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2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin

Christian Wardlaw
by Christian Wardlaw
July 29, 2014
6 min. Reading Time
2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Storm Gray Metallic Front Quarter Left ・  Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Storm Gray Metallic Front Quarter Left ・ Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Last summer, Ford invited me to drive and review its revamped 2014 Fiesta, which receives styling changes, new safety and infotainment technologies, powertrain updates, and more. However, at the time, Ford hadn’t launched its new Fiesta EcoBoost model, which is equipped with a turbocharged, 1.0-liter 3-cylinder, one that journalists around the world apparently adore.

Naturally, I’ve been curious about the Fiesta’s optional turbocharged, 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine, which costs an extra $995 but is rated to get 36 mpg in combined driving, handily beating the standard Fiesta’s 31-mpg rating. Having now spent a week driving the Fiesta EcoBoost, I’m duly impressed, but I didn’t get the fuel economy that the EPA promised.

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car

Ford offers the 2014 Fiesta in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback flavors, topped with S, SE, Titanium, or ST trim. Choosing is easy. Get the Fiesta S if you have absolutely no money, get the SE if you want the benefit of choice, get the Titanium if you want leather and upgraded technology, and get the ST if want to giggle with glee.

My test car was the Fiesta SE Sedan ($16,405 including the $825 destination charge), upgraded with the SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package (turbocharged engine, 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, rear spoiler, regenerative braking system); and the Comfort Package (automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated side mirrors) for a total of $17,690 before discounts and rebates.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design

For reasons that are likely related to aerodynamics and fuel economy, the EcoBoost engine is offered only with the 15-inch steel wheels and plastic wheel covers seen here. I am definitely not a fan. When my Storm Gray test car arrived, I took one look at the wheels and thought the gray plastic discs had been sourced from K-mart. Just so you know, Ford, I’m sure lots of people would willingly trade some fuel economy for the better looking 16-inch aluminum wheels from the Fiesta’s SE Appearance Package.

I’m also not a fan of the Fiesta Sedan’s proportions. This car’s round, bubbly back end looks out of proportion with the front half of the car, though I’ll admit that 2014’s subtle styling changes make it look better today than it has in the past.

Inside, the Fiesta supplies a mix of the expected and the unexpected. Some exhibit surprising quality, while others are as inexpensive in terms of look and feel as the car’s price tag suggests. The cabin’s overall design theme is busy, especially with regard to the stereo controls, and the variety of textures doesn’t help to create a cohesive look and feel.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Cargo

The Ford Fiesta strikes me as a car built for people who are physically fit and shorter in stature. Taller and larger people won’t be happy driving it, or riding in it.

Every Fiesta is equipped with a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, but even with it pushed in as far toward the dashboard as possible I still felt like I was sitting too close to it. The pedals were too close, too, and while the height adjustable driver’s seat proved genuinely comfortable, I did not find the driving position to share that description.

It would help if the seat could be moved further back in its track, but then the Fiesta’s mediocre rear-seat legroom would become genuinely masochistic in nature. Even my daughter complained, loudly and regularly, about the amount of space back there, and she’s six years old.

My family took the Fiesta on a day trip to Santa Barbara and local beaches. The sedan’s trunk measures 12.8 cubic-feet in size, but seems larger than that, easily swallowing beach chairs, a sunbrella, sand toys, towels, a camera bag, and duffel with changes of clothes, and a cooler bag packed with lunch.

Of course, that trip was taken before I researched the Fiesta’s crash-test ratings. My kids didn’t ride in this car after that.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls

Remember how cool the Motorola Razr flip-phone was in the years before the first iPhone? Then it wasn’t? Depending on the version of the Fiesta you buy, you’ll feel the same way about your infotainment controls.

My lightly optioned Fiesta SE had the standard radio setup, an array of flush-mounted, decoratively designed buttons and a small display screen that is reminiscent of those old-school flip phones. Upgrade to the MyFord Touch system, and you get a sophisticated touchscreen infotainment system with appealing graphics that can be optioned with a navigation system for a reasonable $795. It, and the simple controls for the available Sony premium audio system, reminds me of modern iPhones.

Aside from this dramatic difference between Fiestas with and without MyFord Touch, the control layout is conventionally rendered, easy to understand and use. Also, it is worth noting that my test car’s optional automatic climate control system had no trouble keeping the cabin a cool 70 degrees Fahrenheit while temperatures outside flirted with 100 degrees.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Safety Matters

In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2014 Ford Fiesta gets a 2-star safety rating for side-impact protection for the rear-seat passenger.

