by Gabe Beita Kiser
The 2019 Fiesta is the last sedan or hatchback vehicle that Ford will release for sale in the US market moving forward, making way for their crossover invasion. Powering the compact four-door sedan is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque routed via a five-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. The Fiesta is a fun little city slicker with a nicely appointed interior and decent fuel economy figures. But with more drawbacks than just its below-average trunk size and limited rear cabin room, the allure of comparative class rivals such as the Nissan Versa and Kia Rio grows more prominent, especially when considering the US Fiesta is based on a generation-old platform compared to the rest of the world. Prospective buyers can expect a budget-friendly starting MSRP of $14,260 for the base Fiesta S Sedan.
The Ford Fiesta rides into 2019 remaining relatively unchanged. The Titanium trim option has been discontinued for 2019 along with the deletion of the aluminum mini spare wheel, charcoal black bolster with red seat stitching, and driver seat adjustable lumbar support from the SE Appearance Package. The engine block heater has been changed from standard in
cold-weather states to optional. Otherwise, it's business as usual with the Ford Fiesta.
In 2017, the rest of the world received a completely new Fiesta. The US-spec Fiesta has remained unchanged since its debut in 2011 and is beginning to show its age. The base Fiesta S rides one 15-inch steel wheels while the Fiesta ES is fitted with 15-inch sparkle silver-painted alloy wheels. All models feature a black beltline and body-color door handles, mirror covers, and front and rear bumpers, as well as solar tinted glass. Optional on the SE is a power moonroof and rear decklid spoiler. Halogen headlights are standard, but the SE gets optional fog lamps with chrome trim.
The Fiesta is one of the more compact sedans available on the market, with a total length of 173.5 inches, a wheelbase measuring 98 inches, a width of 67.8 inches, and a height of 58 inches. It's light though, tipping the scales at a curb weight of 2,578lbs in base manual guise and 2,628 lbs with the available automatic gearbox.
The 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque produced by the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine provide ample initial pep with acceleration from a traffic light or standstill, but from there on is very lackadaisical in power delivery. Trying to overtake or get up to highway speeds is a gradual affair, one which strains the engine substantially. Throttle responses overall are accurate and lively. Shifts from the standard five-speed manual gearbox are comfortably smooth and quick, and there's a solid weight to the shifter's action. The optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission feels less refined than the manual and takes away from the fun-to-drive appeal of the Fiesta. Low-speed maneuvers are jerky, while at high speeds the box is indecisive.
The Fiesta is one of the most enjoyable entry-level cars with its go-kart-like driving dynamics and agile handling. It does, however, present some compromise in ride comfort with a suspension tuning that's slightly firmer than many rivals. This, along with its only semi-comfortable seats, makes for a fair amount of discomfort in the cabin over rougher road surfaces and undulations, where noise also tends to permeate a fair amount. It does, however, manage to remain fairly controlled and composed around bends, exhibiting minimal body roll at the limit and proving exceptionally fun to throw around. The steering is weighted well, and the position of the front tires and feel of the road is communicated nicely, making for easy and confident maneuvers. The brakes provide adequate stopping power for the low-powered casual commuter, and the responses remain consistent over time with driver input.
The Fiesta Sedan's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission configuration return relatively average gas economy figures for the class. Evaluated on regular unleaded gas, the EPA confirmed the five-speed manual Fiesta's estimates of 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined while the six-speed auto equipped Fiesta returned estimates of 27/37/31 mpg. Both the 2019 year models of the Nissan Versa and Kia Rio are marginally more efficiency-minded with EPA estimates of 31/39/30mpg and 28/37/32mpg, respectively. Driving with mixed styles and with its 12.4-gallon gas tank topped-up the Fiesta Sedan can cruise a total range of around 372 miles.
A maximum of five occupants can be comfortably accommodated in the Fiesta Sedan. The front bucket seats are comfortably cushioned and impressively bolstered. The driver's seat offers some adjustability and the steering column is tilt-adjustable, which makes finding a suitable driving position with optimal all-round visibility easy for most drivers. The rear seats are spacious and comfortable enough for prolonged durations, but only for shorter occupants. Head and legroom up front are adequate, though legroom in the rear is somewhat limited. Anybody over six-foot-tall will end up sitting cross-legged and contorted in the rear seats. Ingress and egress from the Fiesta Sedan are easy thanks to high-set seats and wide-opening doors.
The Fiesta Sedan's compact dimensions don't come without compromises, with the sedan's trunk capacity limited to only 12.8 cubic feet. That's enough space to fit a couple's monthly grocery shopping. Folding down the 60/40 split-folding rear seats will expand trunk space considerably, but class rivals offer more space either way. Small-item storage within the cabin comprises a front center floor console with two front and one rear cupholder and a smartphone holder. The door side pockets are sizable and fit bottles, and the glovebox is adequately spacious. The SE additionally offers an overhead console in the front cabin. There are no door side pockets in the rear cabin, only a front-passenger rear seatback map pocket.
