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2012 Ford Fiesta ReviewThe Good
A surprisingly well-wrought cabin, compelling agility and ride characteristics, wallet-friendly gas mileage, a quality fit and finish and a plethora of techno-goodies in the higher trims make the 2012 Ford Fiesta a worthy choice for the small family or the frugal commuter.The Bad
The lack of a factory-installed navigation system exacerbates such shortfalls as cramped rear seating, some illogically placed controls, tepid acceleration with the available 6-speed auto-manual transmission and a Spartan Base trim.
The CarGurus View
Perhaps not as refined as some, the 2012 Ford Fiesta lineup nevertheless stands out in a niche woefully short on pulse-pounding performance, edgy design and all-around versatility. This little sedan/hatchback combo is one of the reasons that Ford has managed to avoid the stigma of near-destitution and remains a popular choice for the more budget-conscious driver with a yen for a bit of panache and some plain old fun on the way to work.
At a Glance
Ford has a winner with the 2012 Fiesta lineup. This little 5-passenger subcompact, offered in both a sedan version and five-door hatchback guise, remains pretty much unchanged from 2011 and is certainly easy on the eyes and on the fuel budget. Don’t be fooled by its oh-so-innocent appearance, though. Both versions offer plenty of techno-gizmos in the higher trims, and, surprising in their class, both are claimed to be a hoot to drive. The sedan trims offers a somewhat cramped 12.8 cubic feet of trunk space, but the hatchback opens up a respectable 26 cubic feet of cargo area with the rear seats folded. Until the Fiesta arrived in 2010, most folks perceived the sub-compact as a necessary evil in trying to squeeze a few extra miles out of a tank of gas. Ford’s small family-car-cum-commuter represents what many reviewers note may be the most utilitarian vehicle of them all.
In its sedan cloak, the 2012 Fiesta can be delivered in the base S, midlevel SE or top-shelf SEL trim, while the hatchback version comes in either the SE or upscale SES variation. All are front-wheel-drive only, all offer the same inline 4-cylinder (I4) powerplant, and each is available with the choice of a standard 5-speed manual transmission or dual-clutch auto-manual transmission. Curiously, unlike most auto-manual transmissions, the Fiesta’s 6-speed doesn’t offer a true manual shifting mode, a fact that sits uncomfortably with a few reviewers.
In any case, since its debut, Ford’s scrunched-up sedan/hatchback duo has battled Honda’s well-received Fit hatchback, and lags its Asian rival in overall refinement and cabin ambiance. The Fiesta does, however, offer a bit more driving pizzazz and a lower initial cost, with its base MSRP hovering around $13,200. If some extra tire-kicking is in order, however, Chevy’s comparably priced Aveo sedan, Hyundai’s competent Accent sedan or hatchback, the quirky Nissan Cube hatchback and the even quirkier Kia Soul ought to be on the list.
Only a single 1.6-liter I4 engine is offered for the entire 2012 Fiesta lineup. Standard with the four-banger is a 5-speed manual transmission, with a dual-clutch 6-speed auto-manual transmission available for all trims. No matter the transmission, Ford’s front-wheel-drive-only (FWD) subcompact puts out 120 hp at 6,350 rpm and 112 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. Expect, therefore, to do little trailer-towing with this pint-size commuter car. Do expect, however, nearly hybrid-like mileage figures of 29 mpg city/37 highway with the stick shift and 30/40 with the auto-manual transmission, numbers that are near the top of its class. Meanwhile, a driver-selectable “low” setting in the non-shiftable auto-manual transmission is mentioned by a few reviewers as a handy item for providing a quicker response in all driving situations.
Most reviewers find the Fiesta’s four-banger perfectly adequate for most driving situations, though a bit of foresight is recommended in passing and merging on the highway. The 5-speed stick is admired by several reviewers for its tight throw, shallow clutch and precise response. The 6-speed auto-manual, on the other hand, leaves a bit to be desired in its tendency to overstay its welcome in the higher gears at low speeds, and will, according to several reviews, necessitate a bit of getting used to in momentarily resisting a prudent downshift when needed. Finally, reviewers note a bit of ruckus from the four-banger on middling-to-hard acceleration, but find it calms down nicely at cruising speeds. One test of the I4 has it going from 0-60 in a somewhat pokey 9.5 seconds, but then this little chariot isn’t exactly a Lotus. Finally, tire kickers should be aware that the Fiesta is available only in front-wheel drive (FWD).
Ride & Handling
Lauded by virtually all reviewers for its nifty handling characteristics, the 2012 Fiesta offers what most call the most responsive electronic power steering in its class. Complementing the balanced feel of the wheel is a front independent suspension with MacPherson front struts, front and rear stabilizer bars and a rear torsion bar suspension system that reduces body lean to nearly zero in fast corners, yet still offers a silky, if not quite plush ride.
