By on September 23, 2014

2014 Ford Fiesta SFE EcoBoost 1.0LBack in June when Ford delivered a conventionally-powered 2014 Ford Fiesta to our driveway for a week-long visit, I realized that, “The subcompact buyer who wants to chase fast cars on twisty roads must move the Fiesta to the top of the list.” 

With its direct and interactive steering, back-road handling chops, and surprising ride quality, the 1.6L-powered Fiesta   was really rather entertaining despite its underhood shortcomings. The Fiesta easily proved why it’s used as the foundation for a genuine hot hatchback, the Fiesta ST.

Unfortunately, that which is found under the hood of the vast majority of Fiestas is a true disappointment. On paper, there’s 120 horsepower. In action, the 1.6L doesn’t want to rev. You’ll always want a lower gear, yet you’ll never find yourselves smack dab in the centre of a powerband. No subcompact should be forced to fight with such a grumpy mill.

Even with that disappointment of an engine, I had plenty of fun in the Fiesta SE in June. Fortunately, Ford Canada lent us a more appetizing Fiesta last week for an EcoBoost exercise. I never thought I would recommend paying $995 more for a three-cylinder engine, but regardless of what this bite-sized powerplant achieves on the Eco front, a strong performance from the Boost side of the equation provides a strong value-conscious answer, at least in terms of pitting Fiesta against Fiesta.

After all, besides its base engine, the Fiesta still has a number of significant deficiencies which limit the car in this increasingly competent segment. The rear seat is not up to snuff in comparison with America’s segment leader, the Nissan Versa. The cargo area and the flexibility of the cargo area – it’s impinged upon by seat brackets and large chunks of plastic inside the rear bumper – is laughable when one considers the Honda Fit’s knack for hauling.

Fiesta SFE Ecoboost logosShifting this manual trans-equipped car (that’s the only way the EcoBoost 1.0L comes) into second or fourth mandates an elbow/front-of-armrest conflict. The front door armrests don’t extend as far rearward as is necessary. The driver’s side door in our test car never sounded as though it was closed, not at the moment of attempted closure; nor in motion on the highway, when all the noises crept inside like a crane fly enters your basement on a September’s night.

The radio sucks. I don’t want to know what that headliner is made out of. The shifter’s throws require reaches from one zip code into another. The seats squeezed me where I didn’t want to be squeezed and ignored me when I wanted to be held.

These frustrating traits arose in numerous conversations all week, as onlookers noticed the extensive badging: not just EcoBoost but SFE, too! Hooray!

“Would you recommend this over an Accent, Versa, or Fit?” they’d ask. “That depends,” I’d respond, “How much do you like to drive?”

And how much do you like to row your own gears? How much do you enjoy just sticking it in third, thereby allowing a wave of torque to cope with virtually every on-road scenario? How much do you like the idea of a car that sounds like half a 911?  Do you want to be tempted into using second gear to crack the 60 mph barrier every time you hit an on-ramp? To what extent do you appreciate an instantly familiar clutch?

Oh, and can you cope with a little bit of turbo lag, some strange and pervasive vibrations at low revs, an upfront price penalty that might just take decades to earn back, and those wheels?

The lag and NVH issues are one thing. Well, actually they’re two things.

The price you’ll pay for a non-ST EcoBoost Fiesta must be seen as a performance upgrade, however, as the opportunities for economic advancement are not significant, even in our best-case scenario. (With limited highway time, we saw 29 mpg with the 1.6L. With plenty of highway driving, we did 39 mpg with the 1.0L.)

Add to that the limited availability of the 1.0L in the Fiesta lineup – SE only, no automatic, these wheel covers – doesn’t make for an attractive package for every potentially willing buyer. Then there’s the actual limited availability of the car on the whole. Only six of the 34 Fiestas at my three local Ford dealers are fitted with the 1.0L. In Cars.com’s inventory, only 336, just 3%, of the 11,546 Fiestas at U.S. dealers come with the 1.0L.

Ford Fiesta interiorIn the late 90s, perhaps even more recently, this kind of power would have been appropriate for an SVT Fiesta in North America, undercutting the 170-bhp Focus SVT by 47 horsepower and a few thousand dollars. We want our intentionally hot hatchbacks to be more aggressive these days, with less body roll, stickier tires, and wheel covers that weren’t borrowed from a 1988 Fiat Uno Turbo.

