As a general rule, we like small cars, and small cars with small engines.
Eighteen months ago, when we first drove prototype versions of the 2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost, we knew we'd be eager to get our hands on the little subcompact with the turbocharged three-cylinder engine for a longer drive.
DON'T MISS: 2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost Prototype: First Drive
Now we have, and in contrast to some of Ford's larger EcoBoost cars, the 1.0-liter Fiesta delivered remarkable gas mileage: an average of 41.9 miles per gallon indicated on the car's display.
In fact, indicated fuel economy stayed between 40 and 42 mpg over 350 miles of our usual test route, which is roughly two-thirds highway and one-third around-town, stop-and-go suburban traffic at lower speeds.
2014 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost SFE, Catskill Mountains, NY, Jun 2014Enlarge Photo
The 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine and five-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission offered with that engine) is EPA-rated at 37 mpg combined (32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway).
And despite a relatively small 12.4-gallon gas tank, the Fiesta still had a quarter of a tank left after our 350 miles--and an indicated total range of 482 miles. That's getting up into diesel-range territory.
Overall, our Fiesta EcoBoost proved to be not only fuel-efficient but also fun to drive.
We used it as we would any small car, shifting as necessary to keep up with traffic, but keeping it in high gear--and, often, using the cruise control--on longer highway stretches.
Ford's 1.0-Liter EcoBoost EngineEnlarge Photo
The three-cylinder has an interesting engine note that sets it apart from the otherwise indistinguishable sounds of every other four-cylinder subcompact on the market.
It's slightly irregular, though not disturbingly so, and spools up into a kind of thrumming sound as engine speed rises. If maximum power is demanded at low revs, a different kind of rumbling sound comes from under the hood--along with a noticeable lack of any increased forward motion.
And that brings home one of the truths of small engines: You may have to drive them hard, and shift a lot, to keep up with traffic.
We quickly learned to ignore the shift light, a thankfully small up-arrow in the instrument cluster that appeared to come on whenever engine revs exceeded about 2100 rpm (unless the driver's foot was off the accelerator, meaning fuel supply was cut off).
On even the slightest of uphill roads, upshifting from 2100 rpm to perhaps 1650 rpm simply eliminated the possibility of any acceleration--to increase speed, we quickly learned to downshift once, if not twice.
2014 Ford Fiesta 5dr HB Titanium Gear ShiftEnlarge Photo
And driven that way, the Fiesta with the littlest engine kept up with traffic just fine.
The gearbox action is smooth, with a clearly defined shift gate that never once had us in the wrong gear. While we expected the five-speed box to be one gear short, it proved just fine, with sensibly spaced ratios that eliminated the need for a sixth gear.
There's also a hill hold for stopping on sloping roads that proved unexpectedly useful in the hilly Catskill Mountains. It's a feature we've always liked, but with so few manual-gearbox cars around, we tend to forget about it until it appears.
Random driving notes
Inside, the "medium light stone cloth" upholstery for the SE model proved comfortable, with excellent bolstering once we got the six-way driver's seat properly adjusted.