by Adam Lynton
While the rest of the world sees the 2018 Ford Fiesta enter its seventh generation, the U.S. market gets stuck with a dated continuation of the sixth-gen model entering its seventh year of production. Nevertheless, the subcompact sedan remains acclaimed for its inherently lovable traits and is now powered by a peppy 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that compounds the fun factor of its highly engaging front-wheel-drive chassis with 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. And, with either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission available to service the Fiesta, drivers can expect decent fuel economy along with the Fiesta's enthusiastic driving dynamics. Though the Fiesta is beginning to show its age and with rivals such as the Nissan Versa and Honda Fit in the market, it's still an appealing proposition as an affordable, economical, and fun-to-drive subcompact sedan.
For 2018, the 1.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the previous year model has unfortunately been dropped from the lineup. A rearview camera is the only new element for 2018 and has been made standard-fit on all trims. Hot Pepper Red Metallic, Outrageous Green Metallic, and Lightning Blue have been newly added to the exterior color palette for 2018. Otherwise, it's business as usual for the new Ford Fiesta Sedan.
The Fiesta Sedan keeps its typical Fiesta design and styling elements as it enters the new year. The Titanium features a bespoke chrome beltline and rear moldings along with standard halogen fog lamps with chrome bezels and black surrounds. The base S trim rides on 15-inch steel wheels which are upgraded to 15-inch alloy wheels on the SE, while the Titanium receives 16-inch alloy wheels as standard. A power moonroof is available for the SE and Titanium models as a standalone option.
The Fiesta Sedan has typical subcompact sedan dimensions. It measures 173.5 inches in length, 58.1 inches in height, and 67.8 inches in width, slightly longer than a Honda Fit, but not quite as tall. A short wheelbase of 98 inches measures less favorably to competitors, with the Nissan Versa offering a good six inches more. The manual transmission version of the Fiesta sedan weighs in at 2,571 pounds while the automatic variant tips the scales at 2,628 lbs, more or less the same as other vehicles in this class.
With the discontinuation of the turbo-triple offered in last year's lineup, the Fiesta is left with the naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline motor powering the front-wheel-drivetrain and producing 120 hp and 112 lb-ft. Outputs are driven by either a smooth and slick-shifting five-speed manual transmission default on the S and SE trims, or a sluggish six-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is standard-fit on the Titanium. The engine is peppy enough to get the Fiesta on the move with some enthusiasm, but it is no powerhouse, only getting the sedan to the 60 mph mark from a standstill in an unhurried 9.5 seconds. As far as gearboxes go, the manual is the one to have, sweet to shift and engaging when hustling the Fiesta down a twisty road. The dual-clutch automatic is jerky, particularly in traffic, and gets tiresome after some time behind the wheel.
The Ford Fiesta, though considerably dated, is still one of the most fun driver's cars offered in the low-end vehicle segment. With its playful chassis and clear-cut five-speed manual, the Fiesta bests even the Honda Fit Sport in driver engagement and enthusiasm. It does, however, ride firmer than most of its rivals, unable to absorb most road imperfections and undulations effectively. Nevertheless, the tightly sprung setup provides a certain joy, resisting body roll and communicating chassis movements better, giving you full control to weave around corners and in-and-out of traffic. The steering is suitably weighted and communicates ample road-feel. It gives great wheel position feedback as well without ever being overly sensitive. The Ford Fiesta is a great daily commuter, nicely blended with a dose of athleticism to remind you that daily drivability can be enjoyable.
For 2018, the Fiesta Sedan lineup is equipped with only a single engine option that delivers middling gas economy figures for the segment. Combined with the five-speed manual transmission, the Fiesta returns 27/35/30 mpg with city/highway/combined driving cycles respectively while with the six-speed automatic transmission, EPA estimates of 27/37/31 mpg are achieved. Using unleaded 93-octane fuel in its 12.4-gallon gas tank, the auto equipped Fiesta Sedan offers a maximum range of around 384 miles in mixed driving conditions.
The Ford Fiesta Sedan seats a total of five passengers; however, with two adults occupying the rear outboard seats, the center rear seat can be a bit tight for a third - it is best suited for smaller children. The seats are minimally padded and the cloth upholstery used in the S and SE can feel coarse to the touch. Leather upholstery is only available with the pricier Titanium trim. The front seats feature limited adjustability, though finding a suitable driving position with optimal visibility is not difficult. The interior of the Fiesta is plainly starting to show its age; still, it is functional and has key touchpoints fixed with high-quality materials.
The Fiesta Sedan ranks below-average in terms of practicality with only 12.8 cubic feet of trunk capacity offered. That's more than enough room for your daily essentials or a week's worth of grocery shopping for a young couple, but class rivals simply offer greater utility. For larger cargo items or for improved storage versatility, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split.
In-cabin storage solutions are limited to wide door side pockets with bottle holders only on the front doors, dual cupholders in the front center, and a sizable glovebox. There is a seatback map pocket on the front passenger seat as well.
The S is fitted with manual windows and along with the SE features a black painted steering wheel, a day/night rearview mirror, and body-colored power side-view mirrors with integrated
blind spot mirrors. The next model up, the SE, is featured with power windows with one-touch up/down feature, cruise control, multicolor ambient interior lighting, and MyKey parental controls. The Titanium trim is equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a trip computer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and keyless entry and ignition. Hill-start assist is the only standard active driver-assist across the lineup while a reverse sensing system is exclusive to the Titanium trim as a standard-fit feature. Electronic automatic temperature control, heated front seats, and heated side-view mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators are available for the SE trim.