That doesn’t take away from the Fiesta’s remarkable ability to provide a genuinely fun experience at downright legal speeds, nor does it deny the Fiesta’s ability to remain poised beyond the legal limit. But it’s not the best subcompact in 2014, not more than four years after going on sale, and I suspect no engine would change that.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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46 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0L EcoBoost SFE...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    This is an interesting experiment that I’m glad Ford tried, I just don’t know how well it’s going to work out. To me, it looks like too much “needle threading”

    They need a buyer who is:
    – An “enthusiast”
    – But one with less money than an Fiesta ST buyer
    – But enough money to feel good about putting an extra $1k in their econobox
    – Can drive a stick
    – But doesn’t care if the shifter’s any good
    – Doesn’t mind the 3-cyl engine; which hasn’t been used in a US passenger car since most prospective buyers of this ride were in elementary school.
    – Doesn’t mind that the practicality of the car is poor
    – Won’t just throw up their hands and buy a far superior used vehicle for the same amount of money
    – Doesn’t care that the aftermarket will be poor, at best, since this engine isn’t in use anywhere else in Ford’s US product line.

    They’ll probably sell some, but not nearly enough to justify the additional development costs to bring this drivetrain to the US market.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “….interesting experiment…”

      Hell, I’ve owned motorcycles with bigger engines! So they will also need a buyer who is clueless about cars, engines and power-to-weight requirements, especially when they load this puppy up with three or four morbidly obese people going on an all-you-can-eat binge at Golden Corral.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      -Enjoys looking like a poor person, when they could have had a superior used car.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Life’s too short to worry about projecting one’s wealth.

        Superior is subjective as well. I drive a Mazda2 (so yes, I would’ve considered one of these if I could have found one to try), and was in a new Mazda3 loaner for a couple days last week. The 3 is a more refined, better equipped car, but the 2 feels more nimble and energetic (the smaller footprint and 600 fewer pounds probably helps). Incidentally, I also averaged 8.7L/100kms in the 3 (compared to the 7.5 or so I’ve been getting out of the 2) – that adds up if you drive significantly.

        • 0 avatar

          Totally agree on everything you said. Who cares if the larger car is more refined? Sometimes you don’t want that. Sometimes you just want a car that drives like a great small car. And the Fiesta is that, a great small car.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You cannot simply shoot down any argument by saying “I don’t care about that.” It’s a valid point to make, but not something which should be used to dismiss whatever another person is saying.

            “This is the worst pizza I’ve ever had!”
            “So what, some people just want round food.”

          • 0 avatar

            Sort of Corey. Like I said in my comment the larger cars are generally more refined. In the Ford line, comparing Focus and Fiesta, the Focus is objectively better, I won’t dispute that and the contrary is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that some people like the small car dynamics in general, and among small cars, the Fiesta is among the best dynamically-speaking.The Fiesta is not for everyone particularly in the States. However, Versa, Fiesta, 500, Mirage all there and selling. So, some “get” it.

            Of course other factors, financial and otherwise, are contributors in anyones’s choices. Like in my recent reviews I am sure you’ve read, Ka and Up have the Uno objectively beat. However, I like the way the Uno drives, it offers a good cost benefit and Fiat dealers are among the best here at dealing. So depending on the day, I could easily end up with the inferior product and not mind at all.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      I’m seeing a grand total of three in inventory in Los Angeles. So I’m guessing they move pretty well.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Fiancee had a Fiesta and had to put in three transmissions at her expense. She says that after her experience she will never buy another Ford product. Too bad that Ford has not stood behind their products better. Like Fords myself but probably not a future customer. Toyota just does a much better job at taking care of their customers.

    • 0 avatar
      jaydez

      Probably clutch packs for the DCT. Not transmissions. And with the recent warranty extension on the Fiesta and Focus DCT she can probably get her money back from Ford. She just needs to call customer service to get the process started.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      New cars never break.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Ford also gave CVT’s a black eye before they dropped them. These were the remedy.

      Ecoboost is the new “E” word.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      Once nice thing about Ford is that they allow their dealers to sell extended factory waranties for cheap over the internet. A 7yr 100K basic warranty (covers the stuff that will keep you from getting to work) for a car like this is probably 700-800 bucks. For a kind of a weird car it’s a good idea, especially if you plan on selling it with some warranty left.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    who would “Aspire” for anything more?

