First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost

Los Angeles, California – At the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford introduced the next generation of its popular Fiesta. Now sporting the new Ford corporate face with its Aston Martin-like grille, the 2014 Fiesta will be available with three powertrains, including the smallest engine in Ford’s EcoBoost family, a 999 cc, three-cylinder turbocharged powerplant that produces an amazing 123-hp per litre.

Although the new Fiesta won’t be available in North America until late in 2013, Ford brought a group of pre-production, European spec 1.0-litre Fiestas for journalists to drive. So after a day of suffering through the boring technical/financial/car business stuff that manufacturers believe entertains journalists at an auto show (more interesting were the cars), the real entertainment began—driving the Euro-spec 1.0-litre Fiesta from Santa Monica to Camarillo via the infamous Mulholland Highway.

Oh my. What fun.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta is clearly no econobox. Even without available features like leather seating, touchscreen display, navigation system, and full connectivity, features normally found in more expensive and typically much larger vehicles, the 1.0-litre Fiesta would still be a blast to drive.

The Fiesta (and to be fair, a growing number of small cars) are coming from the factory with the kind of connectivity, power, and appeal that entry level buyers expect in a car. Add in some very innovative engine technology and Ford is determined to prove that small, powerful, connected, and exciting cars will sell. In Canada it unquestionably will, but in the US there has always been doubt. But with the US economy still a mess and gas prices closing in on what we Canadians think of as normal, there is a firm belief that Americans are ready to accept subcompacts.

And what better place than the Los Angeles Auto Show, known for showcasing the green side of the industry, to roll out a sophisticated little car that Ford expects will have the best fuel economy of any non-hybrid car in North America.

First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

While the US Environmental Protection Agency has not yet set the fuel economy numbers for the 2014 Fiesta, Ford is certain it will be over 40 miles per US gallon (5.9 L/100 km) for highway driving using the US EPA testing procedures. The 2014 Fiesta with the 1.6-litre, normally aspirated base engine is rated at 40 mpg highway. The 1.0-litre will do better than that, but by how much can only be signified by a +. In these parts, 40 mpg is good; 40+ is better. And in North America, among all non-hybrid subcompacts, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost Fiesta could well be one of the best.

Since being launched in the spring in the Ford Focus in Europe, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has quickly become a winner. In April it was voted International Engine of the Year by a jury of 76 journalists from 36 countries. In June it set 16 land speed records at a racetrack in France. In October the 1.0-litre EcoBoost was given a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine, and this month the engine won the prestigious DeWar Trophy in Great Britain.

In Europe, where the diesel engine is king, the 1.0-litre engine now accounts for about 30 percent of sales in the Focus. It is now available in the European C-Max and B-Max and will also be offered on the Mondeo.

First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

EcoBoost combines turbocharging with gasoline direct injection and variable valve timing to allow a smaller engine to replace a larger one with no loss of performance and at least a 20 percent gain in fuel economy. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost, for example, has about the same power as the 1.6-litre normally aspirated, four cylinder base engine, producing 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, but with about 25 percent fewer moving parts and a host of new technology, including an offset crankshaft, variable oil pump, split cooling system, a super-small, responsive turbocharger, and a timing belt immersed in engine oil.

In the past, small, odd-cylinder engines have not been popular due to unreasonable vibration and noise. Traditionally, engineers have employed a counter rotating balance shaft inside the motor to offset the vibrations, but this solution is heavy, expensive, and reduces fuel economy. Ford’s solution: external balancing. The pulley and flywheel are unbalanced with weights that are placed precisely to counteract the natural shaking forces of the engine, while the engine mounts are designed to decouple as well as absorb the engine’s shaking forces.

With the three-cylinder EcoBoost, the 2014 Fiesta sounds and feels like no other car. It is smooth. And it is largely vibration free, with a deep, throaty though muted growl rather than the more typical high pitch of a four-cylinder, even with the 1.0-litre’s 6,500 rpm redline. Acceleration is strong and extremely linear, but not what journalists like to call ‘free-revving’. This is a determined little engine that performs every bit as well as much larger fours without unwanted roughness or noise.

