2013 Ford Fiesta is small but capable

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The Ford Fiesta is a versatile, budget-conscious small car with a stylish interior and upscale car options such as heated leather seats and voice-recognition controls. It also has higher U.S. government fuel economy ratings than does a gasoline-powered Honda Fit.

The 2013 Ford Fiesta has higher fuel economy ratings than does a gasoline-powered Honda Fit.  FORD MOTOR CO./ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORD MOTOR CO./ASSOCIATED PRESS
The 2013 Ford Fiesta has higher fuel economy ratings than does a gasoline-powered Honda Fit.

Available as a five-door hatchback and a sedan, the Fiesta features the lowest starting price, including destination charge, of any Ford: $13,995 for an S sedan with five-speed manual transmission and $15,090 for a sedan with automatic. A 2013 Fiesta S hatchback with manual starts at $14,995. A Fiesta S hatchback with automatic, however, jumps in price, to $16,090.

All 2013 Fiestas have the same 120-horsepower, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, gasoline engine, though the Fiesta is sold in some countries with diesel engines and turbocharged power.

In the United States, the Fiesta has a large number of small-car competitors: the Honda Fit, Cherolet Sonic and Kia Rio.

The 2013 Fiesta earned five out of five stars in side crash testing by the U.S. government. It’s one of the few subcompacts with such a high score in side crash testing.

Not much has changed for the car for the 2013 model year, though standard equipment and equipment packages are re-aligned.

The test SE hatchback looked good in its bright red paint with painted aluminum wheels.

Fiestas have prominent indentations in their side bodies to add interest. Added-on trim pieces of silver or black are nonexistent, thus conveying a “clean” car that slices through the air. Front styling has a swanky European look – not exactly brawny and not exactly cute. Some buyers might prefer a different appearance, and Ford offers body stripes and different grille inserts as options.

The test five-door moved along in traffic and merged well, though the car didn’t have super sporty acceleration.

Gear shifts were noticeable at times. The transmission was the six-speed PowerShift automatic that’s Ford’s dual-clutch, semiautomatic mechanism. It was the subject of complaints from consumers last year, but Ford said it has installed new electronic programming to better manage the workings of the transmission.

Torque in the Fiesta’s 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, Duratech four-cylinder peaks at 112 foot-pounds at a relatively high 5,000 rpm.

Still, the test Fiesta easily averaged 29 mpg in combined city and highway travel, for a total range of nearly 360 miles on a single tank of gas. This mileage is a bit lower than the combined 33-mpg rating given to this Fiesta model by the U.S. government, which estimates city mileage at 29 mpg and highway mileage at 39 mpg. A Fiesta with extra-charge fuel efficiency package is rated at 40 mpg on the highway.

The interior of the Fiesta test car had a snappy-looking dashboard arranged with a nice array of controls and features that dispelled any thought that this was a Spartan, cheap vehicle.

In fact, the sticker price was barely over $19,000, but the test Fiesta drove with surprising competency and nimbleness.

The car absorbed a good number of road bumps without fuss, and while passengers felt vibrations from the road, they weren’t overly intrusive.

Rack-and-pinion steering was more precise than expected and added to the driver’s confidence.

With conservatively sized, 15-inch wheels and tires, the test car had no feeling of unsprung, or heavy, weight at the corners, which helped explain the satisfactory, non-jarring ride. Yet, at more than 2,500 pounds, overall, for the test car with automatic transmission, the Fiesta didn’t feel overly lightweight or tinny, either.

The Fiesta also has seven air bags, including one for the driver’s knee to help keep the driver properly positioned during a frontal crash.

The five-star side government crash tests are impressive, while frontal crash test results garnered four out of five stars.

SPECS

THE VEHICLE: 2013 Ford Fiesta Hatch SE, a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, subcompact hatchback

BASE PRICE: $14,200 for base S with manual; $15,295 for S with automatic; $16,200 for SE manual; $17,295 for SE automatic

PRICE AS TESTED: $19,085

ENGINE: 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, Duratech four-cylinder producing 120 horsepower

EPA MILEAGE: 29 mpg city, 39 mpg highway

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

LENGTH: 160.1 inches

OPTIONS: Package 201A (includes painted aluminum 15-inch wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sirius XM satellite radio, light-emitting diode parking lamps with black bezel, ambient lighting) $995


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