscreen is both too small and too far away for easy finger tapping.

Then again, the standard infotainment controls--which are the only set available with the triple--include a baffling array of oddly arranged buttons. I've never come close to figuring them all out.

Honda's latest infotainment interface has its own issues. Most notably, it has no knobs, so adjustments must be made via with the steering-wheel-mounted controls or the touchscreen. But this touchscreen is at least closer and larger than the one you can only get without the EcoBoost engine in the Fiesta.


Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Worse Better Worse

The view forward from the Fiesta's driver seat is an odd one. The windshield is narrow yet tall, and steeply raked. On sunny days it reflects the deep instrument panel. There's a bit of a fishbowl effect. The view rearward is compromised by smallish rear windows.

I never cared for the first and second generations of the Fit because the view forward from their driver seats seemed too much like that in a small minivan. With the third generation, though, Honda has lowered the driver seat and made it height adjustable (though only the shortest drivers are likely to take advantage of this addition). As a result, the view forward is now more car-like, even more than a little similar to that in the Fiesta, if still more open over an instrument panel that isn't quite as deep. Rearward visibility is also better in the Honda.


Other features of the 2014 Ford Fiesta

  Compared to the Fit
Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Better Better Worse

I find the Fiesta's egg-shaped exterior attractive, with some especially artful lines in the rear quarters. The Fit, though improved, remains clunkier in appearance. But I'm not listing exterior styling among the reasons to buy the Fiesta SE EcoBoost because the engine package replaces the SE's standard alloy wheels with much less attractive hubcapped steelies. Why?


Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Better Better Worse

The optional 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine doesn't produce significantly more peak power than the standard non-turbocharged 1.6-liter four: 123 vs. 120 horsepower. The Fit outpowers both, with 130. Then there are the transmissions. Both Ford engines are paired with a box that contains five tall, widely spaced ratios. Especially with the EcoBoost, a heavy flywheel (to counteract vibration) further blunts the engine's willingness to rev. Make it to the redline, and a shift then drops you well away from it. Honda pairs the Fit's peakier, more rev-happy engine with six more tightly spaced ratios. If you enjoy revving an engine to extract its potential, this is the way to go. And if you do extract its full potential, the Fit can get from zero to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds, vs. about nine with either Ford engine.

The 1987-1988 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo, though down 53 horsepower, was nearly as quick as the Fiesta EcoBoost. How is this possible? Well, the Fiesta's larger car smoothness and quietness (and safety) bring with them larger car weight: about 2,500 pounds, vs. the Sprint's 1,600.

But foot-to-the-floor thrills aren't what the EcoBoost three is about. (For those, and even more when the road curves, get the 197-horsepower Fiesta ST.) Instead, the EcoBoost three-cylinder engine minimizes the need to rev. It has a stout midrange, as indicated by a peak torque of 148 lb-ft (very impressive for a 1.0-liter engine) at a low 1,400 rpm. The 1.6 manages only 112 lb-ft at a much loftier 5,000 rpm, the Honda's 1.5 114 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm. In typical around-town driving the turbo three feels considerably stronger than the non-turbo fours, with a smooth surge of satisfying torque the other engines simply can't deliver.

A caveat: despite the new three-cylinder engine's impressive torque spec, it lugs under 1,800 rpm. Given the widely spaced transmission ratios, it's quite easy to drop the engine below this floor when shifting. I learned to avoid shifting short of 2,500 rpm.


Handling
Handling: Better Better Worse

The Fiesta's compliant suspension isn't without a cost. The steering and suspension feel a touch squishy, even mildly tippy, on center. Push through the initial squish, though, and both systems firm up nicely, delivering reassuring feedback and control. Hustle the Ford through some curves, and it feels good.

The Fit, with more steering assist, has a lighter but less planted feel. Compared to previous Fits, the suspension isn't quite as firm, to improve ride quality, and roll in turns has increased a little--but remains moderate. Picking the better handler between the two is more than a little a matter of taste. I personally prefer the Ford, but also felt confident when hurrying the Honda.