Inside the Fiesta, the low pitched hum under the hood is a distant reminder that this car is missing a cylinder, but it is neither bothersome nor intrusive, allowing a relatively quiet environment for conversation or listening to music.

All of the 2014 Fiestas available for testing were 5-door hatchbacks equipped with five-speed manual transmissions. When the Fiesta goes on sale in North America in the fourth quarter of next year, it will also come as a four-door sedan and a six-speed automatic transmission will be optionally available.

Dimensionally, the new Fiesta has the same wheelbase and practically the same length, width and height as the outgoing model, but front and rear valances are all new, while the interior has been updated with new trim and seating materials. Fit and finish is impressive for an entry level subcompact.

With the 2014 model comes a new MyFord Touch system with 6.5-inch touchscreen to set navigation, communication, and entertainment functions. Ford’s MyKey, which allows owners to configure maximum speed and audio volume limits, as well as mute the audio system until seat belts are fastened, will be available for the new Fiesta.

First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

The European-spec test cars were all identically equipped Titanium models, the top trim level for the Fiesta, and were nicely equipped with comfortable and durable-feeling cloth seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield, keyless entry, alarm system, power rear windows, rain sensing wipers and an eight-speaker Sony Ice Pack audio system.

While it is too early for detailed option lists, photographs and the cars on display at the LA auto show would suggest that there is a 2014 Fiesta to fit every budget. If you want leather upholstery, two-tone interior, chrome accents, and automatic climate control, it will be available. Even subcompacts can be luxurious.

And fun to drive. While the Fiesta wasn’t designed to be a sport compact (see the sidebar, 2014 Fiesta ST, about that), it has been designed to be fun – and safe – to drive. We followed the Mulholland Highway through the mountainous region west of Santa Monica on our way to Camarillo for dynamic testing. This famous road twists and turns through the hills above Malibu and provides an excellent test of a vehicle’s agility.

The Fiesta’s practical front MacPherson strut and rear twist beam with coil spring suspension provides a comfortable ride and better than expected handling. The car cornered flat with little understeer, providing a pleasant and confident driving experience. The road was littered with rocks that day, including some large pieces that needed to be avoided. It was not unusual to round a corner and find a seven- or eight-inch rock in the middle of the lane. But with a weight of just 1,100 kg (2,427 lb.), well-balanced electric-power assisted steering and sure brakes, the Fiesta nimbly avoided the obstacles and stopped quickly when that was the only alternative.

First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

Active safety features include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and anti-theft engine immobilizer, while dual stage driver and front passenger airbags, driver knee airbag, side impact and side curtain airbags round out the passive side.

Ford anticipates that the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine would add about $1,000 to the cost of a Fiesta equipped with the base 1.6-litre engine. While hybrids would get better fuel economy, the additional cost is generally far greater. The 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost is a good choice for buyers looking to optimize both fuel economy and driving costs.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

First Drive:  2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 litre EcoBoost ford first drives
Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta—this one you can’t buy. Click image to enlarge

Alongside the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost, Ford also introduced the Fiesta ST, a hot hatch well-known in Europe but new to North America. Arriving late next year, the 2014 Fiesta ST will contain a new high-output variant of the 1.6-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with an estimated 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque.

Available exclusively as a five-door hatchback in North America and with a six-speed manual transmission, Fiesta ST is projected to achieve up to 34 miles per US gallon (6.9 L/100 km) with US EPA testing procedures.

The Fiesta ST has a unique grille and chin spoiler with a new rear diffuser and fascia extensions. Bright-tipped dual-exhaust pipes and high-mounted spoiler along with unique 17-inch wheels complete the visual package.

Features of the Fiesta ST include a unique lower suspension, a 15-mm drop over the base model, a quicker overall steering ratio of 13.6:1, increased roll stiffness to improve stability through fast corners, electronic Torque Vectoring Control to reduce understeer during hard cornering maneuvers and three-mode electronic stability control—standard, sport, or off.

The Fiesta ST is the result of the combined efforts of Team RS in Europe and SVT in the United States.