During NHTSA testing, the Fiesta’s rear door intruded far enough into the car’s cabin that the interior door panel struck the crash-test dummy’s torso, generating a measurement consistent with high lower spine acceleration and greater likelihood of thoracic injury.

Once I realized that, my little girls didn’t get back into this car.

In other NHTSA crash-test measurements, the Fiesta earns 4-star and 5-star ratings. The Fiesta also receives the top rating of “Good” in all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluations except for the small overlap frontal-impact test, for which it is rated “Marginal.”

That’s too bad, because for 2014, the Fiesta is available with the kinds of safety features that help set a parent’s mind at ease. Ford’s MyKey technology allows a concerned mom or dad to set certain vehicle settings in order to limit top vehicle speed and stereo volume, and to make it impossible to listen to the stereo if the seat belts are not buckled. Additionally, the Sync AppLink system provides free 911 Assist service. As long as a smartphone is paired to the system and is inside the Fiesta when the airbags deploy, this feature automatically contacts emergency authorities, speeding rescuers to the scene following a collision.

Unfortunately, the Fiesta doesn’t perform better in crash tests. A car weighing as little as 2,537 pounds needs every ounce of injury prevention it can muster.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: What's Under the Hood

The Fiesta’s light curb weight, though, is why the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine works so well, achieving EPA ratings of 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. I averaged 31.5 mpg, less than the 34.6 mpg I got from the standard 1.6-liter 4-cylinder and optional PowerShift transmission the last time I drove a Fiesta.

Do keep in mind, though, that my result with the EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine should be considered a worst-case scenario. I fully admit that I abused this little car, revving it for everything it was worth, climbing mountains, zooming down freeways, and letting it idle during a photo shoot. I wanted to find out how it would perform under duress, both in terms of fuel economy to determine whether or not turbocharging resolves the Fiesta’s lack of motivational force.

The answer to that last question is yes. Thanks to 123 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and, more important, 125 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2,500 rpm, there’s enough oomph under the Fiesta EcoBoost model’s hood. Compare those numbers to the standard engine’s 120 hp at 6,350 rpm and 112 lb.-ft. at 5,000 rpm, and you’ll see how torque is a far important measure of everyday performance than is horsepower.

Just keep in mind that you need to know how to operate a clutch pedal and a manual gearbox in order to use it.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions

The Fiesta EcoBoost is not a fast car, but if you rev it you’ll lead a pack of everyday commuters from a traffic light. It also had no trouble maintaining a 75 mph cruising speed on the trip to Santa Barbara, and when returning to L.A. was able to climb the Camarillo Grade from sea level to 800 feet of elevation at 80 mph in fourth gear. On twisty back roads, hairpin corners drop revs low enough that it takes a moment for the engine to get back into the torque curve, but otherwise the EcoBoost engine performed beautifully, thrumming away with a subtle vibration enough to remind the driver than this version of the Fiesta has no ordinary engine.

In terms of ride and handling, the Fiesta gets progressively louder as the pavement gets coarser, but the suspension does an excellent job of keeping the car firmly planted without transferring impact harshness to the cabin. The Fiesta glides over the road, the driver aware of surface texture primarily due to aural cues, and yet it handles with impressive grace in corners. There is, of course, only so much a set of skinny 15-inch wheels and tires can do, so the Fiesta EcoBoost’s cornering limits are reached quickly, whereupon the car transitions to predictable understeer.

Aside from the rubbery gearbox action, I only wished that Ford might fine-tune the Fiesta’s electric steering just a little bit more. It feels better than ever, and in general Ford does an excellent job with electrically-assisted steering systems, but the one in the Fiesta could supply a little more on-center confidence combined with a little less off-center immediacy.

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking about the steering, you’re right. The Fiesta EcoBoost is impressive from a driving dynamics standpoint.

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw

2014 Ford Fiesta SE EcoBoost Sedan Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts

Ford needs to make the Fiesta safer by fixing the NHTSA side-impact rating and beefing up the front structure to pass the IIHS small overlap frontal-impact test. Then, the only thing worth complaining about will be the car’s overall comfort level, because with the introduction of the new 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine, the Fiesta’s power deficit is resolved, making it a real shame that potential buyers who can’t operate a clutch pedal will be unable to drive one. 

Ford provided the 2014 Fiesta SE Sedan for this review

2014 Ford Fiesta SE Sedan photos by Christian Wardlaw

 Photo by Christian Wardlaw

Photo by Christian Wardlaw


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