Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

This is a debrief of my drive of the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0L 3-cylinder EcoBoost Turbo.

And yes, at 5' 4", I'm biased as to believing small is best. Size [lack of it] is my heritage.

  • Jackie Stewart and Allan McNish refer to themselves [and guys like me] as 'of average height'.
  • The rest of you? ….."A waste of height" is what I used to tell the 1st baseman before I stole 2nd.

And along these 'size lines', I even think my Mom and Dad should be hired by Ford as their Fiesta 1.0L EcoBoost Marketing Managers. Because they knew how to get the best out of 'small'. Here's what they drilled into me -

  • "You're going to have to work harder than the others to get the job done. But, it will be worth the effort."
  • "You're going to have to work harder to overcome perceptions. But again, it will be worth the effort."
  • "Use your strengths, do those things the best you can. That will give you a fighting chance to succeed."
  • "It will be tougher for you to get noticed, so YOU will have to make your presence known."

All that works for the Ford Fiesta 1.0L EcoBoost, too. Defines this little street fighter quite accurately. But, it's that last point on the list that warrants a bit of discussion before the end of this review.

Until then, let's start with some Fiesta context.

The Ford Fiesta platform is a known quantity and quality [born in 1976, this 2014 car is the Mk 6 version introduced in 2010] and a popular one at that. Style, great fit / finish, a tight chassis, good road feel, realistic pricing. Resulting in best-selling sales status the world over and over 17 Million Fiesta sales, in total, since its birth.

2014 YTD sales in the US are up vs the prior year. And outpacing Honda Fit, Chevy Spark, Toyota Yaris, Scion Everything, etc., etc. in the B-class category. Only Sonic [Chevy, not the Hedgehog or Drive-in] and Nissan Versa rack up more US volume, but maybe not driving personality.

Ford has almost always been about selling its small cars as 'fun' and 'fun to drive'. Not as appliances. Mk 1 Ford Fiesta came to market in 1976 / 77 and it, too, was all about driving spirit and efficiency.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

PS - As a Ford Field Manager, I used a Mk1 Fiesta company car [orange, like that one] to teach myself Scandinavian Flick rally-driving techniques on the winter roads of Westchester County, NY. A few bounces off the snow banks later, I got the hang of it. [Guess it's OK my old boss reads this. The Statute of Limitations on Ford Policy must have surely expired by now, right?]

BTW - Fiesta's 1st power-plant [outside the US] was - A 1.0L engine! 957cc, actually. The Kent / Valencia OHV inline 4-cylinder, making maybe 40hp.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

Call me Michael J. Fox, but that's an interesting slice of "Back to the Future". And to quote Doc Brown, "If my calculations are correct [about the current Fiesta's 123hp 1.0L EcoBoost], when this baby hits 88 miles per hour..... "

So, let's talk ABOUT this 2014 Fiesta.

And let's do so the way we debrief after a race car shakedown.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

TRACK CONDITIONS - The courses we drove were the city streets, highways, and back roads from NYC to the North Fork of Long Island. So, we got a good mix of performance experiences. The weather was sunny, 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, no wind.

COCKPIT – Seating and control positions are very intuitive. The steering column is adjustable. The materials are tactile where you touch the car and don't scream 'no production budget' even where you don't.

Some cars force you to adapt to their 'ergonomics' – physically and the perspectives, looking out and into the gauges. Think Camaro. Others are second nature, immediately. The ideal to this premise is the McLaren MP4-12C. Ford Fiesta, therefore, is a McLaren.

Steering has good feel. Pedal pressures are progressive and the pedals are well-aligned for heel / toe capability. The seats have enough grip. The 5-speed shifter works easy enough and precisely enough to grab gears quickly.

BRAKES – Rear drums! Welcome to the $16K price-point in Ford's lineup. But, we never noticed the old tech when it came to braking performance. The front discs pull the Fiesta down strongly and consistently. And since driving a 'slow car' fast is a somewhat aggressive activity, we can report no fade. Of course, I'm not a huge 'late-braker', nor a big trail-braker to the apex in a FWD car [that's not the way to go fast]…… So, can't say they are totally fade-oblivious.

CHASSIS – Turn-in is very good. Someone at Ford is base-lining Euro cars. High-speed cornering is predictable, with slight push, either built-in for safety. Or built into the low-roll resistance tires. But, Fiesta holds its arc. Line adjustments with the gas pedal are effective and not unsettling. There's not a lot of pitch-sensitivity. You don't have to be hyper smooth with the Fiesta, but keeping the platform settled pays speed dividends. As the Doc from the Future said, at speed it's doing some 'serious sh*t' here.