Delivering infotainment in the S and SE trims is a SYNC entertainment system comprising a 4.2-inch color LCD display and a six-speaker sound system. The infotainment hub comprises an AM/FM stereo, a single-CD player with MP3 capability, and a single smart-charging USB port. The Titanium is outfitted with the intuitive SYNC 3 entertainment software with a 6.5-inch color LCD capacitive touchscreen display tethered to an eight-speaker Sony audio system. This system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality as well as HD and SiriusXM satellite radio. The media hub in the Titanium includes two smart-charging USB ports. A 12V rear powerpoint is included in all models. The SE can be upgraded with the SYNC 3 infotainment system which is already standard on the top-end Titanium; both models can be equipped with voice-activated navigation with pinch-to-zoom capability, integrated SiriusXM Traffic, and Travel Link with a five-year subscription.
There are currently no recalls out for the 2018 year model of the Ford Fiesta sedan. There are also only a handful of driver complaints that have been logged. J.D. Power gave the Fiesta Sedan an above-average predicted reliability rating of three-and-a-half out of five, backed by Ford's warranty coverage of the 2018 Fiesta Sedan with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The NHTSA gave the 2018 Ford Fiesta Sedan an overall crash-test rating of four out of five stars and added a note of concern for its rear side passenger barrier protection. The IIHS awarded the Fiesta Sedan a top rating of Good in four out of five individually evaluated criteria. As standard, the Fiesta Sedan is equipped with a driver and front passenger Personal Safety System with dual-stage front, driver's knee, front-seat side, and side-curtain airbags. Also standard across the lineup is a rearview camera and hill start assist while the Titanium exclusively gets a reverse-sensing system.
The Ford Fiesta Sedan is a great daily commuter and unique market offering as a fun-to-drive small family sedan. It is equipped with a punchy engine and a refined five-speed manual transmission which is featured on the S and SE trims. Unfortunately, the top-tier Titanium trim comes solely with the frustrating six-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, but at least benefits from the resulting improved fuel economy. Sparsely equipped best describes the entry-level S trim, but the SE and Titanium are suitably specced with an appealing selection of standard vehicle features, despite being classed as budget-friendly vehicles. Though standard active safety and advanced features are minimal, the Fiesta did receive decent crash-test safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS. It also received an above-average predicted reliability rating for the segment. What the Fiesta primarily offers that sets it apart from its competitors and makes it such an appealing offer, is its enthusiastic drive characteristics that aren't so easy to find in this segment, but the appeal comes at the trade-off of a dated interior and compromised practicality.
For the base 2018 Ford Fiesta S, prospective buyers can expect an MSRP of $14,205, while the mid-tier Fiesta SE has a price of $15,435. Moving on to the top-tier Fiesta Titanium will see a sticker price of $19,195. These prices exclude tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Ford's delivery, processing, and handling fee of $875.
Although the Titanium model is the more luxury-oriented and better-equipped trim option of the lineup, it's not necessarily worth spending an exorbitant amount of money on a top-spec trim this far on into the Fiesta's lifecycle. Not only is the Fiesta still stuck with mediocre-quality cabin materials and an aging design, but the Titanium is also cursed with the frustrating dual-clutch transmission which detracts from the engagement and fun factor of the Fiesta. As such, we suggest opting for the Fiesta SE which is well-equipped with features and utilizes the better five-speed manual gearbox, while its price bracket remains nearer to the base MSRP of the lineup. This translates to the optimal value for a reasonable amount of money. Additionally, the Fiesta SE can be upgraded to the more desirable SYNC 3 infotainment system, and automatic climate control can be added via the optional packages exclusively available to the SE trim; it will still be cheaper than the top-of-the-range Titanium model.
The 2018 Ford Focus Sedan will cost you around $3,500 more than the Fiesta Sedan but offers slightly more appeal in many key aspects. To its credit, the Focus still has the turbo-triple engine available which has been discontinued for the Fiesta. Its four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine option is larger and more powerful than what the Fiesta has under the hood; with a 2.0-liter displacement, it offers 160 hp and 146 lb-ft, with better acceleration off the line. Its six-speed auto transmission performs considerably more economically than the Fiesta's, returning EPA figures of 30/40/35 mpg. The Focus also received marginally better crash-test safety ratings from the NHTSA and identical ratings from the IIHS. Its 13.2 cubic feet of trunk room is also slightly better than what the Fiesta offers and slightly above-average for the segment. The Focus has the same fun-to-drive factor as the Fiesta but receives added appeal for its preferable ride comfort, more powerful engine options, as well as a turbocharged alternative. Overall, the Focus offers greater practicality as a commuter vehicle, with better trunk and in-cabin room, but being more expensive, we'd expect it to be better in most metrics.
The 2018 Versa Sedan is competitively priced at around $2,000 cheaper than the Fiesta Sedan. It is equipped with a similar 1.6-liter inline-four engine but only achieves outputs of 109 hp and 107 lb-ft which results in marginally slower acceleration than the Fiesta. Both the five-speed manual and automatic CVT on the Nissan are, however, far more efficient than the Fiesta, with the CVT returning 31/39/34 mpg estimates. Though nimble, the Versa is nowhere near as fun to drive as the Fiesta, with very little power at hand and sedate handling dynamics. The 2018 Versa received identical crash-test ratings to the Fiesta from the NHTSA and the IIHS but unlike the Fiesta, has been subject to multiple recalls. It also received a lower, and well-below-average predicted reliability rating of two-and-a-half out of five. The Versa does offer far more trunk capacity with 14.9 cubic feet of usable space, though. Tech and features are more comprehensive and contemporary in the Fiesta, which, along with its unique drive characteristics, easily makes it the better option.