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Can Good Gas Mileage, Fine Handling, And Affordable Prices Outweigh the Connectivity And Packaging Compromises?

What changes will make it different?

Very few. With their next full redesign due for model-year 2016, these subcompact sedans and hatchbacks are held to minor trim revisions.

Should I wait for the 2016 model?

If you’re intrigued by an all-new edition that’ll have different styling and perhaps upgraded powertrains with better fuel economy. It could even grow slightly if Ford sees a competitive advantage to a rear seat with more space than today’s cramped quarters. You’ll pay more for a ’16, but get a car that won’t change for several years and won’t depreciate quiet as fast as the outgoing model will.

Should I buy the current 2015 instead?

If you want an affordable small four-door with European road manners and you’re impatient, you’re doubtful Ford can create a more desirable next-generation model, or you’re not keen on passing up inventory close-out sales to make room for the ‘16s. The ’15 Fiesta carries on with improvements that came on line for model-year 2014, including freshened front-end styling and the addition of the sporty turbocharged ST hatchback and a three-cylinder 1.0-liter EcoBoost-engine option. Upgraded interior materials and availability of the MyFord Touch infotainment interface were also part of the updates. In addition to the ST, both body styles return in base S, better-equipped SE, and fancy Titanium trim.

Will the styling be different?

No, save for a new shade of gray exterior paint and slightly different seat fabric. The SE’s standard alloy wheels will gain an inch in diameter, to 16 inches. And you’ll be able to order optional lower-door stripe graphics. Thanks to the ’14 revamp, the front-end will continue to mirror that of the automaker’s midsize Fusion sedan with a distinctive Aston Martin-style trapezoidal grille. The feisty ST (Sport Technologies) model will again be distinguished by a black honeycomb-mesh grille, more aggressive front fascia, wide wheel arches, exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels, and a rear diffuser and chromed dual exhaust tips. Size-wise, Fiestas belong to America’s smallest class of cars. Both body styles have a 98-inch wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles and a dimension critical to interior space), but the sedan is nearly 14 inches longer overall than the hatchback. Despite budget pricing, the look and feel inside is richer than in the typical subcompact, with a soft-touch upper dash and metallic accents complemented by tight build quality, and a center-mounted 6.5-inch display screen.

Any mechanical changes?

None, so responsive steering and sophisticated European suspension tuning will again reward drivers with sharp handling. Traditional small-car engineering is the rule, meaning front-wheel drive, a beam rear axle, and electric power steering. But this is also among the few subcompacts to offer more than one engine. The base one is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 120 horsepower. It furnishes ample pep off the line but not much passing punch. That’s especially true with the carmaker’s slushy PowerShift transmission, a six-speed dual-clutch unit used here in place of a conventional automatic. You’ll get better driveability with the standard five-speed manual. Optional on SE models is a 1.0-liter three-cylinder from the brand’s EcoBoost engine family. The smallest engine in this class, it produces 123 horsepower and is tuned for fuel economy rather than performance and rates 43 mpg in highway driving. On the downside, it’s available only with a five-speed manual transmission. The ST is a pocket rocket with a 197-horsepower EcoBoost turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder, 17-inch wheels with summer performance tires, quicker steering, lowered suspension, and electronic Torque Vectoring Control, which helps it accelerate through a turn. It’s available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. The S model equipped with PowerShift will again be available with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package. Resulting in a 1-mpg advantage in ratings over the standard 1.6-liter Fiesta, this option includes low-rolling-resistance tires and such aerodynamic tweaks as a rear spoiler and underbody shields. S, SE, and Titanium models will again come with rear drum brakes. Four-wheel disc brakes are exclusive to the ST but every model has antilock brakes and an antiskid system as standard. There’s no hybrid or pure-electric model planned, though this car is sold globally and it is conceivable U.S. versions could someday be available with the diesel engine offered in overseas markets.

Will fuel economy improve?

