At a recent Ford event in Denver, Colorado, we were given a first chance drive of the all-new 2014 Ford Fiesta and came away with a good impression of the car. It’s a compact five-door, of course, but it has far more style and road appeal than do many of its competitors (thanks to Ford’s new design language) along with an interior that is much larger than one might expect.

The Fiesta has three things that immediately catch the eye of the potential buyer: it’s size (which is just about right for the segment), it’s great looks, and its class-leading fuel economy.

2014 Ford Fiesta 1

The Fiesta in its standard 1.6-liter engine configuration is a good drive with great handling and feel, but barely-average MPG numbers compared to some of the competition. In the compact segment, 40 mpg has become the norm and with 39 on the highway, the Fiesta is a little short. 1 mpg may not seem like much, but the primary concern of those buying in the compact segment is fuel economy – many market metrics, including Ford’s own, attest to this. Luckily, Ford has an ace up their sleeve, that being the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine with its three cylinders of mighty performance (read more about it here). It boosts the Fiesta up to 45 mpg on the highway and 37 mpg combined, both class-leading for non-hybrid compacts.

As we drove it, the 2014 Fiesta fell in at under $20,000 and had a lot of goodies to make up for that five thousand dollar gain on the base price. With its base 1.6-liter engine, it sports 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft, which is less than the 1.0L EcoBoost will give it (that being 123 hp, 125 lb-ft). The numbers are close enough that they are comparable, however, so the upgrade to the new EcoBoost offering is mainly about gaining higher fuel efficiency.

Inside, the 2014 Fiesta is a well-conceived little car. The lack of a touch-screen does mean that there are far too many buttons on the center console, though; as if the engineers had designed for a screen and then had to make up for it not being there by putting 101 buttons in its place. There’s a keypad for dialing your phone, for hell’s sakes. At that point, distracted driving takes on a whole new metric. Seriously. On the other hand, this probably works better than Ford’s snail’s pace MySynch system.

2014 Ford Fiesta 2

Otherwise, though, the 2014 Ford Fiesta has a lot of nice little amenities for a car in this class and at this price point. Seating is comfortable, even for a large beef-eater like me, and the back seat is respectable as well. Rear cargo is much bigger than expected, thanks to the hatch and rear “bulge” design the Fiesta has.

On the road, it is a competent little goer. If you attempt to drive it like Mario Andretti, as did my companion for the test drive – the lovable old Don Bain – you’ll e disappointed. This is not a sports car. It’s a fuel-efficient compact car. Fast is a relative term and the Fiesta, well, isn’t that kind of party girl.

On the flip side, it is very easy to drive in an everyday style and highly maneuverable, thanks to its size. Steering is just stiff enough to be responsive and speed gains and freeway driving are better than a lot of the sluggish entries in this compact class.

Speaking of those, the primary competition for the 2014 Ford Fiesta are the Chevrolet Sonic (reviewed here), the Toyota Yaris, the Mazda3 (we will be testing one of these very soon), the Nissan Versa, and other similar cars from Scion, Hyundai, Kia, etc. To be frank, the only competition style-wise here is the Mazda3, but for those most interested in fuel economy, there are plenty of hybrids in this class to choose from as well. But you’ll have to pay for them.

With a good driving dynamic, nicely-tuned output from the engine, and great design, it’s hard to ignore the 2014 Fiesta. The 1.0L EcoBoost option is entering production and will become available as an option in the late spring or early summer this year.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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