WASHINGTON -- If you're looking for a fun-to-drive sub-compact that will deliver good gas mileage at a reasonable price, put the 2014 Ford Fiesta on your list of cars to test drive.
The Fiesta has undergone a slight refresh for 2014 and is available in either a four-door sedan or, like my tester, a five-door hatch.
I drove the mid-level trim Ford Fiesta SE with a very reasonable sticker price of $17,135. It was fitted with just one $290 option package, which includes heated seats and power-heated mirrors. The base Fiesta starts at around $15,600. It's even less if you choose the four-door.
This is the most affordable car I have tested by several thousand dollars, and I have to say I had a good time driving this spunky little hatch. It really is a good commuter car -- its small, sub-compact size makes for good city driving and easy parking.
With a slick 5-speed manual gearbox and 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, the car never seemed underpowered, though I did try to reach for a non-existent sixth gear several times while cruising on the highway. For a manual transmission, this is a very good one: The clutch is light and it's easy to be smooth. A 6-speed automatic can be added as a $1,000 option.
I did pretty well with MPG as well, averaging 34.2 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving, which is better than the sticker says. I saw 38 mpg on a highway trip. If you're looking for better mileage, then the $995 new 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine gets up to 45 mpg on the highway, and you get a few more horsepower, too.
If more power is what you're looking for, Ford has just introduced a Fiesta ST with nearly 200hp and a more sporty look with even better handling. It should make for a fun, little pocket rocket.
The interior of the Fiesta SE is nice for a car at this price. There are soft- touch materials on the dash and it's very trendy looking inside. The ambient lighting around the cabin is a neat touch. There are many colors to choose from; I liked the blue and my 5-year-old asked for purple.
The heated cloth seats are comfortable with plenty of room up front until you throw a rear-facing car seat in the back, forcing you to move the front seat forward to make it fit. I suggest you test-fit a car seat and make sure you and your passenger has plenty of leg room.
I found the SYNC system easy to use. Phone pairing was easy and voice controls made it a no-hands operation for calls. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice touch and felt better than a $29,000 Ford Escape I tested last fall.
With a slick manual transmission standard, a user-friendly five-door hatch looks more upscale and expensive than it really is. With an as-tested price of around $17,000, you get a value-packed sub-compact that's easy to live with and offers a sporty nature that can make for a fun drive.
Editor's Note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI ,FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.
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