Low-speed corners get done with typical FWD finesse – Square off the line a bit more, transfer weight to get some rotation, feed the gas, start unwinding the wheel. But, again Fiesta does it with skill and little drama.

Ride over bumps is controlled and not unruly to performance or comfort.

There IS some 'economy car' body roll, but nothing that confuses Fiesta with a door-handle-dragging French car from the 1940's...50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's! Of course, the cornering G's are limited by those low-roll resistance tires mandated by the 1.0L SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package - $995, added to the Fiesta SE base price.

But, Ford won't let me upgrade the tires or the 15" steel wheels / hubcaps via their factory options, so 'Hello aftermarket'. Or a shopping spree in the UK for this new performance 1.0L EcoBoost - http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=30188

All said, our US Fiesta handles predictably, progressively. My internal G-meter says maybe .8G's. But, you can run it quickly and with confidence. eg; We hung with a bunch of sporty cars, even when they saw us challenging them.

You got to wait a bit on quick transitions – body roll, momentum physics, and all that, thank you. But, if you 'preload' the chassis before you make the move you want to make….. It's all good.

Fiesta takes a set into a corner, there are no evil surprises as the loads build, and the car is catchable.

Would I tighten everything up a bit? Sure. But, a] That's what the Fiesta ST is for and b] For God sake, THIS is the low-price, fuel-saver version of Fiesta, NOT a 2015 Mustang GT!

Still, Ford Fiesta 1.0L is NOT a car that would get a NY Times auto writer national exposure for his / her bash-o-rific review. Fiesta is just NOT a crappy car.

Back to the debrief.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

GEARBOX – Remember I told you Mom said, we little guys have to work harder to be good? If she was talking this Fiesta, she'd be referencing the shifting, NOT the engine [which we will get to next].

Fiesta 1.0L, by sheer logic, is a momentum car.

And that means keeping the car on-revs to keep it up to speed.

The 'happy' rev band is 4000 to 6000 rpm. The in-dash upshift arrow / light tells you when to shift to maintain economy. Your Speed-Racer sense, and Boy-Racer predilection to rev the hell out of things, tells you how to make this 1.0L go fast. And staying on-rev works. Just ask the guy in the Maserati who we chewed on into the on-ramp and onto the highway when we made the pass.

  • I do wish the 4 to 6k rev band was marked in yellow, and the upshift light had a 'Sport' mode to click to vs the 'Fuel-Save' calibration. But, these are details [and contradictions to the Economy foundation of this car].

Gears 2, 3, and 4 really get the work done. Those gears, plus the turbo overboost electronics that dial up the torque from 125 lb-ft to 148 for bursts of up to 15 seconds, get Fiesta moving..... Way beyond your perception of what a 1.0L should be doing.

And Fiesta does not suffer launching from a stoplight or coming out of a hairpin corner, either. A stout 1st gear and the 1.0L's peak torque band of 1,400 to 4,500 rpm gets 2,578 lbs of Fiesta moving. 0-60 is 8 seconds-ish.

  • The Ford exec riding with me had never seen NYC. So, when I immediately and mistakenly went off-route from the Ford Test Drive Directions, we found ourselves traversing uptown, cross-town, and mid-town. He enjoyed the sites and I reveled in how much of a city street-fighter this Fiesta 1.0L can be.

5th gear, to me, is the Indy 500 gear. It's the economy gear you run to cruise the first part of the race, to make mileage, let the motor rest, to draft another car [which Fiesta seems to do quite well], and to set up for the race-end dash when you need to go.

With Fiesta, you sit in 5th until it's time to pass, climb a hill, or pick up the pace.

Then, it's down a gear [or 2], run the rev band, make the move, and back to 5th. Which, by the way, delivers a peaceful 2500 rpm at 70 mph / 3000 rpm at 80 mph [per my calculations, not actual experience, Officer].

Yes Mom, we're doing a lot of work, shifting. But, if you want the traditional hand and foot tools of clutch pedal and shift knob, I don't expect to hear any crap about how often you need to exercise the skill.

It's all fun, dammit.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

ENGINE – 123HP, 125 to 148 lb-ft of torque, 15 seconds of overboost, similar hp / liter output as Ferrari, Porsche, Lambo. More power than a liter of Coke and a pack of Mentos.