  • avatar

    I need to drive one of these, if only to compare to my rusty Protege ES, that weighs a bit more than this, but has usable interior space closer to that of a Fusion. I want to see just how much better a front wheel drive car can be. But what I really want to know is if men are better drivers than women, how can one woman get a safe driver discount?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The last line pretty much says it all. I’m just assuming the small numbers of the 1.0 and the shortcomings of the Fiesta mean the drive train is, in fact, an experiment (thanks, beta testers!), and the next generation of Fiestas is in the advanced planning stage.

  • avatar
    fred0804

    Purchased a Mazda 3 Touring Skyactiv. 2013 with 4k for $14,500. Have done 4 fill ups MPG ranged from 35-41 mpg. Why would anyone purchase a Fiesta???

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Likewise, I bought a 2012 Civic with 11k miles for $14,9k January 2013. It seats four adults comfortably, feels very roomy and comfortable for the driver, and just got me a 42.3 mpg tank driving in a non-hypermiling fashion to Pennsylvania (mine’s a stick shift LX).

      I had very briefly considered a new B-class car but quickly realized I’d give up nothing and gain in power and highway comfort by getting a barely-used C-class.

      Same argument applies to new C-class versus lightly used midsizer, so this is nothing new I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      You can also buy a beat to sh*t old used Porsche for less than a Fiesta. That doesn’t make it an invalid choice either. “You could buy X used instead” will *always* be true, it’s barely worth mentioning.

      Fiesta starts at $13,865.
      Mazda3 starts at $16,945.

      Three grand is not an insignificant amount of money at this price range (it’s 22% more expensive).

  • avatar
    360joules

    Should sell well in Quebec with the no AC package.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Having owned a Fiesta SE 1.6 5 speed manual for four years all I can say is what a disapointing car. 17 problems in 4 years! Ford just doesn’t care about this car in the U.S. Anything that it did well was overshadowed by the incredible lack of reliability.

    Bought it for a cheap commuter car. it wasn’t. Bought a ’14 Accord 6 speed, gave up 3 mpg, cost $3500 more than the Fiesta.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Well this is worrisome. Between your issues, the poster above whose sister had the DCT crap out three times, and a work colleague’s friend who had a Fiesta lemon-lawed, sounds like Fiesta has some serious build quality issues.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This is a car internet auto execs would command to be built. It’s a “pure” driving experience in every sense of the word but aspiration. And it seems like a pretty horrible car to live with. I don’t know what the price difference is between this and the FiST but to me it would seem worth

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    SFE: Super FREAKING Economical.

    That’s what it will mean to me from now on when I spot them.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’ve really never understood the high acceptance of new ford products, sure all new products have problems, but geehaw Ford has to be the worst with doing anything new or different, and then carrying on problems without fixes usually at all. I can’t feel sorry for these people, over and over this has played out at Ford at least since the late 90s if not before. People continue to buy the products none the less.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      It really pisses me off when they almost force you to buy the optional engine by putting in a crappy one as standard, would not buy any car from a company that does that.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    G-Zuz, nobody under 60 should be allowed to design cars.

    Somebody quick pop the hatch and push the roof up back there… maybe that’ll pull the nose in a little.

    The whole thing looks like a Dachshund head.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    if/when I finish with this house and am back in the car market I definitely need to head back to the Ford dealer. It’s funny how different subjective impressions can be. I’ve had the Fiesta as a rental many times and really enjoyed it. I never found the powertrain lacking. OTOH, the one time I did test drive an SFE model, I didn’t find the powertrain particularly inspiring or entertaining, much less noticeably gutsier than the 1.6. I did get pretty disappointing fuel economy. Maybe need to go for round 2.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Underbaked from day one.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Are we going to get a Sonic update from Caroline, or with Jack’s departure did he take the young Miss Caroline with him.

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    I’ve been baffled by the 1.0L cars. I know they’re aimed at the hypermiler set, where steel wheels über alles (or at least street cred among their brethren), but alloys are not even an option. On a higher priced car. It’s like they’re saying, “Here’s a penalty box, but we’ll toss you a bone in the form of an engine.”.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Generally, you can always get aftermarket alloys either mail-order or if you live in/near a big city like Los Angeles, CA, you can buy blanks and the wheel place will drill them out to match your lug nut pattern.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    I´m not a Fordfanboy, but if you look at some uk magazines they think that the Fiesta is the best small car on the market.

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