2016 Ford Fiesta SE Review and Road Test

2016 Ford Fiesta SE

We take a closer look at the swan song of the Feista’s current generation

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The automatic gearbox used to be an issue for the Fiesta. Have they made it better?

An easy way to avoid an unpalatable automatic gearbox experience is to avoid it all together and stick with three pedals and a stick. It’s more engaging, generally offers better fuel economy and there’s less complication inherently so they’re more durable (plus, in the Fiesta’s case, you’ll pocket $1,250 dollars.) But the take rate for a manual gearbox isn’t particularly high these days, so the slushbox remains the choice for the majority of buyers. The last time we drove the Fiesta a few years ago, it was hobbled by the first generation of Powershift transmissions that suffered from issues dual clutch setups tried to avoid, specifically clumsy step off and the inability to swap gears as crisply as you’d expect. They addressed this issue and now the Fiesta feels vastly better to drive, confidently moving off the line and swapping ratios with speed and smoothness. We’d still take a manual, but anyone who’s driven the older versions and came away holding their noses really ought to give the rejigged tranny a shot. It’s much, MUCH better.

Did Ford add a few ponies to the 1.6 litre engine?

Sadly, no. If you want a little more zest from your Fiesta, there’s the insanely fun Fiesta ST, but the miniscule 1.0 turbocharged inline three is a hoot as well. It doesn’t have the outright grunt of the ST, but it does make more horsepower and torque (123 and 125, respectively) than the 1.6 found in our tester and provides a rorty soundtrack and superior fuel economy while doing so. The subcompact class has never been about outright performance, so expect a 0-100km/h time of about nine and a half seconds but commendable fuel economy to the tune of 7.7 litres/100km which is what we were able to achieve in mixed driving. With the improved gearbox, the drivetrain is quite nice as a whole.

Can it still cut a rug out there on the tarmac?

Handling has always been a Fiesta strong suit. Despite it’s small wheelbase and accompanying footprint, he Fiesta has an extremely capable chassis. In fact, since Honda watered down the Fit’s fun-to-drive factor during its last redesign, we think the Fiesta remains the most fun entry in its class. With a few basic modifications, you’d have something that could take you to the top step of the podium at your local autocross. What’s most impressive isn’t the way the Fiesta attacks on-ramps but how Ford managed to balance the suspension tuning for a comfortable ride. The little car unfazed by expansion joints and big bumps, imparting the feeling that it has more suspension travel than it actually does. This 2016 feels more at home on the highway than the last Fiesta we drove- its buttoned down, confident and quiet. Now that the transmission has been massaged for better performance, everything comes together to deliver a driving experience that is pretty darn good for the subcompact genre. We wish Ford would see fit to upgrade the rear brakes from drums to discs which would ostensibly shorten stopping distances, but it should be noted we never once found its braking capabilities to be an issue during the course of our road test.

Living with the Fiesta must be pretty swell.

It sure is, and the fuel mileage is pretty darn good bonus as well. Whereas some cars can get plunged into obscurity in the seas of traffic, our Electric Spice liveried tester did much to drag the Fiesta out of the econobox doldrums. The body kit ($995) gave it a sort of ST vibe, although the “Fiesta” graphic on the lower rocker panels ($200) is something we could have done without. It also sported black wheels and mirrors as part of the SE Black package ($600) that offered a nice contrast with the eye catching paint job. If you prefer to fly under the radar somewhat, skip these options. The interior is decidedly more subdued- it’s pretty austere in there- and is starting to show its age compared to its newer competitors who offer better environs. Everything is well built, however, and the availability of SYNC3 is a huge asset. Our biggest complaint? The Fiesta doesn’t have a particularly commodious back seat, nor is the cargo hold exceptionally large. For those trips to Costco, you’ll need to fold the seats down.

What needs fixing on the Fiesta?

The first thing we’ll gripe about is that for a little under $25 grand they haven’t included a backup camera. This didn’t prove to be too big a demerit as parking the Fiesta is a relative breeze- it would have been nice to have especially considering the price. We’d like to see a little more love sent the interior’s way, and that includes front seats that have more generous cushioning that’s slightly longer to avoid discomfort in the legs on longer trips. What grinds our gears the most stems fittingly from the gear lever- why equip the Fiesta with a dual-clutch gearbox and then have a seriously un-sporty rocker switch on the selector to manually swap ratios? If the dual-clutch tranny follows the Fiesta into its next generation, there really should be steering wheel mounted paddles.

Speaking of that next generation…

Ford is already hard at work on the next chapter of the Fiesta story, probably due out sometime as a 2018 model. Details are scarce, but we know that the interior will be going under the knife which not only answers some of our complaints but should vault the Fiesta to the class of the field. It’ll keep the basic styling cues which is a good thing in our estimation- we aren’t’ sure what moves if any Ford will make where the drivetrain is concerned. Another thing you can be sure of is the return of the seriously fun ST model. If history tells us anything, Ford’s recent launches of new generations of familiar product (Mustang, Edge, F150) are huge leaps forward over the models they replace- we look forward to seeing what the next Fiesta brings to the table. Stay tuned.

2016 Ford Fiesta SE- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $24,544
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger compact hatchback
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Engine:  1.6-litre inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  120 @ 6,350 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 112 @ 5,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,168 kg (2,575 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 7.7L/100km (31 mpg)