2015 Ford Fiesta

Developed for Europe before launching in the U.S. with upgrades to bring it in line with local regulations and tastes, Ford's Fiesta subcompact has a more premium feel than its modest price tag would suggest. While its quirky dual-clutch automatic transmission and limited rear seat/cargo space mean it won't be perfect for everyone, the Fiesta does impress with sporty driving dynamics and a boatload of available technology and comfort features.

In addition to the hatchback model discussed herein, Ford also offers the Fiesta as a sedan. Performance-minded buyers should check out the 197-horsepower Fiesta ST.

Overview
With trim proportions and understated yet stylish lines, the Fiesta's exterior clearly reflects its European heritage. A new hexagonal grille arrived as part of the recent refresh - it provides a visual link to Ford's popular Fusion four-door and adds a touch of upscale flair.

A sculpted dashboard, quality materials and a unique, cell phone-inspired center stack gave the cabin a relatively luxurious appearance when the Fiesta first arrived in the U.S. several years back. Since then, the Fiesta's interior advantage has largely disappeared as new and improved rivals have hit the market, but more premium trimmings added for the latest model year help bring the hatchback closer to the front of the pack.

The Fiesta comes standard with SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. It can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.

Buyers can also order MyFord Touch, an infotainment system that builds on SYNC by letting users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyFord Touch also replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted 6.5-inch touchscreen and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the Fiesta are advised to try before they buy.

While the front seats offer plenty of space and comfort, those interested in regularly carrying three or more passengers should know that the rear seats are cramped for adults. Additionally, the Fiesta hatchback's rear seats don't fold down all the way, limiting total cargo space to 26 cubic feet. In comparison, the Honda Fit can hold 56.7 cubic feet of gear.

Powertrains and Handling
The Fiesta's standard engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with a standard five-speed manual or an optional "PowerShift" dual-clutch automatic, the latter of which has been criticized for slightly herky-jerky operation at low speeds.

Fuel economy for the four-cylinder is rated at 28/36 city/highway mpg with the stick shift and 27/37 mpg with the automatic.

An extra-cost Super Fuel Economy package - available with the automatic only - adds a host of aerodynamic components and low-rolling resistance tires to increase mileage to 28/38 mpg.

For even better fuel economy, buyers can opt for a 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder. This mill will challenge consumer perceptions about cylinder count and engine size, but turbocharging and direct injection help the little engine to actually produce more power than the larger four-cylinder: 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which rises to 145 lb-ft for fifteen second bursts of acceleration in overboost mode. A five-speed manual is the only gearbox available.

The three-cylinder Fiesta is good for a hybrid-like 31/43 mpg.

While there's nothing unique about the Fiesta's suspension setup, which features Macpherson struts up front and a torsion-beam at the rear, the little car handles better than most in its class, with accurate steering and quick responses to control inputs.

Trim-Level Breakdown
The Fiesta is offered in S, SE and Titanium trim levels.

The entry-level Fiesta S comes standard with SYNC, A/C, a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an AUX input jack, power door locks, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps and a four-inch multifunctional display with an LCD screen. Notably, the windows are of the roll-up variety.

The Fiesta SE adds cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry, a perimeter alarm, upgraded cloth upholstery for the interior, ambient lighting, an upgraded six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The Fiesta Titanium brings leather upholstery, MyFord Touch, heated front seats, a Sony-branded audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, 16-inch painted aluminum wheels, keyless ignition, automatic climate control and a rear view camera.

Notable options include a sunroof and a navigation system. There's also the SE Manual EcoBoost Package - as the name suggests, it adds the EcoBoost mill in addition to fuel-enhancing items like regenerative brakes, a rear spoiler and 15-inch steel wheels with aero hubcaps. Only SE models can be spec'd with the package.

Occupant Safety
Ford boasts that the Fiesta features more Boron (strongest automotive-grade steel available) steel than any Ford product, with key placement of boron steel in the most vulnerable locations. In all, the Fiesta's frame and sub-structure features over 55 percent high, or ultra-high strength steel.

In addition to paying special attention to creating a rigid steel cage for the Fiesta's occupants, Ford has also incorporated a driver's knee airbag, as well as dual-stage front airbags, curtain airbags and side airbags for a total of seven airbags. Other safety features include traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
The Fiesta faces a host of competitors, including the Honda Fit, the Kia Rio Hatchback and the Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback.