Deep in the heart of Ford's online car configurator, buried under the 'Exterior Items' section of the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE's options list, is a checkbox marked 'SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package.' Make this selection and your Fiesta will gain an SFE badge on the trunk or hatch, along with the tantalizing 'EcoBoost' logo.
It's more than a sticker package, of course: ordering the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost means outfitting the subcompact with a three-cylinder, one-liter engine that's been turbocharged to strike a balance between power and frugality. With all of the hype surrounding Ford's turbo technology, why isn't the SFE EcoBoost listed as its own unique model? Why can't it be selected as a drivetrain choice when initially spec'ing out the Fiesta? In short, why is the SFE EcoBoost such a secret?
When I was recently given the chance to get behind the wheel of the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost I jumped at the opportunity to find out the reasoning behind the Blue Oval's smoke and mirrors ploy to keep the car a mystery to all but those who knew exactly what they were looking for. After our seven days together, I think I understand why the three-cylinder Fiesta isn't being foisted on shoppers as an easy-to-order option. Some ideas, it seems, just don't translate as well on this side of the Atlantic as they do in Europe.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Models and Prices
Pricing out the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost means selecting the Fiesta SE (either hatchback or manual) from the initial list of trims, and then making sure to specify the car's manual transmission (the car can't be had with the Fiesta's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual setup). For hatchback models like the one I drove (you can also get the EcoBoost engine with the slightly more affordable sedan), this gives you a starting MSRP of $15,595 along with equipment such as power windows and door locks, cruise control, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 15-inch rims, a trip computer, and Ford's ambient lighting system. There's also Bluetooth connectivity for your phone via the standard Ford SYNC system, a CD player, and air conditioning included in that price.
Adding the SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package will cost you an additional $995, and it brings with it steel wheels in place of the SE's standard aluminum rollers, and the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine. In total, the Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost that I drove cost $16,420.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Design
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost does not introduce any styling changes compared to the standard Fiesta.
Aside from the 15-inch steel wheels and the trunk spoiler that's added on to the sedan version of the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost, the only way you'll know that the car sitting beside you at the light is running on just three cylinders will be the badge on the back. This is because the EcoBoost model shares the same attractive styling afforded to all members of the Fiesta line-up, giving it a fresh and welcoming look that stands up well to other subcompacts in its class. The Ford's best angle is its front three-quarter view, which shows off its broad grille and angled headlights that link it to other, larger members of the automaker's stable.
The interior design of the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost offers a good mix of price-conscious materials and comfort-oriented surfaces, with arm rests and touch-plastics that feature a softer feel than the car's more basic control surfaces. The SFE model offers a higher standard of cloth upholstery compared to the base car, and if I had to make one complaint about the interior it would be the lack of color contrast - everything seems to fade into shades of grey and black, with the exception of a bright bezel on the steering wheel and around the shifter / lower stack.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost does not introduce any new comfort or cargo features.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost is functionally identical inside to the standard model, which means you get a reasonable amount of rear seat room, comfortable front thrones, and 26 cubic feet of total cargo space available with the back row folded forward. If you want to make the most of the car's 'trunk' with a full load of passengers in tow, you're going to have to do something about the cargo cover, which somewhat limits how much gear you can stuff back there. Ride quality is on par with what you would expect from such a small car, which means not too rough when the pavement gets sketchy, but not completely disconnected from the outside environment, either.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost does not introduce any new features or controls.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost is fairly basic in terms of its equipment, but the good news is that the modern-day definition of 'basic' is head and shoulders above what you would get from a car in this class even 10 years ago. There's no automatic climate control in the SFE EcoBoost model, but you do get keyless entry, which is unfortunately paired with an awkward-looking rectangular blob of plastic on the driver's door that serves as the keypad in case you've forgotten the car's actual key and need to get inside.
