Pros: European-inspired styling; high-end interior and features; great gas mileage; strong resale value; IIHS Top Safety Pick; go-kart-like handling.

Cons: Higher-end models can be pricey; rear seat is small; no navigation option; wind and road noise levels a bit intrusive.

What's New: The 2013 Ford Fiesta model lineup sees some shuffling of content and features. S, SE and Titanium trims now have features popular with previous Fiesta customers added to their standard equipment list. SEL and SES trims have been dropped.

Ford's 2013 Fiesta subcompact is a 180-degree departure from the company's other attempts to enter the minicar market. Borrowed from Ford of Europe, the Fiesta is not only fuel efficient but smartly styled, loaded with features befitting much more expensive cars and, most importantly, is a blast to drive. Not as quirky as the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa, the Fiesta's appeal aims at the fashion forward youth who demand elegant design (think the iPad and iPod).

In the Fiesta, Ford hasn't just changed the small-car image; it has brought a new level of style and sophistication to the game. The Fiesta comes in a dazzling assortment of colors both inside and out, and offers some of the Ford's best audio and communications technology even on the more budget-minded trims.

Beyond the Fiesta's good looks and impressive features are the real meat and potatoes: a 40-mpg highway rating (SFE package only), extensive safety features and dynamic handling. If a low price is at the top of your list, Kia's Rio and Hyundai's Accent both offer similar equipment, more horsepower and a lower price.

Comfort & Utility

The 2013 Ford Fiesta's interior could easily have been plucked from a much more expensive sedan, which makes it all the more special in a car starting at around $14,000. You can choose from S, SE and Titanium, with even the most basic trim level offering form-fitting front bucket seats, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary audio input jack. Of course, that same entry-level car includes plastic wheel covers and, horror of horrors, manual door locks and crank windows.

To be fair, Ford offers packages and higher trim levels that resolve these minor issues. Move up to the Titanium hatchback and sedan and you can go hog wild with options, such as the Interior Style Package, which adds your choice of white or red leather inserts on black leather seating, the SYNC communication system with SYNC AppLink, a multifunction LCD display screen and an 80-watt premium sound system with six speakers and SiriusXM satellite radio. Other advanced features available on the Fiesta include Intelligent Access with push-button start, keypad entry, a power sunroof, heated side mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and heated front seats.

As for interior space, the little Fiesta is actually quite accommodating. Offered as either a sedan or a hatchback, it has room for four adults, with the front-seat passengers enjoying the lion's share of head and legroom. Unfortunately, when compared with the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, the Fiesta comes up a few inches short on rear-seat legroom. Both body styles feature 60/40 split folding rear seats. But on the hatchback, this feature creates an impressive cargo hold big enough to fit in a couple of snowboards or a weekend's worth of gear.

Technology

Ford packs a lot of comfort and safety technology into the Fiesta. On the comfort side, the SE and Titanium trims can be had with a slightly watered-down version of the SYNC communication system. SYNC allows voice activation of a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and can call up music from a media device such as an iPod or Zune. The SYNC system can read incoming text messages and control popular apps, such as Pandora. There is no navigation option for the Fiesta (something you can find on most of its competitors) and no MyFord Touch, so some of the cooler SYNC voice commands are not available. But Ford's SYNC Services option does let you have access to turn-by-turn navigation, sports scores, stock market updates and traffic alerts.

An unexpected treat is the availability of Ford's Intelligent Access entry. To gain entry and start the car, this keyless system requires only that the key fob be on your person. A button on the dash serves as the ignition switch. Another unique Ford option is the keypad-entry system, which uses a numeric keypad located on the driver's door. This is a wonderful idea, perfect for those times when you can't take a remote fob with you, such as when inner tubing down a river or spending a day at the beach.

Performance & Fuel Economy

With only 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque under the hood, the Ford Fiesta's 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine isn't going to impress many driving enthusiasts. But if you can live with a 10-second, 0-to-60-mph run, life with the Fiesta can be harmonious. Both the standard 5-speed manual transmission and the dual-clutch 6-speed PowerShift automatic have short lower gears that allow for quick acceleration from a dead stop. That's important when merging or trying to dart across a busy intersection. Get the Fiesta up to running speed, however, and you'll need plenty of room before attempting to overtake slower traffic. The more passengers on board, the more time you'll need.

The Fiesta's diminutive power ratings are offset by its ability to sip fuel, something the base car does exceedingly well with an EPA city/highway fuel estimate of 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway for the manual, and 29/39 mpg for the automatic. The specially tuned SE SFE package, which includes more aerodynamic body panels on the grille and undercarriage, bumps the mileage to 29/40 mpg.

Safety

The 2013 Fiesta is equipped with front side impact and full-length side curtain airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag. Electronic stability and traction control are also standard, as is ABS. The Fiesta performs very well in both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash testing.

Driving Impressions

Who says you need horsepower to have fun behind the wheel? The Fiesta might not offer gut-punching acceleration, but it will have you smiling ear to ear as you push it through twisting back roads and around hairpin curves. The manual transmission is a delight, with short, quick throws and fluid action, allowing for effortless gear changes. Most people are likely to opt for the 6-speed SportShift automatic, which allows for manual gear changes but isn't quite as fun as the traditional manual.

The Fiesta's suspension is firm and well modulated, absorbing enough road imperfection to make the ride comfortable but not too soft. Even the electric power steering unit does a good job of delivering reasonable feedback to the driver. We'll always prefer the feedback of a hydraulic system, but the electric-assist steering is tolerable since it saves on weight and fuel consumption. The only major complaint is sound related: a noticeable wind whistle outside the Fiesta's driver's-side window, and tire and engine noise inside the cabin.

Other Cars to Consider

Honda Fit - The Fit has stronger resale value, more rear-seat legroom and the option of an in-dash navigation unit.

Toyota Yaris - The Yaris isn't as pricey as the Fiesta, but it's a bit bland and doesn't deliver the same sporty driving experience. The Yaris offers a 3-door hatchback model unavailable with the Fiesta. 

Kia Rio - The Rio offers more features for less money and a better warranty--and every model, not just a special-edition trim, is rated at 40 mpg highway.

Chevrolet Sonic -The Sonic does have a bigger back seat and more horsepower, but the Fiesta has better fuel economy.

AutoTrader Recommends

We prefer the hatchback version of the Fiesta; it's more versatile, and it just looks better. The price in SE trim can be around $16,000, and for that you'll get a nice set of options and packages to personalize your Fiesta. As much as we love the look of a loaded Titanium, especially with the custom leather interior, it's hard to justify paying $23,000 for it.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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