DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: As the turbodiesel did a decade or so ago, the three-banger has come of age. The Fiesta’s EcoBoost I3 is a fantastic little powerplant with more than enough grunt to get a B- or C-segment car (we’ve driven the Euro Focus 1.0-liter, too, and it’s a fine performer) scooting along with aplomb. You do have to rev it a bit more than larger-displacement turbo DI engines -- there’s not much happening below 2,000 rpm -- but once you know where the power lies, the wacky oh-crap-I-fouled-a-plug soundtrack is the only indication that something's different under the hood.

Credit to Ford for fitting the Fiesta with an excellent five-speed manual that’s geared to take advantage of the small engine’s characteristics, too. It’s really a delight to spin the three-pot through the cogs, and the engine’s even relatively relaxed at 80 mph highway cruising. So is the entire car, for that matter: No, it’s not a luxury sedan, but there’s ample sound deadening and a solid chassis that keep things drama-free on the interstate.

I did end up cutting my time in the Fiesta SE short, though: I simply didn’t fit comfortably in the driver’s seat, and no amount of fiddling changed things. The seat bottom cushion was too short, there wasn’t enough travel in the steering wheel and the seat base, as in most cheap cars, “raised” by tilting the occupant forward rather than actually lifting the seat along an axis perpendicular to the vehicle floor. That simply resulted less thigh support. I’m only moderately tall -- 6’1” but I am of lanky build; Rory Carroll is several inches taller than me but also larger overall, and he reported fitting fine, so it may just be a quirk of my body type. Regardless, try the Fiesta on before buying.

The good thing is that if you don’t fit in the Fiesta SE, there’s always the Fiesta ST, and I can report that its optional Recaro seats fit beautifully.

2014 Ford Fiesta SE Sedan review notes

EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: The Ford Fiesta is so much better as a hatchback. These little U.S.-market conversions always look atrocious, and this car is no exception. I just can't believe that ...

The 2014 Ford Fiesta SE sedan is equipped with a 1.5-liter I4 pushing out 123 hp with 125 lb-ft of torque.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: No one needs more car than this. Period. I know I say that after every cheapo I drive, but I mean it this time.

The three-banger in this 2014 Ford Fiesta SE isn’t just plenty strong to move the 2,500-pound frame around, it’s overkill. Not to mention the sweet, unbalanced growl it has under full throttle. Shifter movement isn’t what I’d call crisp, but the gates are wide and easy to hit.

Like the Fiat 500, this car is fun to wind up to redline. Besides the sound, it feels, by the seat of the pants, like a good amount of thrust. Add the halfway decent steering rack and this is just a great car to kick around in.

Were the materials inexpensive looking? Yes. Did the whole interior feel a little rattly? Sure. Will it get you from Point A to Point B for 10 years in relative comfort? Abso-frickin-lutely. It even has seat heaters for you whiners out there. Listen, a hundred years ago, people died going from Detroit to Chicago!

I did find a decent seating position quickly and there looks to be enough room in the backseat for smaller-sized grown adults. The trunk is Fiesta-sized, so no real surprises, but one could easily fit the luggage of three for a family trip. A cheap one at that.

The radio looked a little out of place, just because we’re so used to multicolor, multifunction touchscreen displays, but it played music, which is really all that matters.

So, in this price range you have your Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris and the Honda Fit, which is probably the current champion of B-segments. But this Fiesta has set its sights high, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it hits the mark for a lot of buyers.

Slow car fast, and all that.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta SE sedan comes in at a base price of $16,245 with our tester reaching $17,535.

WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: The problem with our test-Fiesta SFE, as it’s known on its deck lid, or SE with EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package as it says in its press kit, is, of course, the mere existence of the Fiesta ST. Once you’ve driven the performance ST there’s no way you can go back to the S, SE or SFE and not be disappointed. It’s like going back to the farm after you’ve seen Par-eee (or at least Dearborn). So if you’re considering buying a lower-model Fiesta and you get all the way to the dealer for a test drive, for goodness sake don’t test drive a ST.

Or, come to think of it, do test drive and then buy an ST. Life is too short.

While our Fiesta SFE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package gets a perfectly eco-friendly 1.0-liter three-cylinder making 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, the Fiesta ST gets 600 cc more displacement, gasoline direct injection and a turbo good for 197 hp and 202 lb-ft. The curb weight is a little more in the ST, but that is more than swallowed up by the added output of the engine. While I cranked out a wheezy 9.1-second 0-60 time in the SFE, the ST does that more than two seconds quicker. And it handles! The ST is fun!

