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It feels good to be listened to, which is why we're such fans of the changes to the 2014 Ford Fiesta. In addition to the new, corporate grill that the subcompact now shares with the rest of the Ford lineup, a host of other improvements have fixed most of our few complaints about the outgoing model.
First off, the smallest Ford finally gets a full-featured infotainment system with navigation as an option. That's a deal-clincher when it comes to the Fiesta's target market of young folks, first-time buyers, and city dwellers. Luckily, the Fiesta's got the latest iteration of MyFord Touch, which seems to have ironed out a lot of the kinks found in prior versions.
Finally, Ford's fixed all the glitches with the PowerShift transmission, which makes the Fiesta remarkably sprightly around town. With a base price below $15,000 including destination charges, and a fully-loaded Titanium model selling for under $22,000, we'd definitely recommend a test drive if you're in the market for a new, entry-level car.
The 2014 Fiesta marks a few notable tech debuts, which is remarkable considering the car's low price. The new model is the first Fiesta to feature the MyFord Touch infotainment system, optional on the SE trim and standard on the Titanium. There's a unique 6.5-inch screen instead of the 8-inch version found on larger Fords.
Most importantly, however, the new Fiesta is the first Ford to feature an updated version of the oft-maligned MyFord Touch infotainment system. We spent about four hours using the touchscreen-based system to play music and navigate unfamiliar roads, and can confidently say it's come quite close to its full potential. Initially, it seemed more responsive and less error-prone than its predecessor. In fact, it didn't crash or hang a single time during our trip. That's more than can be said for the 2012 Flex we drove a few months back.
The new system's home screen still divides the touchscreen into a four-quadrant summary of infotainment functions, but a new user interface makes it easier to expand those quadrants to full-screen for accessing menus. Ford engineers also made the smart decision to move frequently-used functions like volume, tuning, and climate to physical buttons and knobs on the center stack. Now, a "Settings" feature lives where the climate quadrant once was.
That's not to say we had no complaints. In Birds-Eye mode, the Navigation system occasionally seemed to lack the processing power to keep up with the car's position in tough maneuvers like traffic circles and merges. And getting back to the home screen required a press of a tiny touchscreen button. We're of the mindset that "back" and "home" functions should be on physical buttons, as they're usually pressed when the driver has already spent some time glancing at the infotainment screen.
The majority of changes to the new car took place right up front. Now, the Fiesta shares the chromed, trapezoidal grill that distinguishes the Taurus, Fusion, and Focus. The hood is new, too. The Fiesta is still available in both sedan and hatchback versions, and if you step up to the Titanium package, you'll get some neat chrome accents that enhance the car's lines without getting too rococo.
Inside, the 6.5-inch MyFord Touch screen dominates the dash. Perched above physical buttons for climate control, the hooded screen kind of makes the whole center stack combo look like a Moai statue. The dash, door inserts, upholstery, center console, and center stack are all finished in a wide variety of materials, none of which feels particularly cheap. In fact, as long as you aren't in the cramped backseat, nothing about the Fiesta really trumpets its low price. It seems to do a better job than most subcompacts at feeling larger than it actually is. That's especially apparent in the sedan's deep trunk.
Mechanically, the 2014 Fiesta is nearly identical to its predecessors, with one important exception: The PowerShift dual-clutch transmission has been vastly improved.
First, some quick background: Unlike a traditional automatic, whose design differs quite a bit from a manual transmission, Ford's PowerShift dual-clutch transmission is basically a manual transmission that can make its own gearshifts. In theory, that makes for faster shifts and better fuel economy—the benefits of a manual with the ease of an automatic.
Unfortunately, when it debuted in 2011, the original PowerShift rowed through the gears like a high school kid in driver's ed, rolling back at stoplights and lurching around parking lots. Thankfully, Ford's engineers have taken feedback to heart and completely reprogrammed the PowerShift for 2014, adding a hill-start assist and improving the "shuffle" between gears at low speeds. The difference was immediately apparent. The folks in Dearborn can now check "Fix PowerShift" off their to-do list.
Powertrain-wise, the two most important additions to the Fiesta lineup are coming later in the year. First, there's the ST variant, a hot hatch with a 197-hp engine and sport-tuned suspension, priced under $22,000 and aimed at enthusiasts. At the complete other end of the spectrum, more frugal customers will also be able to choose a fuel-sipping 1.0L three-cylinder engine. Pricing hasn't been announced on that one, but we were told it would likely be bundled with some options and slot above the entry-level S model. We'll keep you updated when both of those hit the market.
The O'Jays once said that you've got to give the people what they want, and that's a lesson that Ford's taken to heart with the 2014 Fiesta. By addressing nearly everything wrong with the outgoing model, they've given us an affordable and attractive subcompact. If that's what you want, the Fiesta is a car to watch.
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