Let’s get this out in the open: This is not the Ford (NYSE:F) Fiesta ST, the Euro-inspired hot hatch that Ford developed to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Volkswagen GTI and global players like the Renault Sport-edition Clio. This Fiesta puts fuel efficiency first and does so with a new-to-the-U.S. 1.0 liter three-cylinder turbo, complete with Ford’s EcoBoost badging. That’s the same engine with a block that will fit in the overhead compartment of most commercial airplanes. To make it more confusing, the Fiesta ST also uses an EcoBoost-branded engine, but the larger 1.6 liter variation.
Travel over to Ford’s website and you won’t see the Fiesta 1.0 liter EcoBoost on Ford’s menu of Fiesta trims, which span from $14,100 for the S-trim sedan to $21,400 for the ST. The EcoBoost isn’t a standalone model, but rather a $995 option that can be equipped on models in the SE trim. With it comes a rear deck lid spoiler for the sedan, regenerative braking all around, and a five-speed manual.
With me at the test drive was Lisa Schoder, the former head of the ST brand portfolio at Ford. She told me that the Fiesta, as Ford’s entry-level offering, was a conquest car, one meant for appealing to first-time buyers. It’s also an option for those in larger vehicles who are looking to scale down. Lisa was joined by Aaron Miller and Vanessa Cook, both communications representatives for the company. Together, we took the Fiesta EcoBoost out to stretch its legs on a humid day outside of Boston (in case you’re already wondering, I can personally vouch for the Fiesta’s excellent AC system).
That being said, let’s start with the exterior. The new Fiesta is a great-looking car — the revamped Ford design language introduced on the 2013 Fusion translates well onto the smaller car, and in hatchback form (the model I drove), the car has an athletic poise that suits its stature well. The front fascia is lightly accented by a splitter-like assembly along the bottom that gives it a sporty, albeit slightly ambitious, appearance. While many in its class have a tendency of looking rather dated even when new (the Mitsubishi Mirage comes to mind), the Fiesta looks fresh and rejuvenated, just in time for its second U.S.-spec generation.
Its athletic appearance does emphasize its small stature, though. It’s not a big car — but then again, a recurring theme that I found with the Fiesta EcoBoost is that it’s not trying to be something it’s not. It knows it’s a small car and is supposed to be.
For you taller individuals out there, take heed: my 6-foot-2 frame was able to fit comfortably behind the wheel after some adjustments, and I would deem the headroom to be adequate. However, it does feel a tad on the claustrophobic side — everything just feels a little bit close. Everything but the windshield that is, since there’s a sizable dash putting some good distance between the driver and the window.
The Fiesta EcoBoost comes standard with Ford’s Sync program, and although the dashboard looks a little cluttered at first glance, all the buttons are nicely laid out and quite intuitive. The two-tone interior is warm and stylish, albeit a bit plastic feeling to the touch — but if you were looking for leather and alcantara, then you’re looking in the wrong corner of the auto sector. As I said before, the Fiesta isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t, including a grand tourer car.
As a city car, the Fiesta EcoBoost is fantastic. It’s quick around turns, deceptively agile, and just peppy enough to navigate routine urban traffic. Its turning radius — which was demonstrated on more than one occasion — is especially commendable, and around busy city blocks, the car is a joy to drive, especially with the five-speed manual.
With four full-grown adults in tow, though, the engine’s frisky nature seemed somewhat diminished by the added weight. This isn’t surprising, but what was surprising was the engine’s exhaust note. I walked in with a preconception that such a small engine would be buzzy and irritating. But no — the 1.0 liter EcoBoost actually has an unexpectedly enjoyable growl, which you wouldn’t suspect to come from a three-cylinder engine that displaces all of one liter.
The Fiesta EcoBoost is about efficiency more than almost everything else, and overall, it doesn’t disappoint. We didn’t obtain any official real-world stats on our fuel efficiency during the short outing, but other media outlets have reported better than or equal to results that fall in line with Ford’s advertised figures of 37 combined miles per gallon (John Voelcker at Green Car Reports cited 41.9 miles per gallon in his review, which you can read here).
Here’s where the car runs into some branding and competitive issues: For those demanding better performance, the ST offers plenty more for slightly more cash, but for those eying fuel efficiency as a top priority, the Toyota Prius c returns better mileage, with 53 in the city and 46 on the highway. And that’s a problem, because the Fiesta EcoBoost is really best in the city. Further, the Prius c starts at a touch more than $19,000; the car I drove stickered for roughly $18,000 with options, pitting the two within financial striking distance, especially once the hybrid fuel savings, though meager, are taken into account.
Overall, the Fiesta is a great little car, and as far as first-time owners are concerned, there are few better options as far as balancing the hot-hatch nature with some truly commendable fuel economy. Some drawbacks — like the hindering nature that added weight has on the vehicle’s performance, especially on the highway — are made negligible by the car’s overall user friendliness. If you’re as concerned about your wallet at the pump as you are in the showroom, the Fiesta SFE EcoBoost is well worthy of your consideration.