DETROIT, MI- Small vehicles, once thought to be sacrilegious in the U.S. are continually making their way into the market.
At the New York International Auto Show last week, each one of the Detroit automakers introduced a redesigned or all-new compact vehicle or smaller. And officials say the demand for these mostly fuel-efficient vehicles will continue to grow.
What’s driving these introductions? It’s a mix of government fuel economy regulations, customer needs changing and increased quality – all leading to customers’ dated stereotypes of small cars diminishing.
Part of that is thanks to the Ford Fiesta, which has continued to be ranked among the best smaller vehicles since it launched in the U.S. in 2010.
We were able to test a 2014 Ford Fiesta with standard 1.6-liter three-cylinder SE priced at about $20,000 with optional equipment, such as automatic transmission ($1,095); comfort package (heated seats, dual powered heated side mirror and electronic auto temp for $290); and a number of other features (see more below) that brought the vehicle’s base price up from $15,450.
Although Fiesta sales were staggered to begin, a quick facelift with Ford’s Aston Martin-esque grille and new styling cues made the vehicle one of, if not the best looking small car on the market.
The vehicle was the second to feature Ford’s new “global DNA,” and now looks like a mini version of the critically-acclaimed Fusion, which the design cues debuted on.
The interior – besides the backseat – is actually surprisingly spacious. However, the interior still remains very European, with exterior metal coloring directly into the interior and the window spacing. Also, the infotainment system with MyFord Touch, as well documented, remains troublesome and behind other automakers’ systems.
The vehicle is surprisingly sporty to drive with its base 1.6-liter engine, but initial acceleration can leave drivers wanting a bit more. The vehicle is rated at 120 horsepower and 112 lb.-ft. of torque.
However, unless you’re a drifter, performance isn’t the number one thing of a small car buyer’s mind. It’s pricing and fuel economy, which the Fiesta is competitive with for both.
With a solid mix of highway and city driving, a driver can easily get 30 miles per gallon combined. I’m not one to have a light foot on the acceleration, and still achieved roughly 31 mpg overall. That’s about even with the combined EPA ratings of 32 mpg — 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway – but like I said, it can be a fun, sporty vehicle to drive.
The Fiesta’s fuel economy actually places it toward the top of its segment, but still close to the larger compact segment, which also features the 2.0-liter four-cylinder Focus with a combined rating of 31 mpg. Many in the analyst community speculated that the Focus was taking away sales from the Fiesta until the redesign. Now, it appears to be the opposite.
In 2013, Fiesta sales increased 25.2 percent to more than 71,000 units sold. Focus sales decreased 5 percent. Of course, a new “Ford DNA” face lift for the 2015 model-year will put them make on an even keel. That is besides pricing.
Pricing and options
The Fiesta, as noted by many third parties, is extremely affordable and offers a lot for the price.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta is available in two body styles: a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback. Both are available in S, SE and Titanium trim levels, while the high-performance ST model is available only as a hatchback.
Including destination fees, the sedan starts at about $15,000 for the base “S.” It comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, power locks and mirrors, air-conditioning, numerous other interior stereo system features that many drivers have come to expect and some Ford Sync functions (iPod/USB audio interface, Bluetooth phone connectivity and voice controls.
The Fiesta SE takes it up a notch to also include keyless entry (becoming more standard across the industry), power windows, exterior mirrors with side marker lamps, cruise control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a trip computer, 15-inch painted aluminum wheels, metallic interior trim, a front center console with armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and ambient lighting.
Our vehicle also came with the “SE Appearance package” for $995. It adds 16-inch painted alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, the MyFord Touch infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and Sync Services and a few other interior upgrades.
Overall, the appearance package is probably worth the extra $995. So if the $290 for heated seats – particularly after this last Michigan winter.
But one thing we couldn’t condone purchasing was the “Green Envy” metallic tri-coat paint job for $595 that took the vehicle’s somewhat sophisticated look and made it into a lime on wheels. Some probably love the color, but during a dark, Michigan winter, it just wasn’t for us. There are nine other colors to choose from though.
With all the bells and whistles, the Fiesta can get into the low- to mid-$20,000s. But that’s really up to consumers to decide.