by Jared Rosenholtz
The humble purr you hear from the 2019 Ford Fiesta Hatchback is not only the sound of its engine but also the final gurgles of its death song as it, along with the rest of Ford's small car compendium, enter their final production year. While the rest of the world saw the new generation model of the Fiesta last year, the US received only a continuation of the older model. Now, for 2019, Ford abjectly compensates by stoking the flames of the semi-hot-hatch lineup with the addition of the sportier Fiesta ST-Line trim. Both trims in the now two-model lineup, are equipped with the tried-and-tested 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine carried over from the preceding year, with peak outputs of 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. Directing outputs to the front-wheels by means of a default five-speed manual gearbox, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic can also be equipped. However, most core competitors have all seen recent model overhauls, including the Kia Rio5 and the Toyota Yaris, so offering a somewhat dated package, the Ford Fiesta Hatchback clutches to its novel appeal as a vivacious driver's hatch in a blue-collar suit.
For 2019, the previous year's base S and top-ranking Titanium trims have been dropped from the lineup and replaced with a new, sportier ST-Line option. Some features have been added, while others have been deleted from the optional SE Appearance Package. And finally, the engine block heater that was previously a standard-fit feature for models sold in cold-weather states has been made an optional extra. The SE trim, as the only carry-over model, remains otherwise unchanged for 2019.
While the Fiesta SE trim keeps its typical styling, the newly added ST-Line saunters out with a Shadow Black roof while a body-color lower front fascia extension and black center airfoil underscore the high-gloss upper painted mesh grille insert, which is flanked by standard-fit fog lamps. Unique body-color side rocker moldings and Shadow Black mirrors delineate its side profile, pulled together by bespoke ST-Line logos on the front fenders. Twin chrome-tipped exhausts protrude from the rear lower fascia extension, and an integrated unique black diffuser with a high-mounted Shadow Black rear spoiler set off the parting view. Halogen headlights are standard across the board, and the SE trim is fitted with 15-inch steel wheels with silver-painted covers while the ST-Line rides on 16-inch ten-spoke black-painted aluminum wheels. While the SE can be optionally equipped with 16-inch alloys too, a power moonroof is optional for both trims.
The Ford Fiesta has dimensions that are very much on par for the subcompact segment. With a length of 159.7 inches, a width of 67.8 inches, and a height of 58.1 inches, the hatchback rests on a wheelbase of 98 inches. The Fiesta SE weighs in at 2,536 pounds when equipped with the manual transmission and is only marginally lighter than the 2,575 lbs curb weight of the automatic variant. The ST-Line's body weight has been somewhat reduced to enhance performance and, as such, offers a fractionally lighter curb weight of 2,518 lbs in manual guise, and 2,562 lbs with the automatic setup.
While the ST-Line has access to only four exterior color options, the SE trim receives a paint palette of nine choices. Available for both models are Shadow Black and Oxford White as well as Outrageous Green and Hot Pepper Red, the latter two costing an additional $395. Also available for the SE trim is White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat that costs an extra $595. The Hot Pepper Red paint option is the most striking, suits the sporty character and accentuates Shadow-Black exterior accents of the ST-Line trim. For the SE trim, the Outrageous Green is an excellent choice to highlight the Fiesta's quirky nature and energetic style.
For the segment, the Ford Fiesta Hatchback isn't particularly fast, nor is it exceptionally slow. Its 120 hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder is more than enough to get the light-weight Fiesta on the go, regardless of the trim or drivetrain setup. The hatch makes its way from 0 to 60 mph in a segment average of 9.5 seconds before advancing onward to its electronically limited top speed of 121 mph. The Kia Rio, equipped with a similar engine - as well as the Toyota Yaris with a smaller powertrain - perform similarly, but have the advantage of offering greater efficiency.
As with most small subcompact vehicles, the Fiesta is available only in a front-wheel-drive configuration. Not only is it safer for a commuter vehicle to have power sent to the front wheels, but it also optimizes fuel economy and keeps running costs low.
With 120 hp and 112 lb-ft, the Fiesta has adequate initial pep for pulling off from a stop or traffic light, but from there on power delivery tapers off quickly and requires a hard working over of the engine to keep things on the boil. Moving up to speed and overtaking on the highway can be a challenge as power builds gradually and the unhurried climb stresses the engine quite notably. Throttle responses are otherwise consistently smooth and suitable for daily driving within city conditions. The default five-speed manual transmission delivers a solid shift action, sliding up or down smoothly and responding promptly throughout driving conditions. Optioning the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission may be a mistake though, as low-speed maneuvers are jarring and the responses indecisive. The auto also detracts from the driver's ability to engage, which is one of the Fiesta's strong points; sticking to the manual augments the Fiesta's fun-to-drive factor and gives added control over the tachometer.
