in 2012 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $10,173 - $12,838
Original MSRP: $13,200 - $17,500
MPG: 28 City / 38 Hwy
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2012 Ford Fiesta Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Some reviewers say the Ford Fiesta is the best-driving car in its class. Though not all reviewers go that far, the majority agrees that the Fiesta's combination of smooth power, zippy handling and excellent fuel economy make it an outstanding and affordable choice for small car shoppers who want something that can spice up their daily commute.

Other fun-to-drive cars in the class include the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Mini Cooper. While all of those are excellent driver's cars, they also start at least $3,600 more than the base Fiesta, and can't match the Fiesta's estimated fuel economy.

  • "Hustling about, the Fiesta was in its element. The quick steering and gutsy, 118-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder helped us slice through city traffic, while its compact dimensions and tight turning radius made it easy to nab tight curbside spots. " -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The new Fiesta's ride is butter-smooth, its turn-in ability is effortless and with sufficient feel that a driver stays connected, and its quiet cabin makes the internal fan sound loud. Clearly, Ford has learned how to make cars that are among the best available--and it's coming to play on American roads." -- AutoWeek
  • "Small cars like this that don't compromise the driving experience in the name of cutting cost are incredibly empowering in traffic. Vision is good and you can work the gearbox to cut through small gaps in the split second that they open." -- Jalopnik

Acceleration and Power

The Fiesta is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 120 horsepower. A five-speed manual is standard, but you can opt for a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual. The automated manual is operated just like an automatic transmission, but under the hood this transmission uses two clutches to dial in the correct gears. It's a high-tech setup that delivers good performance while maximizing fuel economy. What's more, it's a setup that's usually only seen in luxury sports cars like the Audi TT. Reviewers like this drivetrain, but wish Ford added a manual shift feature that would allow the driver to change gears independently.

The Fiesta has impressive fuel economy ratings. The EPA says the Fiesta gets 29/39 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 29/38 mpg with the manual. To get the 29/40 mpg Ford boasts, you have to upgrade to the SE trim to get the Super Fuel Economy package.

Reviewers like the powertrain on the Fiesta and say that, in contrast to many other small cars, the Fiesta has ample power for almost any situation.

  • "That might not seem like much power, but it moves a feathery 2462 pounds of curb weight, and there's enough oomph to propel the Fiesta from zero to 60 mph in a competitive 8.7 seconds." -- Car and Driver
  • "Ford is estimating that official fuel efficiency ratings will be 40 on the highway and 30 in the city-not quite in hybrid territory but the price tag isn't either." -- HybridCars.com
  • "Technically an automated manual, the automatic is a technology that's begun to spread among larger cars, bringing the light weight and efficiency traditionally associated with manual transmissions. It operates with only an accelerator and brake pedal. In a change from the norm, Ford says, the highest mileage is expected with the automatic - up to 40 mpg with an optional Super Fuel Economy Package." -- Cars.com
  • "Fiesta offers adequate acceleration regardless of transmission, but passing punch is lacking. Both the clutch and shifter actions with the manual are impressively smooth and precise. In what no doubt is an effort to boost fuel economy, the automated-manual transmission has a tendency to get caught in too high a gear at low speeds. It then suffers from a noticeable delay when called upon to downshift for more power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Technically, the automatic is actually a dual-clutch automated manual transmission; it provides quicker gearchanges than a traditional torque converter-based automatic and delivers better fuel economy than a conventional automatic, too. Disappointingly, there is no manual-shift feature." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers report that the Fiesta is fun to drive, either in the city or on the open road. The handling is crisp and responsive, making it easy to slide in and out of breaks in traffic. And on back roads, that same handling is an excellent partner for tackling the twisties.

If it’s important that you find a fun-to-drive small car, consider the Honda Fit, which is also hailed as one of the zippiest cars in the class. Some test drivers say the Fit’s handling is crisper than the Fiesta’s, while others say the opposite. Take both vehicles on a spin to decide for yourself.

  • "As we noted in a minitest, the Fiesta one-ups the Fit in any winding-road run." -- Car and Driver
  • "Driving up the BQE to our favorite shooting location in Greenpoint, the small exterior size, responsive chassis and perky engine make moving through traffic easy." -- Jalopnik
  • "The Fiesta's steering is the new benchmark in this segment, from the weighting of its effort to the immediate and precise response. And the sophisticated suspension tuning makes the Fiesta feel at once substantial and lithe. Handling is excellent, yet the ride quality remains supple, with bumps and ruts swallowed without drama." -- Edmunds
  • "Crisp turn-in, good steering and brake feel, and minimal body lean in fast corners give the Fiesta sportier moves than most cars in this class. Also aiding the cause are two features incorporated into the automated-manual transmission." -- Consumer Guide

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