2014 Ford Fiesta review:

The little Fiesta gets Ford's big-time tech

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MyFord Touch standard
The Fiesta faces plenty of competition from the likes of the Chevy Sonic, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris. So how does it distinguish itself from the horde of sub-$20,000 subcompacts? Ford brought its big cabin tech gun to bear for the 2014 model, fitting the Fiesta with a 6.5-inch touch screen showing MyFord Touch, Ford's interface for infotainment electronics. Similar to the grille styling, the inclusion of MyFord Touch brings the Fiesta in line with Ford's other models.

2014 Ford Fiesta
MyFord Touch's stereo screen lists all the many audio sources down its left side. James Martin/CNET

The Titanium trim meant MyFord Touch was included as standard, along with an upgraded Sony audio system. Although Ford doesn't specify wattage for this system, I counted eight speakers around the cabin. The sound quality was very satisfying, with a rich frequency response. Bass came through with a moderate amount of power, but lacked a really strong punch, while treble was reproduced with good clarity.

It isn't true audiophile quality, but the sound is far better than what you often get in this class.

When MyFord Touch first came out a few years ago, it was a little buggy, but this latest version in the Fiesta responded very well to touch-screen input. This interface uses a quadrant paradigm, putting each major cabin tech feature -- phone, stereo, navigation, and settings -- in a corner of the screen.

Ford offers a ton of audio sources in MyFord Touch, and I particularly like that all those sources are shown on the stereo screen. Most infotainment systems from other manufacturers tend to put radio and in-car audio under separate entries, following the legacy structure of broadcast radio versus CD or tape deck. I think it makes much more sense to show all the audio sources, whether broadcast or stored, on the same level. On the Fiesta's stereo screen, I could choose AM, HD FM, and satellite radio, or Bluetooth streaming. I could also select whatever device was plugged into either of the car's two USB ports.

2014 Ford Fiesta
The Fiesta's new grille matches that of other cars in Ford's lineup. James Martin/CNET

Thanks to Ford's Sync system, the Fiesta gets the best voice command system in the business. I could use it to initiate phone calls by saying a contact's name from my Bluetooth-paired phone, and tell it to play any music file from a USB drive or iOS device plugged into the car. Few other voice command systems offer this much control.

One key Ford feature this Fiesta lacked was Sync AppLink, Ford's system for integrating apps with the car. Ford has not yet worked out how to integrate both MyFord Touch and AppLink, so those features end up being an either-or proposition. To get AppLink, and be able to use its 30-plus apps integrated with the car, I would have to choose the Fiesta in SE trim or lower, and not choose MyFord Touch as an option.

The navigation system, which resides on an SD card, was included as an option in this Fiesta. I like how Ford made navigation a plug-in option, but it suffers from a few problems. It shows perspective and plan-view maps overlaid with live traffic, but they render too slowly. Especially in a crowded downtown area, I watched as the map slowly filled in the screen. With most systems, the maps render almost instantaneously. Likewise, it was occasionally slow to recompute a route.

This system also seems to lack a dead-reckoning feature, which would use an accelerometer or vehicle telemetry data to guess the car's location on the map when it loses its GPS lock. Driving through a forest, the system showed the car driving off the road, and when I went into a tunnel, the map pretty much froze.

2014 Ford Fiesta
The optional navigation system doesn't work as well as a portable or the one on your smartphone. James Martin/CNET

When the system can keep up, its route guidance is good, as it can read out street names for upcoming turns and avoid bad traffic problems. I especially like that, with voice command, I can enter addresses by saying the entire street address in one string. Every time I entered an address with voice command, the car got it right.

One piece lacking from the navigation puzzle is any kind of online local search, either through Google or Bing. However, Sync does offer a voice-based telematics system that includes location help and emergency services.

The inclusion of MyFord Touch in the 2014 Ford Fiesta gives this subcompact a much-needed navigation option, even if it is flawed, helping it keep up with the competition. Sync remains the Fiesta's most compelling feature, offering phone and MP3 device connectivity -- with voice command -- unmatched by other cars. The dual USB ports is a nice and convenient touch.

The Sony audio upgrade also makes a nice addition to the Fiesta.

As for the drivetrain and performance features, the Fiesta doesn't show much tech flair, but it does get good fuel economy. The five-speed manual transmission feels a little primitive. The PowerShift transmission would be the techier option, and it brings in higher fuel economy.

You may want to wait for the EcoBoost option, which should be coming early next year. Although it uses only a 1-liter engine, it produces significantly more power than the 1.6-liter. Ford has not released fuel economy numbers for the EcoBoost engine yet, but its highway mileage should hit the low 40s.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback
Trim Titanium
Power train 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 34.1 mpg
Navigation Flash memory-based with live traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, SD card, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system Sony 8-speaker system
Driver aids Rearview camera
Base price $14,000
Price as tested $19,095

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