A long-standing plus-point for the Ford Fiesta Hatchback is its exalted go-kart-like ride qualities and lively handling dynamics. It doesn't quite beg to be pushed to its limits or flung around enthusiastically, as its sporty hot-hatch character suggests, but it is quite capable. Its playful nature simply serves as a reminder that routine driving can still be made enjoyable.
As for handling, the hatch remains fairly composed and firmly planted when pushed to its cap around bends, with body roll kept suitably tight and under control. The Fiesta's steering is well-weighted and offers precise responses to driver input; tire position and road feel are effectively communicated through the front axle. The brake pedals give more of the same: consistent response to input. Stopping power from the standard calipers are fine for the low-powered commuter.
However, with its firmly sprung suspension and taught underpinnings that imbue the hatch with its dynamic drivability, it does translate to a rougher, less comfortable drive. While small road imperfections are adequately absorbed, any undulations or incrementally larger imperfections are tangibly and audibly experienced throughout the cabin. Which, along with its thinly-padded seats and low-grade upholstery, make for a rather uncomfortable ride quality overall.
EPA gas mileage estimates for the Fiesta Hatchback are average at best, with the manual-equipped Fiesta returning figures of 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined. If you're a city-slicker looking for optimal efficiency, the automatic transmission will better suit your budget, returning 27/37/31 mpg on the EPA cycles. With its 12.4-gallon gas tank filled to the brim, and in varied driving conditions, the Fiesta with automatic gearbox is expected to cover around 384 miles before needing a refill - which is relatively average for this segment. The Toyota Yaris, by contrast, is a fuel-efficient chariot for the eco-warriors, returning 32/40/35 mpg.
The Fiesta hatchback is built sturdy; its panels and fixtures are all solidly put together and give off a tangible impression of refinement. That said, the Fiesta is no luxury vehicle, though many key touchpoints are tucked over with soft-touch trim. There are still many hard plastics and low-to-mid-quality materials used throughout the cabin, though. The seating upholstery is visually passable but is coarse to the touch and prone to wear. Nevertheless, seating is spacious and the general cabin layout is ergonomic. For such a compact vehicle, passenger room is ample, seating up to five if the rear seat occupants are smaller in stature. In terms of infotainment, the 4.5-inch screen in the SE and 6.5-inch touchscreen in the ST-Line are rather tacky and small, but overall functionality is excellent due to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which is installed as standard in the ST-Line.
The Fiesta Hatchback provides seating for a total of five passengers, but only two adults will comfortably occupy the rear outboard seats; three children would manage without complaints in the back. The seats themselves are mediocre in comfort, with only light padding and mid-quality fabric upholstery that feels scratchy to the touch. Surprisingly, the Fiesta offers ample passenger room throughout the cabin with two adults at six-foot-tall able to happily occupy the rear seats. Getting in and out of the hatchback is also no problem and is easy to live with on a daily basis. The narrow roof pillars, large windshield, and rear window mean clear sightlines all-round while the standard-fit rearview camera adds an element of confidence in terms of visibility and safety. Though the driver's seat and steering column feature limited adjustability, finding an optimal driving position is no real challenge.
Standard cloth upholstery for the SE is available in either Charcoal Black or Medium Light Stone, which can be upgraded to Charcoal Black Sport cloth with Silver stitching by adding the optional SE Appearance Package. For the sportier ST-Line, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are standard, with the steering wheel embellished by red stitching and the shifter boasting a metallic insert. Aluminum sport pedal covers and carpeted front and rear floor mats with red accent stitching are unique to the top-end trim. Seating is in Charcoal Black Sport cloth upholstery with Red stitching for the ST-Line, and bespoke embroidered badges feature on the front seats.
With 14.9 cubic feet of room in the trunk, the Fiesta Hatchback offers more practicality than its sedan counterpart. With enough room for two large vacation-style suitcases, the Fiesta's 60/40 split-folding rear seats can be collapsed for more cargo room in the back; although the seats do not fold completely flat, leaving a stepped-up base to consider when loading, this is quite impressive for this segment - although the Kia Rio does have more available space in the trunk right off the bat.
