The Ford Fiesta is a versatile, budget-conscious small car with a stylish interior and upscale car options such as heated leather seats and voice-recognition controls. The Fiesta also has higher U.S. government fuel economy ratings than does a gasoline-powered Honda Fit.
Best of all, the 2013 Fiesta earned five out of five stars in side crash testing by the U.S. government. It's one of the few subcompacts with such a high score in side crash testing.
Available as a five-door hatchback and a sedan, the Fiesta features the lowest starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of any new-model Ford: $13,995 for a base S sedan with five-speed manual transmission and $15,090 for a sedan with automatic. A base, 2013 Fiesta S hatchback with manual starts at $14,995. A Fiesta S hatchback with automatic, however, jumps in price, to $16,090.
All 2013 Fiestas have the same, 120-horsepower, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, gasoline engine, though the Fiesta is sold in other some countries with diesel engines and turbocharged power.
In the United States, the Fiesta has a large number of small-car competitors.
As an example, the starting Fiesta hatchback retail prices are $1,120 and $825 less, respectively, than those for the 2013 Honda Fit with 117-horsepowr, naturally aspirated four-cylinder and manual and automatic transmissions. But the 2013 Kia Rio five-door hatchback with 138-horsepower, naturally aspirated four cylinder has starting MSRPs, including destination charge, that are lower than the Fiesta's — $14,550 with manual transmission and $15,650 with automatic.
Meantime, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic starts at $14,660 as a sedan with manual transmission and $15,730 as a sedan with automatic. As a hatchback, the 2012 Sonic has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $15,560 with manual transmission and $16,630 with automatic. Sonics are available with 138-horsepower, naturally aspirated four cylinder and 138-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder. The turbo four has higher peak torque and it comes on at a lower rpm.
Not much has changed for the U.S. Fiesta for the 2013 model year, though standard equipment and equipment packages are re-aligned.
The test Fiesta SE hatchback looked good in its bright red paint with painted aluminum wheels.
Fiestas have prominent indentations in their side bodies to add interest. Added-on trim pieces of silver or black are nonexistent, thus conveying a "clean" car that slices through the air. Front styling has a swanky European look — not exactly brawny and not exactly cute. Some buyers may prefer a different appearance, and Ford offers body stripes and different grille inserts as options.
The test Fiesta five-door moved along in traffic and merged well, though the car didn't have super sporty acceleration.
Gear shifts were noticeable at times. The transmission was the six-speed PowerShift automatic that's Ford's dual-clutch, semi-automatic mechanism. It was the subject of complaints from consumers last year, but Ford said it has installed new electronic programming to better manage the workings of the transmission.
Torque in the Fiesta's 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, Duratech four cylinder peaks at 112 foot-pounds at a relatively high 5,000 rpm. In comparison, the Sonic's 1.8-liter, turbocharged four cylinder delivers 148 foot-pounds of torque at 2,500 rpm.
Still, the test Fiesta easily averaged 29 miles per gallon in combined city and highway travel, for a total range of nearly 360 miles on a single tank of gas. This mileage is a bit lower than the combined 33-mpg rating given to this Fiesta model by the U.S. government, which estimates city mileage at 29 mpg and highway mileage at 39 mpg. A Fiesta with extra-charge fuel efficiency package is rated at 40 mpg on the highway.
The Honda Fit, in contrast, is rated at 27/33 mpg with automatic transmission and has no extra fuel efficiency package.
The interior of the Fiesta test car had a snappy-looking dashboard arranged with a nice array of controls and features that dispelled any thought that this was a Spartan, cheap vehicle.
In fact, the sticker price was barely over $19,000, but the test Fiesta drove with surprising competency and nimbleness.
The car absorbed a good number of road bumps without fuss, and while passengers felt vibrations from the road, they weren't overly intrusive. The driver, meantime, had a good feel for the road in the Fiesta SE hatchback, and found the car tracked accurately in curves.
Front suspension is independent MacPherson strut, while a twisted beam and coil springs handle the rear.
Rack-and-pinion steering was more precise than expected and added to the driver's confidence.
With conservatively sized, 15-inch wheels and tires, the test Fiesta had no feeling of unsprung, or heavy, weight at the corners, which helped explain the satisfactory, non-jarring ride. Yet, at more than 2,500 pounds, overall, for the test car with automatic transmission, the Fiesta didn't feel overly lightweight or tinny, either. This stable feel was enhanced by standard AdvanceTrac electronic stability control.
The Fiesta also has seven air bags, including one for the driver's knee to help keep the driver properly positioned behind the steering wheel during a frontal crash.
The five-star side government crash tests are impressive for the Fiesta, while frontal crash test results garnered four out of five stars.
The Honda Fit earned four out of five stars in side crash testing.
But the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic earned five out of five stars in both frontal and side crash testing.
Note that Ford had auto journalists recently test drive one of its small, European, turbocharged engines. While Ford made no promises of which U.S. car might get the powerplant, there is speculation that the Fiesta would be a good candidate.
Consumer Reports gives the Fiesta a below average reliability rating.