Reliability & durability
Reliability & durability: Much worse Better Worse

The Honda Fit has long been among the most reliable cars in our survey. The Fiesta has a patchier record. This said, getting the manual in the Ford alt least avoids the problematic dual clutch transmission.


Price or payments
Price or payments: About the same Better Worse

The EcoBoost engine adds $995 to the base price of a 2015 Fiesta SE, bringing the total to $17,415. With this engine, options are limited to the attractively priced $290 Comfort Package (heated seats, heated mirrors, automatic temperature control) and a $795 sunroof. Oh, and some shades of paint cost extra. The "green envy metallic tri-coat" on the tested car lists for $595.

Factor in the alloy wheel deletion, and the EcoBoost engine actually costs about $1,350. Worth it? Unless you drive a lot of miles AND gas prices head upward again, probably not for reasons of fuel economy alone. But possibly for the combination of fuel economy and midrange torque. The Fiesta simply drives better with this engine.

A Honda Fit LX lists for about the same as the base Fiesta SE, $16,315. Factor in higher incentives on the Ford, and even with the EcoBoost engine it's likely to cost a little less than the Honda. And the Fiesta SE includes about $600 in additional features, including automatic headlights and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Bottom line: these cars are close enough in price that price isn't likely to be the deciding factor.


Conclusion

The Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost is no Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. It's no tinny flyweight penalty box, and instead rides and drives with the solidity and polish of a larger, more expensive car. Its optional three-cylinder engine, rather than undermining these strengths as I had feared, actually enhances them. It makes the Fiesta an even more pleasant car to drive. Plus more fuel-efficient. Plus you can have some fun if you want to, though if you want a truly thrilling small car then the ST is the Fiesta to get.

On the other hand, the EcoBoost engine does nothing about the Ford's weaknesses. The Fiesta remains far tighter inside than the Fit. If space for people and cargo is a higher priority than smoothness and quietness, then the Honda is the one that impresses. If the past is any guide, the new Fit will also be extremely reliable, while the updated Fiesta could be somewhat problematic.

Either the Fiesta or the Fit is a great choice depending on your priorities. Know those, and you'll know which to buy.

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost engine

Unexpected: a three-cylinder engine that actually improves the driving experience as well as mpg.

Fiesta Reviews: Ford Fiesta SE cargo area seats folded

The Fiesta's load floor isn't remotely flat when its rear seats are folded.

See more 2014 Ford Fiesta photos

Ford provide an insured, fuel car for a week with a tank of fuel. I also previously drove both the Fiesta and the new 2015 Honda Fit at a regional media association event.

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2014 Ford Fiesta pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2014 Ford Fiesta. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from Tassos

11:12 am January 20, 2015

The Fit is today what the Civic hatch was 20 years ago, only taller and with 2 extra doors. Those old Civics were really high quality inside and out, had stellar MPG, and intelligent interior design. The Fit is even smarter inside, but its mpg is not as high because of its height.

This is just one reason cars in this segment really sell poorly today. The Fit and FIesta barely, if at all, get better MPG compared to the one size larger Focus and Civic. To add insult to injury, they barely cost less. The Fiesta in particular, I remember a l oaded version went for a ridiculous $23k.

And the dam Siesta (!) is made in MEXICO with dirt-cheap wages! What % of its components are US made? I bet less than that of the Camry. But the few who buy the Fiesta may really believe they are "Buying Amurican"!



Designers do what they can to make these tall, FWD, nose-heavy frogs look attractive, and from some angles they do, but from others they look really out of balance. Look at the first pic of the Fiesta here, on the left. Looks great, BUT it seems like it has a HUGE front overhang, totally out of balance with the seemingly zero rear overhang (from that angle). HAlf the engine seems to be in front of the front axle. I marvel that such cars, with 60-40 weight distr or worse, can handle at all. The Tyrrany of FWD...