In-cabin storage solutions are limited to a moderately spacious passenger-side glove box, dual cupholders up front, a single in the center rear, a front passenger seatback map pocket, and door side pockets on the front doors only - but at least these do fit bottles. There are a couple of small storage areas scattered around the front of the cabin as well, but none that are really able to hold items bigger than a smartphone.
Equipped as standard in both trims are four-way manually adjustable driver's seats, two-way manually-adjustable front-passenger seats, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Both trims also feature a steering column that can tilt and telescope, power windows and locks, standard air conditioning with electronic actuation, cruise control, and MyKey parental controls. Ice Blue cluster lighting and a rearview camera are added as well, and hill start assist is noted as the only active driver-assist feature installed as standard on both trims. For the ST-Line, multicolor ambient interior lighting is an exclusive benefit included as standard. Electronic automatic temperature control is optional for both trims.
The 4.2-inch screen in the SE trim is diminutive but runs the default SYNC infotainment software, which is somewhat limiting in terms of functionality. Although this software is quite user-friendly, there are better systems installed on rival vehicles. The standard six-speaker sound system delivers audio for the AM/FM stereo and in-dash single-CD player with MP3 capability, and the SYNC system does allow for SYNC voice controls and Bluetooth connectivity - but that's really about all there is to it. The media hub only includes a single smart-charging USB port, an auxiliary input, and a front and rear 12V power outlet. The ST-Line is upgraded to a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen featuring the SYNC 3 infotainment software, which comprises Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility along with enhanced voice controls, 911 Assist, Sync AppLink mobile app integration, and SiriusXM radio with a six-month all-access trial. Also for the ST-Line, and an additional smart-charging USB port is added. A voice-activated navigation system with pinch-to-zoom capability and integrated SiriusXM Traffic with Travel Link is available for both trims within the optional Cold Weather Package.
There are currently no recalls out for the 2019 Ford Fiesta Hatchback and only a small range of driver complaints to date, mostly pertaining to a variety of minor issues. J.D Power, however, gave the 2019 Ford fiesta Hatchback a below-average predicted reliability rating of two-and-a-half out of five. Ford covers the Fiesta Hatch with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, as well as a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. A roadside assistance plan for the same five-year/60,000-mile period applies.
The NHTSA's evaluation of the 2019 Ford Fiesta Hatchback resulted in an overall crash-test rating of four out of five stars. The IIHS gave the Fiesta Hatchback top ratings of Good for four of five of the standard crash test criteria but scored it poorly for LATCH car seat usability.
The Fiesta is short on active safety features and advanced driver-assists at its default level, and unfortunately does not have any optional safety-related add-ons. All 2019 Ford Fiesta Hatchback models come with seven standard airbags, including a driver knee airbag. A rearview camera is also standard in all models, along with a front occupant personal safety system, tire pressure monitoring, SOS post-crash alert system, and AdvanceTrac electronic stability control. The Fiesta SE is the only trim that comes standard with cruise control.
The Ford Fiesta Hatchback has always been a popular pick for drivers who want to spice up their routine daily commutes, which the 2019 year model still does well. And with its affordable pricing as an entry-level vehicle, this hot-hatch is a unique offering within the market as one that offers a little more than just fuel efficiency and reliable driving. However, the Fiesta is a bit dated and its behind-the-times infotainment and lack of driver aids stunt its appeal in comparison to more contemporary subcompacts out there. Though its body design is still stylish and its tech functionality is sufficient, its cabin feels cheap, while some of the physical tech elements are tacky.
Comfort has been slotted low in priority for the Fiesta too, with thin and scratchy seats and unyielding ride quality. In a time where constant innovation, significant improvement, and as cut-rate as possible premium quality offerings are paramount to the value proposition of modern vehicles, the Fiesta has fallen notably behind. Nevertheless, the Fiesta Hatchback is a stylish, practical, economical, and fun-to-drive commuter that, all things considered, won't leave you with a lasting level of buyer's remorse.
With the discontinuation of the entry-level Fiesta S trim from the 2019 lineup, what was the mid-tier SE trim is now the most affordable Fiesta trim option. For 2019, the Fiesta SE is priced at $15,790, while the new Fiesta ST-Line can be bought for an MSRP of $17,625. Prices are excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees, as well as Ford's processing, handling, and destination charge of $975.
With the base Fiesta S and luxe Fiesta Titanium dropped from the 2019 Ford Fiesta Hatchback lineup, only the Fiesta SE remains alongside the new-for-2019, Fiesta ST-Line.