Standard features across the lineup include a four-way manual driver's seat, two-way manual front passenger seat, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Both models are also equipped with power mirrors with secondary blind-spot mirrors, a remote keyless entry system, power locks, manual windows, and manual air conditioning with electronic actuation. Some of the driver-assist and safety features include hill-start assist, electronic stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a rearview camera. The SE additionally features a front center console with armrest, all-power windows, MyKey parental controls, and cruise control. Both trim options also feature Ice Blue cluster lighting as standard.
Equipped in both trims as standard is a 4.2-inch center display integrated with a six-speaker sound system with AM/FM stereo and single-CD/MP3 capability. The system has functionality in AppLink connectivity, Bluetooth wireless capabilities, and Sync voice command with enhanced voice recognition. At the base point, both trims also feature a single smart-charging USB port, and auxiliary audio input jack, and a 12V powerpoint. The SE trim has access to a SE Appearance Package which along with a few other things, upgrades the infotainment system to a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and SiriusXM Radio compatibility. It also adds an additional smart-charging USB port and 12V powerpoint in the rear cabin.
The 2019 model year Ford Fiesta has not yet been subject to any recalls. It has however received numerous driver complaints pertaining to a variety of minor issues. J.D. Power accorded the 2019 Fiesta Sedan with a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five. Ford covers the 2019 Fiesta with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Out of five individual crash-test evaluations, the 2019 Fiesta scored the top results of Good in four. It received an evaluation of marginal for its Small overlap front test. The NHTSA rated the 2017 year model of the Fiesta Sedan with an overall rating of four out of a possible five stars. No advanced safety features are present, but standard ABS, EBD, stability control, a rearview camera, and seven standard airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, are present.
Considering the Ford Fiesta's position within the market as an affordable entry-level family sedan and its value-offering relative to comparative rivals, we would say that it is a decent vehicle, but it's aging substantially. Where the Fiesta offers more in comparison to class rivals, is in its drivability. It has some lively characteristics thanks to its peppy acceleration as well as nimble handling dynamics, which together add some zip to usually bland daily commuting. The standard infotainment system is user-friendly and the interior ergonomically configured and well-built. In every other regard, however, the Fiesta is average. Returning middling EPA estimates relative to rivals and mixed crash-test safety ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS. It offers a sub-standard amount of trunk space and limited rear cabin room which is barely usable by adults.
The Ford Fiesta Sedan is positioned in the market as a budget-friendly family vehicle with the base Fiesta S Sedan carrying a manufacturer recommended sticker price of $14,260 while the Fiesta SE Sedan carries an MSRP of $15,490. Those prices are excluding Ford's destination charge of $975 as well as tax, registration, and licensing fees. Equipping the SE Fiesta with the optional SE Appearance Package and all the available accessories for a fully-loaded model can increase that MSRP to around $25,000.
As there are no real differences in performance and handling dynamics between each trim option, we recommend opting for the Fiesta SE. It is only $1,230 more than the base model, which buys you a few more standard features. Crucially, it also provides access to the appealing SE Appearance Package that upgrades the SE with 16-inch eight-spoke sparkle silver-painted aluminum wheels, a superior infotainment system with a larger screen and added capability, as well as a handful of other cosmetic enhancements. We also recommend adding the Cold Weather Package, which is exclusively available for the SE. It adds heated front seats, heated side-view mirrors, electronic automatic temperature control, and front and rear floor liners. Considering the low cost of both those packages and the outset MSRP of the Fiesta SE, the extra cost is definitely worthwhile over the bare-bones S model.
The base trim of the 2019 Nissan Versa is around $1,800 cheaper than the base Fiesta S trim. It is also equipped with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine but only delivers 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. The Versa is therefore not nearly as fun to drive as the Fiesta but does return far better fuel economy estimates with figures of 31/39/30 mpg. It also offers about two cubic feet more trunk space and a whole lot more rear-seat room than the Fiesta. Interior ergonomics are unimpressive in the Versa and the driver's seat and steering column lack even basic adjustability. From the base level to the upper level trims the Fiesta is superiorly equipped than the Versa. Though a lot cheaper and a lot more practical than the Fiesta, the Versa lacks any level of driver engagement with its slow acceleration and bland drive dynamics. The cabin of the Fiesta is a bit more modern than the Versa's which along with its superior driving dynamics, makes it the better buy.
The base price of the 2019 Kia Rio is around $1,130 more expensive than the Fiesta's asking price. The Kia Rio is impressively more athletic than the Fiesta and at the same time, more fuel-efficient. More impressively, it also manages to offer a far more competent level of ride comfort relative to the Fiesta with more comfortable seating. It also provides more trunk capacity and about the same level of rear cabin room. The Rio earned a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, as well as an above-average predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power. Its cabin is exceptionally well-built and features a decent selection of vehicle features for comfortable daily drivability. At an incrementally higher pricing point than the Fiesta, the Rio offers a whole lot more value and driving dynamics. For those reasons, we believe the Kia Rio is the superior option.