No — and that’s after taking a step backward in an embarrassing procedural error that forced the carmaker to revise mileage figures during 2014. EPA ratings dropped 1-3 mpg, depending on powertrain. So with the 1.6-liter engine, the ’15s will rate 28/36/31 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission, 27/37/31 with the PowerShift automatic, and 28/38/32 with the SFE package. The three-cylinder will rate 31/43/36 mpg and the ST 26/35/29.

Will it have new features?

No, but even standing pat, this is the technology and connectivity leader in the class. Among gizmos are a few not usually available on subcompacts. For starters, the MyFord Touch infotainment system offers an optional map-type navigation system, a rarity for the class. On the downside, the system uses often-confusing touch-sensitive controls that replace knobs and buttons for entertainment and other functions. Fiestas without it continue with a less-complicated interface, the company’s basic Sync system. This offers hands-free connectivity for communications, navigation, and entertainment services such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Audible.com. Sync integrates a USB iPod connection and can provide turn-by-turn directions. The system can also display news headlines along with current traffic and weather information; a three-year service plan for these services will likely be included. Bluetooth phone connectivity, air conditioning, power locks and mirrors, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, height adjustable driver’s seat are among conveniences that’ll return as standard equipment. Same for keyless remote entry, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear wiper on hatchback. The standard audio system should again consist of an AM/FM/CD unit with an auxiliary jack for connecting iPods and other devices. On the safety menu will be seven airbags – including one at knee height on the driver’s side. Returning among available features, depending on trim level, should be remote engine start, keyless entry/pushbutton ignition, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a power moonroof. Also on tap will be the company’s MyKey system. It enables parents to encourage young-driver seatbelt use and safe driving by programming limits on vehicle speed and audio volume, among other measures. Options for the ST should again include Recaro-brand sport front bucket seats and special 17-inch wheel package that includes red brake calipers.

How will 2015 prices be different?

They’ll increase slightly, but remain very competitive in this price-sensitive segment. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee, in this case, $825.) And you’ll tack on $1,095 to get the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in place of the five-speed manual. Base S models will start at $15,180 for the sedan and $15,680 for the hatcbback. SEs are $16,410 and $16,910, respectively, and continue with exterior mirrors with side marker lamps, cruise control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a trip computer, a front center console with armrest, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. For around $1,000, the SE Appearance package includes foglamps, a rear spoiler (sedan), upgraded front bucket seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob, satellite radio, and MyFord Touch. SE buyers can substitute the turbo three-cylinder for the base four-cylinder by ordering the $995 SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package. Continuing as the “luxury” flagship, the Titanium has a base price of $19,130 for the sedan and $19,630 for the hatch. It sports a black grille, chrome exterior trim, and a different set of 16-inch wheels. It also continues with keyless entry and pushbutton ignition; heated front seats; leather upholstery; dual-zone climate control; Sony premium audio system; MyFord Touch; satellite radio; a rearview camera; and rear parking sensors. The ST begins at $22,230. It has all the SE amenities plus specific cloth sport seats. Optional Recaro sport seats for the ST add about $2,000 while the premium 17-inch wheels and red brake calipers are priced around $400. Stand-alone options for the SE, Titanium, ST include a power moonroof and navigation system, each priced at $795.

When will it come out?

Autumn 2014.

Best competitors:

Chevrolet Sonic, Honda fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Soul, Mazda 2, Nissan Versa and Versa Not, Toyota Yaris

What change would make it better?

A packaging rethink. The current layout is reasonably roomy in front, but rear legroom is at a premium, particularly if the front seat is set to accommodate a tall driver or passenger. Unlike the adult-sized accommodations in rivals such as the Versa, Fit, and Soul, the back seat here is best suited for children or very short grownups. The sedan has a class-competitive 12.8-cubic-foot trunk. The hatchback is more versatile, but its 26-cubic-foot maximum cargo capacity falls considerably short of the Fit, Sonic, Soul, and Accent hatchbacks. And cargo-carrying capabilities are hindered by rear seats that don’t fold completely flat.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]