Turbocharged, intercooled, double overhead cams, 4-valve per cylinder breathing, aluminum head, and direct fuel injection - which Corvette only just got with the current C7. So, there!

Engine smoothness? Would never know it's a 3-banger, because thanks to an offset crankshaft design, cross-weighting of the flywheel / timing belt pulley, and softer engine mounts, the thing refuses to act like a clothes dryer with a load of wet bath towels clumped to one side of the drum.

Fuel economy is an interesting topic, right about now. Wringing the heck out the 1.0L in NYC and on the Long Island freeways, I got 32 mpg. Ford's newly revised EPA numbers are 31 city / 43 highway / 36 combined. And trust me, I wasn't trying to save fuel like I was counting pit-stops at Le Mans. So, I was pleased with my number.

Ford's original tallies were 32 / 45 / 37. But, the corrected math has an upside. It will earn buyers a $200 customer payment and leasers a $125 check.

Finally, if you fear the 1.0L 3-cylinder sounds like hyperventilating hamsters over-revving their cage wheels, fear not. This Fiesta's exhaust note has body, a bit of performance throat to it, and it's all complimented with a wisp of turbo whine. The sound system is not needed to mask anything. You actually can enjoy the sounds this little street rat makes.

And the 1.0L is available in 4-dr sedan or 5-dr hatchback bodywork.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

SUMMARY – Ford gave us a marketing card defining and celebrating things 'Small but Mighty'.

Thanks, but Mom and Dad drilled better stuff into me long ago.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0L 3-cylinder EcoBoost Turbo knows what it is, too.

And it does its thing very, very well. The car is quick, efficient, economical, stylish [Fiesta got more than a few spectator comments / approving looks]. And it's fun to drive. We didn't get lap times on our shakedown [!]. But, I will report that Fiesta 1.0L was quick enough to get us to our destinations first [before the other journalists] EVERY time.

And remember the 'Mom / Dad' list of things to do to get the best out of being small?

  • "You're going to have to work harder than the others to get the job done. But, it will be worth the effort."
  • "You're going to have to work harder to overcome perceptions. But again, it will be worth the effort."
  • "Use your strengths, do those things the best you can. That will give you a fighting chance to succeed."
  • "It will be tougher for you to get noticed, so YOU will have to make your presence known."

Fiesta 1.0L has 1, 2, and 3 covered, in my opinion. But, it's time to discuss the last one.

Because here's the only constructive criticism that comes to mind for Fiesta 1.0L. And it has nothing to do with the car, but with how to take this EcoBoost micronaut to market.

As an ex-OEM marketer, I have a thought or 2.

The presentation Ford gave us said the 1.0L sales mix of total Fiesta sales would be small. Then, there were comments about the small % of customers that still buy manual gearboxes. And that led to comments about allocations of marketing support, which will be small for the 1.0L.

But, to me, Fiesta 1.0L is not just about its absolute OR relative sales. Fiesta 1.0L, right now, is THE ULTIMATE ECOBOOST. And, as such, should be Promoted - Promoted - Promoted!

This car and engine combination are the culmination of everything Mulally's Ford Motor Company is striving to be – The people's source for realistically-sized, efficient, capable, affordable, tech-savvy, fun cars.

Whether Ford sells 5 or 50,000 1.0L, I'd market the crap out of this car, because it IS a poster child of what Ford Motor Company is doing, can do, and will do……well into the future. 1.0L is the ESSENCE for Ford.

Short Guys Get The 1.0L 3cyl Fiesta EcoBoost Turbo

They've engineered a 3-cylinder engine that fits in a suitcase, has the mere volumetric size of a soft drink purchase, and yet makes power like a Ferrari, with fuel economy rivaling hybrids. Uh, wow?

Speaking of hybrids, I had to rent a car [they gave me a Prius] to head back to Long Island a few days after Fiesta. Pretty much taking the same route. And guess what?

After I stopped pretending to be Nakajima in a TS040 Hybrid P1 at Le Mans, recapturing energy and coasting into brake zones to keep my Joules in order……. I was frustrated with the inability of Prius to corner, stop, go, and act in any way like a car I would enjoy driving.

Where the hell was my fuel-saving Fiesta 1.0L fun car when I need it?

And that's why Ford needs to loudly tell the world it can make cars like this Fiesta.