You say mileage is important for you? I got a lousy 19.5 mpg in the SFE despite a displacement no larger than a juice box. Of course, I was driving like a maniac. The onboard readout claimed the car was getting 27.7 mpg at some point and the EPA says you’ll get 32 city/45 highway and 37 combined. Those are good numbers, I’ll grant you that. But the 2014 model Fiesta ST gets 26 city/35 highway, perfectly acceptable numbers and in a much more fun package.

Speaking of the package, all cars in this class are a little flimsy inside. The shifter in particular feels class-average flimsy, with longish throws and vague-ish engagement. There’s more noise than you’d get if you went up one class to a Fusion, for sure. They’ve rearranged everything on the center console to make better use of the dash space, with a unique clustering of HVAC and infotainment controls high and center. I guess you’d get used to that. The car is still almost as practical as a Fusion. There is loads of room in the back seats and when you fold them down there’s still more cargo room.

I like the idea that Ford made an engine small enough to fit in a carry-on. But if I was to buy something in this class, it would definitely be the ST and not this. Re-juggle your personal finances and figure out a way to pay the extra two grand or so for a fun car.

 

It was difficult to find a comfortable seating position in the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE sedan. (Optional leather shown)

ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: On the one hand, you have the Fiesta ST -- never has a working-class hero so captured the imaginations of the beleaguered since John Henry. $20,945 buys you the finest in hot hatchery: a poor man’s sports car, one of the hottest hatches of the decade, a car that is actually worth its praise. Imagine that! And on the other hand, you have this -- the Fiesta SFE, a car whose engine is approximately the size of a Pop-Tart, a car that compels nearly as many chortling, silly giggles as the ST, and a model whose price tag isn’t too far off from it.

Yep, this thing starts at $16,245, but the SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package adds the three-cylinder turbo engine, returning 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. Which is the same as the 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder, but costs $995. And you can only get a manual transmission for it.

Sure, that’s fine for the diehards, but they would consider buying an EcoBoost Fiesta for about the amount of time it takes to click over to our review of the Fiesta ST, which you should do right away. The Huddled Masses will likely not spring for the manual, I fear. They will not tolerate the long, ropey, vague throws in the shifter, requiring hilariously frantic arm movements to drive fast. I might. You, dear reader -- you might.

But you do get 32 mpg city for the discipline of manual madness, and a whopping 45 mpg highway.

While being stuck in traffic, I returned something around 29 mpg. I drove it to the canyons, because why not? And it dropped to, uh, 28.3 mpg. They have a point. 

2014 Ford Fiesta ST review notes

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I don't think I can ever fall in love with a front-drive performance car -- the dynamics just never feel quite right to me. But there are two I'd happily have in my garage: ...

And a canyon run is, if anything, reassurance of the goodness of the entire Fiesta platform: a fun, hilarious, sometimes scary little car that can be chucked around and pushed to its limits, up until it can’t.

If you go too fast into a corner with the EcoBoost Fiesta, the front tires will surrender and scrub speed until you find yourself plowing, facing guardrail and death alike…it’s these eco-weenie tires, man, these hard-as-rock donuts that are so quick to call it quits. Enthusiasts might consider stealing the wheels off their neighbor’s ST. Actually, please don’t do that. But the point stands.

The engine is a hoot -- lots of torque in the midrange, 125 lb-ft as low as 2,500 rpm, and a nice little turbo pssshhh if you roll the windows down. It doesn’t rev particularly quickly, but it feels strong and never drones on. Its revs fall with immediacy when you’re off the clutch. It’s got moxie. Your grandmother might say the same thing.

The interior is best described as…”functional.” A $21K Fiesta still looks the same as a $13K Fiesta, and that gets harder to swallow the further up you go. But the Fiesta seriously needs an update to get rid of that ocean of buttons across the dashboard, which looks like a Nike training shoe and that business card-sized screen from an original Game Boy. When the Fiesta put on its Aston Martin mask, how come it didn’t also rub off on the interior?

I dug the EcoBoost Fiesta, but I shudder to think what else I could buy for our $17,535 as-tested price for a fuel-sipper Fiesta, it seems like a tough sell. I can hear the angry mob, their torches and pitchforks raised high in the distance: “You paid how much?” they shout. “For that? I knew a guy who once owned a Geo Metro [because nobody will ever admit to owning a Geo Metro]. Didn’t that have three cylinders? Seventeen Gs, you can get a real car for that much

But engines are expensive to build…maybe you have to pay more to save money. I don’t think many people will. But I hope they do.

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