The 2014 Fiesta also comes with the SYNC entertainment and communications interface, and while the unit has been improved since it was first introduced in the subcompact car, there are still a number of sticking points that make it difficult to use. SYNC is often unresponsive to button presses, which is irritating considering the plastic buttons in question are so big. Arrayed to the left of SYNC's 'joystick' control on the center stack, they wear labels like MEDIA, SOUND, and PHONE, and roughly one third of the time they don't do anything at all when you push them - especially if you're locked in the PHONE feature's menu system and can't get out. I had similar problems with the joystick being unwilling to navigate on-screen choices presented in the one-color LCD screen sitting on top of the Fiesta's dash, and I often had to revert to the voice command feature and guess at what combination of words would allow me to, say, stream music from my mobile device. SYNC is a work in progress, and while I appreciate the effort being made in such an affordable car, it's not without its frustrations.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost does not introduce any new safety equipment.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost comes with dual forward airbags, side curtain airbags, side-mounted front airbags, and a driver's knee airbag. There's also an electronic traction control and stability control system, along with anti-lock brakes. You can't get any active safety gear with any version of the Fiesta.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Crash-Test Ratings: The Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost features a four out of five star crash safety rating from the NHTSA. It also features an IIHS rating of 'Good' in every crash test category with the exception of the small-overlap frontal offset test, where it received a rating of 'Marginal.'
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost introduces a new 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE's $995 surcharge pays for its three-cylinder EcoBoosted turbo engine. This 1.0-liter unit delivers 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, which is three horses and 13 lb-ft more than what the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder motor provided with every other Fiesta save the ST model has on tap. There's even an overboost function included with the setup that will provide 145 lb-ft of torque during a 15 second window, if required. A five-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox available with the SFE EcoBoost, and fuel economy is listed at 31-mpg in city driving and 43-mpg on the highway. I saw 29-mpg during my time with the car.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Driving Impressions
You might have noticed that I was unable to achieve the 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost's advertised fuel economy during my time with the car. In fact, the vehicle's performance came in two miles per gallon worse than its city driving rating despite several extended highway trips. There's a very clear reason why I had trouble extracting the SFE EcoBoost's enhanced efficiency, and it's the same reason why anyone else will also end up disappointed at the pump: you have to run the three-cylinder motor fairly hard simply to keep up with the traffic around you.
Unless you live in a perfectly flat area, the Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost's one-liter, three-cylinder engine is going to make for an unpleasant daily driving companion. While it might offer more horsepower and torque than the standard Fiesta's larger four-cylinder mill, the small motor is matched with a transmission that has clearly been designed for hypermiling rather than day-to-day practicality. I found myself changing ratios almost constantly when tooling around town in the EcoBoosted Fiesta, with the car's tall gearing forcing you to even shift down into first gear when rounding a corner so as to avoid chugging in second once you resumed throttle.
On the highway, it wasn't much better. You can easily drive around in third gear at 50-mph without nearing the three-cylinder's redline, and in fact you can't even venture into fifth gear unless you are traveling above 65-mph or you'll be faced with a shuddering driveline once traffic slows and you ask the car to pick up the five miles per hour you had shed from your cruising speed. All the while, the one-liter engine's soundtrack comes across as harsher than one would expect from a modern engine, with a tone that some enthusiasts might embrace but the majority of drivers would find off-putting. Starting off in first gear also requires a deft touch to avoid lugging, but if you're starting up a hill, there's no way to dial out the car's unwillingness to move forward.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Final Thoughts
I really like the entry-level 2014 Ford Fiesta, and I regularly recommend the Fiesta hatchback as a good option for buyers on a budget seeking a fun, affordable, and efficient automobile. The SFE EcoBoost package, on the other hand, is to be avoided. I can't fathom paying $995 for a less spirited, harsher-feeling drivetrain that doesn't provide its advertised fuel savings when exposed to real-world driving situations. The three-cylinder EcoBoost motor may be ideally suited for a European environment, where distances between cities are shorter and drivers are more used to very small displacement motors that aren't as smooth as their larger counterparts, but American customers will no doubt be turned off by the EcoBoost's uncouth character.
2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Review: Pros and Cons
- Smart, attractive styling
- Practical interior
- Well-tuned chassis
- Affordable pricing
- Unpleasant to drive due to lack of power and smoothness
- Constant shifting of manual gearbox gets tiresome
- Real world fuel consumption does not match advertised figures
Ford Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.
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