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Response from Tassos

2:02 pm January 20, 2015

PS I once managed to confuse (from some distance) the 1st gen Fit with the butt-ugly Chevy Aveo Cheap Daewoo Hatchback. That model did not look good. They did a much better job with the 2nd gen Fit, and now the 3rd gen looks a bit too busy and bloated for my tastes.

The fact that the Fit costs almost as much as the far less sophisticated, far less intelligently designed, far less Reliable Fiesta would make it a very easy decision for me, if I had to choose between the two. In addition, the Fit is available as a Hybrid overseas (the Fit is called the "Jazz" there. A much "Jazzier" name)

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Response from tmport

1:46 am January 27, 2015

First, in response to the above member's comment about the Fiesta being made in Mexico, I would point out that the Fit is also now made in Mexico. The forums are rife with complaints about quality control issues, so the Fit's reliability is probably not as bulletproof as it used to be. Hopefully Honda can get those issues sorted out, but it sounds like they have a real mess on their hands in terms of production and delivery.

I'm really attracted to the Fiesta, but the absolute dealbreaker for me is the cargo space. It's atrocious. Not every small car is as amazingly space-efficient as the Fit, but at least most of the other competitors offer decent cargo space that is sufficent for most people's needs. Ford's designers, by contrast, should be demoted for their total lack of effort on the cargo space of the Fiesta. Every time I half-convince myself that I should buy the Fiesta, I check out the cargo area again (especially with the seats "folded") and immediately rule it out.

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Response from mkaresh

8:19 am January 27, 2015

So far we have hardly any repair reports for the 2015 Fit. Do the complaints on forums involve things that can be repaired, or fit and finish issues that people just have to live with? One possible factor: large forums can make problems seem much more common than they actually are. Another: sometimes people see what they expect to see, especially with fit and finish.

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Response from Tassos

8:27 am January 27, 2015

Thanks for the info, Michael. I may have seen that the Fit is also made in Mex, but had forgotten it. I was not even sure if the Fiesta was still made there. This explains why the Fit can be priced as 'low' as the Fiesta. But Honda is already an import, so in its case it matters less where its made. I know many people, even colleagues, who never even consider "imports".

My 1990 Accord 5-speed, which I got in 94 with 68k highway miles from its 1st owner, was made in Ohio, and I thought it should be in excellent shape, but it was not as reliable as COnsumer Reports would have you think. FIrest of all its exhaust system was as much cheap junk as that of my prior car, a small Pontiac I had bought new and kept 11 years until it died at 65k miles. Every two years I had to fix something in the exhaust of the Honda, but NEVER in the 10 years I have owned the "magnificent 7", my 1998 740iL that is now in its 18th Michigan winter! The Honda had other failures too, from minor (assembly error in power windows, $44 to fix) to Distributor ($600 or so) that had to fail in my cross country trip in Utah. (fixed in Kansas). And the Accord was donated with only 137k miles, before its gearbox broke, still drivable, while the "unreliable" BMW now has 145,000 hard driven miles and counting. And it has 10 times the complexity of that 1990 Accord, so its reliability is even more impressive.

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Response from Tassos

9:03 am January 27, 2015

Michael,

Are you looking for a small commuting vehicle? You said you liked the Fiesta but it had little cargo space. Even with the rear seat down? And how would it compare with the similar (and probably more reliable?) Mazda 2?

But if you have a family, (I believe there are 5 of you?) both of these cars are tiny. And if you do a lot of miles, a hatch design like the Prius or Prius V, and you will get huge MPGs esp around town. The next gen Prius is coming up and it is supposed to have 10% more MPG than the prior one. And with dirt-cheap gas prices, used Prii must be bargains.