The Fiesta SE is equipped with 15-inch steel wheels with silver-painted covers and is outfitted with standard halogen exterior lighting. Infotainment is delivered via SYNC software on a 4.2-inch screen; a standard six-speaker audio system with AM/FM stereo and single-CD player with mp3 capability is included. The interior boasts cloth-upholstered, front bucket bolster seats as standard, with the option of Sport cloth upholstery by purchasing the optional SE Appearance Package.
The Fiesta ST-Line rides on 16-inch ten-spoke black-painted aluminum wheels and is fitted with fog lamps and Fiesta ST-exclusive cosmetic exterior styling. The ST-Line is fitted with a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with SYNC 3 software, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, along with enhanced voice controls, 911 Assist, Sync AppLink mobile app integration, and SiriusXM radio with a six-month all-access trial. The ST-Line also comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, race-inspired aluminum pedals, and multicolor ambient interior lighting as standard. It features Sport cloth upholstery with ST-Line embroidered badges.
Available for both the SE and ST-Line is a $350 Cold Weather Package which equips the Fiesta with heated front-row seats, heated exterior side-view mirrors, electronic automatic temperature control, and front and rear floor liners.
For the Fiesta SE, a $995 Appearance Package is also optional, which equips the SE with 16-inch eight-spoke sparkle silver-painted aluminum wheels, fog lamps with chrome-trimmed rings, a body-color front bumper with chrome insert, unique sport cloth seat trim, and ambient lighting. Additionally, a rear cabin 12V powerpoint, two smart-charging USB ports, and a 6.5-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen with SYNC 3, SiriusXM Radio, AppLink, 911 Assist, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are made available.
Considering that the new ST-Line trim is only around $2,000 more than the carry-over SE trim and the fact that it boasts many more premium features and tech functionality, the sportier ST styling is not the only benefit of opting for this trim. The cheekier design elements of the ST-Line complement its quirky character, and the leather-wrapped steering and shifter - together with upgraded sport-cloth interior materials - considerably improve on the tackier, less contemporary cabin of the base SE. Though available as an added extra for the SE, the ST-Line comes standard with the superior SYNC 3 system, which enables further tech functionality such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that are nowadays seen as necessities. While the more premium interior and added functionality of the ST-Line delivers greater value, it's really the ST-Line's styling that offers an element of uniqueness. We also suggest keeping the five-speed manual transmission for its advantageous driver engagement.
The 2019 Kia Rio 5-Door is around $1,000 cheaper than the Fiesta ST-Line to which it compares most accurately. It offers a similar proposition to potential buyers in terms of hot-hatch functionality, but with some extra appeal. With a similar engine, the Rio offers greater acceleration with the 130 hp and 119 lb-ft at hand. Like the Fiesta ST-Line, it also drives with an energetic demeanor and sporty handling dynamics but delivers a more sophisticated ride in terms of comfort. It comes standard with an automatic transmission which performs marginally more efficiently than the Fiesta does. Although not yet rated by the NHTSA, the IIHS categorized the Rio as a Top Safety Pick for 2019. The Rio offers a whole lot more practicality with a class-leading 17.4 cubic feet of trunk space, and, with its recent redesign, the Rio is more than a step up in modernity. It is outfitted as standard with more contemporary and state-of-the-art features from the inside-out, as opposed to the Fiesta. The 2019 Kia Rio5 beats the Fiesta not only as a fun-to-drive hot-hatch in general but significantly so in terms of value for money as well.
With the recategorization of the Toyota Yaris iA to the Yaris, the 2019 version of the Toyota's subcompact is now only available as a sedan. Similarly priced to the Ford Fiesta Hatchback, the Yaris takes the podium as the closest thing to a premium vehicle money can buy under $20,000. With a smaller 1.5-liter inline-four engine and optional six-speed manual gearbox, the Yaris performs significantly more economically than the most efficient Fiesta trim, with EPA estimates of 32/40/35 mpg. The Yaris, based on the Mazda CX-3's architecture, offers impressive drive and handling dynamics and an interior not only more premium in feel but also more striking and futuristic in design. With leatherette interior trim and automatic climate control offered standard on the higher trims, the Fiesta has little chance of matching up. The Yaris also receives better crash-test ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS, and is equipped with a few more safety-related features than the Fiesta is, as standard. At its price point, it's difficult for any other manufacturer to reach what the Yaris offers in terms of premium quality and refinement, which is only made more obvious when compared to the somewhat outdated Fiesta.