2014 Ford Fiesta is affordable, peppy, fuel sipper

Dec 24, 2013, 3:06 PM

(AP) – Ford’s smallest car in the United States, the Fiesta, doesn’t have a hybrid powerplant and it doesn’t plug into an electric outlet. The 2014 Fiesta doesn’t even come with a fuel-conscious continuously variable transmission.

Yet, the affordable, sprightly, five-seat Fiesta ranks as a top nameplate in the United States in fuel economy among 2014 cars with conventional gasoline engines.

The Fiesta’s best fuel mileage rating from the federal government is 32 miles per gallon in city driving and 45 mpg on the highway. This combined 37-mpg mileage is for a Fiesta that’s fitted with a new-for-2014, 1-liter, three-cylinder, turbocharged, gasoline engine that generates 123 horsepower.

But even 2014 Fiestas with Ford’s 1.6-liter, naturally aspirated four cylinder that develops 120 horsepower can be rated as high as 30/41 mpg by the federal government.

For 2014, there’s other news for the Fiesta, which is sold as a sedan and five-door hatchback. The front styling on all Fiestas gets a bit of an Aston Martin treatment with new headlight shapes and prominent grille. There’s new equipment, including Ford’s MyKey that provides personalized controls over maximum driving speed and audio volume.

Best of all, the Fiesta can be tailored with many convenience, connectivity and luxury features _ even heated leather-covered seats.

Arguably, the most stylish and versatile of Fiestas is the hatchback, which was the test model.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $15,395 for a base, front-wheel drive, 2014 Fiesta S Hatchback with 120-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual. The lowest retail price for a 2014 Fiesta hatchback with automatic is $16,490, and this includes the same 120-horse four cylinder.

These base prices are in line with competing small hatchbacks. The 2014 Nissan Versa Note, for example, has a $14,800 starting MSRP, including destination charge. But the Versa Note’s four cylinder generates less power _ 109 horsepower. And the 2014 Hyundai Accent hatchback, with its four-cylinder, 138-horsepower engine, has a starting retail price of $15,705.

The test 2014 Fiesta five door was a comfortable size for driving in the city.

At 13.3 feet long from bumper to bumper, the Fiesta hatchback is subcompact in the government’s classification list and slips easily into many tight urban parking spaces.

Yet, the Fiesta hatch is not tiny, the way a Scion iQ three-door car is.

The Fiesta is long enough to allow a competitive 14.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which is more than the 12.8 cubic feet in the Fiesta sedan trunk.

This is not to say that back-seat legroom of 31.2 inches is spacious. Tall riders will want front-seat passengers to adjust their seats to better accommodate them.

Fuel consumption is not an issue. The test car with five-speed manual averaged nearly 32 mpg in city and highway travel, which is above the government’s 31-mpg rating for a Fiesta hatch with 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, inline four cylinder.

Power wasn’t punchy, the way it can be with a turbo engine. And when pressed hard, the engine became noisy. But the Fiesta moved well in city traffic.

Note that torque of 112 foot-pounds comes at 5,000 rpm. This compares with 123 foot-pounds at 4,850 rpm in the Accent.

The test Fiesta’s travel range of nearly 400 miles on a single tank of regular unleaded gasoline is noteworthy for a 12.4-gallon gas tank. The fillup cost for that amount of travel at today’s average price: $40.

Road noise came into the Fiesta’s passenger compartment, particularly on rough-surfaced pavement. But the car did not feel cheap or tinny, even though the Fiesta hatch weighed just over 2,500 pounds. The ride wasn’t punishing but passengers could feel many road bumps and vibrations.

The Fiesta’s tidy turning circle of 34.4 feet made U-turns easy. The electric power-assisted steering had a mainstream feel and brakes in the test car were adequate.

Every Fiesta has a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes so drivers of different statures can find a comfortable driving position.

The Versa Note doesn’t offer leather-covered seats, but leather and heated seats came on the test Fiesta Titanium hatch that priced out at less than $20,000.

The test Fiesta hatch also had MyKey, rear spoiler, fog lamps, driver seat adjustable lumbar, Ford’s Sync connectivity system with voice recognition, a new Sony audio system, two auxiliary powerpoints, push-button start, automatic-dimming rearview mirror and Ice Blue lighting in the instrument cluster.

In addition, all Fiestas come with seven air bags, including one for the driver’s knee to help keep the driver properly positioned in a frontal collision. The federal government hasn’t reported full crash test results for the 2014 Fiesta. But in frontal crash testing, the 2014 Fiesta sedan and five-door hatchback earned four out of five stars for occupant protection.

A new Fiesta _ the ST _ is due this model year as a 197-horsepower, performance hatchback.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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2014 Ford Fiesta is affordable, peppy, fuel sipper