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Response from mkaresh

9:32 am January 27, 2015

Response from tmport

10:06 am January 27, 2015

The problems reported on the forums (specifically Fit Freak) are largely of the fit-and-finish variety, but they are quite numerous: poorly-fitting door trim, broken plastic hatch trim, sagging wheel well liners, flawed windshields, rattles, misaligned doors, condensation in the taillights, errors in the rear/sideview camera displays, etc. Others are more worrisome such as failed clutches, cars that won't start, prematurely dead batteries--but those seem to be much less common. I don't recall reading anything about engine issues, and I should point out that there are plenty of people who report that they are NOT experiencing any issues. One would hope these are all just normal teething problems of a new model in a new factory, but time will tell.

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Response from mkaresh

10:55 am January 27, 2015

The two reports we have are for cracked trim, in at least one case on the hatch. So that could be a design flaw they'll likely correct with a redesigned trim piece before much longer, if not already. Not an expensive problem regardless.

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Response from Tassos

2:32 pm January 27, 2015

"With a sample of size one, anything is possible"

For Flagship sedans like the 7 series, that sell very few units, and especially for a 7 that has survived 18 michigan winters, like mine, (very few other 98s can be found that spent 18 winters in the snowbelt), you will always have very small samples.

However, a far bigger list of problems exists regardless of sample size, when you collect OWNER-REPORTED data, like you and COnsumer reports are doing.



These are NOT scientifically valid samples, for 100 different reasons. Some choose to give you data, some not. Some choose to give you selective data. Is an oil change really a failure? Is replacing the brake pads or any other wear and tear replacement an indication of poor reliability? If one owner chooses, like my colleague, to drive with tires that have 85,000 miles on them in his Lexus LS, while I replaced all of mine with less than 30k miles, does this prove that the LS is more reliable than the 7? This is really a JOKE.



However, there ARE ways to get accurate reliability data. I was thinking of it the other day, and I had an epiphany. Instead of letting the owners report their data, why not go to the dealers and the independent mechanics and collect the ACTUAL, TRUE repairs and replacements and the actual correct amounts paid?



THAT, if done properly, would be 100 times more reliable a statistic than asking the proud owner of a Toyota Corolla how reliable his piece of junk is, and, him having NOTHING to brag about other than its alleged reliability, hiding the true extent of the frequency and cost of his or her repairs!

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Response from mkaresh

4:35 pm January 27, 2015

How stupid (or lazy) do you think I am? If someone reports brakes or tires, do you seriously think we include these in our stats?

The problems with repair shop-sourced stats would be:

1. Do you think they're going to provide this information for little or no cost?

2. What's the denominator? Even if you know how many cars required repairs--and this would require that the cars sampled are never worked on at a different shop--how do you know how many did not?

I've been conducting this survey for ten years, so there's a slight chance I've already thought through these things.

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Response from Tassos

8:22 am January 28, 2015

I don't know you at all, and I have no idea about how hard-working or smart you are. This is besides my point, which was a point about the Science of Statistics and collecting a valid sample.



And, again, my point is that owner-reported data will always be an invalid sample, wether you have 7 million owners, like in Consumer Reports, or the smaller number that report to you. You can do all kinds of adjustments but there are faults in the data you still cannot cure.


Also, dealers and especially NADA, their association, is surprisingly frank and open re their records. I have three graphs from NADA, bar charts over 10 years, that show where they make their $. And it is NOT from selling new cars. There, they barely break even. They make much more from selling used cars, and much, much more from "service".

And while they may ask you to pay for the receipts, and of course you may not want to or afford it, there are plenty of deep-pocketed independent organizations that could take this up, and pay them, and get the REAL cost and type of maintenance and repairs for every vehicle. Until they do, I will take everybody else's owner-reported data with not just one, but 1,000 grains of salt. After all, who will I believe, Consumer Reports, or my lying eyes? LOL.

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Response from mkaresh

11:16 am January 28, 2015

You seem to be one of those people who think that organizations with deep pockets will spend a large amount of their money to provide you with information for free. Oddly, this doesn't happen much.

And even if money were not an issue, the denominator would be.

You're basing a lot on a single car owned by someone with an obvious agenda :)

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