The Fiesta S and SE trims offer 15-inch steel wheels, with the SEL sedan and SES hatchback boasting 16-inch painted alloy wheels and all-season radial tires. Reviewers note that road imperfections are by and large well damped no matter the tire size, with several reviews rating the Fiesta’s ride superior to that of Honda’s well-wrought Fit, though the Fit Sport trim may trump the Fiesta in pure agility. Finally, the Fiesta’s braking system is lauded by virtually all reviewers as powerful and true, with no noticeable pedal anomalies.
Cabin & Comfort
Though the 2012 Fiesta’s higher trims are laudably well-equipped, the base S sedan version offers somewhat less elaborate fixings. Cloth upholstery, power door locks and mirrors, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, a trip computer and air conditioning are all standard with the Fiesta S sedan, with the standard front floor mats perhaps providing a modicum of class. Standard entertainment features, meantime, encompass only an AM/FM stereo with four speakers and an auxiliary audio input jack.
Moving up to the SE trim in both the sedan and hatchback versions begets premium cloth upholstery, power windows, simulated alloy door and dash trim, a simulated alloy steering wheel, a single-CD player and phone pre-wiring. The hatchback SE also comes with a standard integrated rear spoiler.
Finally, the Fiesta SEL sedan and SES hatchback additionally offer standard heated outside mirrors, cruise, a leather and simulated alloy steering wheel mounting audio and cruise controls, and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror. Entertainment in the flagship trims is bolstered by 80 watts of audio power, Sirius satellite radio and a USB connection.
Options across the Fiesta trim spectrum include a very cool, customizable Tattoo Graphics package, remote keyless entry, front and rear carpeted floor mats, remote engine start, heated front seats and upgraded 15- and 16-inch painted aluminum wheels. SE and higher trims offer, besides a rear deck-lid spoiler, leather-trimmed, two-tone upholstery, Ford’s popular SYNC hands-free audio setup, and, for the SE trim versions, the 80-watt audio system that’s standard in the SEL sedan and SES hatchback trims.
Regarded by most reviewers as more occupant-friendly than is traditional for its class, the 2012 Fiesta’s cabin boasts clear gauges with most, though not all controls are logically located and well-marked. Extra padding on parts of the dash and on armrests is complemented by hard plastics that, according to nearly all reviewers, are surprisingly pleasant in both appearance and fit. Headroom is generous in front for average-size adults, though legroom is cramped for 6-footers, and the lack of a center armrest irks a few reviewers. Rear-seat occupants, alas, even average-size adults, will find legroom at a premium if the front seats are pushed only halfway back, say most reviewers. Seats are described by most reviews as comfortable and reasonably supportive, while visibility is noted as excellent all around in the sedan, but not quite as good in the hatchback with its expansive rear roof pillars. Many reviews make much of the fact that two-tone upholstery is available in some color combinations and that the pseudo-alloy accents in the higher trims give the Fiesta’s interior a bit of added posh.
As one of the more safety conscious subcompacts on the market, the 2012 Fiesta boasts seven airbags, including front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags and a first-in-class driver’s knee airbag. Four-wheel antilock (ABS) front disc/rear drum brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution as well as traction and stability control also come standard throughout the lineup, as does a post-collision safety system. Additionally, Ford’s standard 911 Assist feature automatically alerts local emergency services in the event that a collision incapacitates occupants. This unique system activates when either the airbags deploy or by automatic fuel-pump shutoff. Finally, the top-shelf SEL sedan and SES Hatchback also sport standard turn-signal-integrated mirrors.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2012 Fiesta its second-highest four-star rating in overall safety, as well as in front impact and rollover protection. Side-impact protection is given its highest five-star rating.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the virtually identical 2011 Fiesta one of its Top Safety Picks, earning their highest score of Good in front and side impact testing as well as roof-strength tests.
What Owners Think
A lack of acceleration tops the list of owner complaints with the 2012 Fiesta. What are thought to be poorly positioned headrests and too-short seat cushions also discomfit a number of owners. Further glitches that owners mention are poor rearward visibility in the hatchback trims, a lack of accuracy regarding gas mileage in the trip computer, the unavailability of an integrated navigation system and the fact that this subcompact sits so low to the ground as to cause a bit of worry about bottoming out.
On a more positive note, owners laud the fuel efficiency in the four-banger, with some calling it best-in-class. Cabin comfort, exterior styling, a livable base price and a cornucopia of standard and optional techno-gizmos in the higher trims also have most owners effusive in their praise. Finally, numerous owners give kudos to Ford’s nifty little Fiesta for its sporty handling, quiet cabin and over-the-top safety scores, and more than a few are perfectly at ease with the hatchback’s added cargo capability.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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Ford Fiesta Questions
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