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2013 ford fiesta sfe

In years past, shopping for a subcompact car often meant putting your expectations for comfort, amenities and style aside in the interest of a low price and good fuel economy.

The 2013 Ford Fiesta is one of several cars in the class that break out of that mold. While the Fiesta may be affordable and fuel efficient, it’s also good looking, roomy and relatively entertaining to drive, even the base models. A long list of standard and available features make stepping down into the Ford Fiesta feel, in many ways, like a step up.

It’s hard to miss the car’s sensible size (near ideal in an urban environment) and European-derived styling, which make it stand out in a sea of more conventional designs. Though power output is a modest 120-horsepower from the car’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, it’s diminutive size and light curb weight (roughly 2,600 pounds) make the car feel nimble, though those who truly enjoy driving will be happier with the five-speed manual transmission than with the six-speed PowerShift automatic.

The car’s light weight helps with fuel economy, too, and the Fiesta returns an impressive 33 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 39 mpg highway). Opt for the fuel-saving Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package, and highway fuel economy creeps to 40 mpg, though combined and city numbers remain the same.

On the outside, you have your choice of a distinctive hatchback or a slightly awkward four-door sedan derivative (needed for North America, where supposed distaste for hatchbacks is disproven by sales numbers--but sedans are still required). Inside, the Fiesta could be a car costing thousands more. Since premium materials are out of the Fiesta’s price range, Ford does an exceptional job of working with colors, textures and shapes to keep the inside interesting. Front-seat passengers will enjoy ample head and leg room, but only those of modest inseam will be happy in the second row. As with others in the Fiesta’s class, the two-adult-sized second row is best used for cross-town, not cross-country, trips.

As you’d expect of a car at the Fiesta’s price point, there are compromises. There’s plenty of hard plastic on the dash (which seems to offend car reviewers more than car shoppers), engine noise is noticeable under hard acceleration and the ride can be choppy on rough highways. None of these are deal-breakers, especially in light of the car’s primary economical-people-mover mission.

To simplify ordering for 2013, Ford now builds both the Fiesta hatchback and sedan in three trims, with consolidated option packages. Opt for the entry-level Fiesta S hatchback, which starts at $14,995, and you’ll still get features like air conditioning and a 40-watt audio system with an auxiliary input. Stepping up to the SE trim level (priced from $16,995) gets you keyless entry, power windows, an upgraded audio system with steering wheel controls, a trip computer and Ford’s Sync voice-activated connectivity system.

Finally, the range-topping Titanium trim (priced from $18,995) gives you painted alloy wheels, LED running lamps, heated mirrors, heated leather seats, push-button start and ambient lighting. If you can live with the sedan version of the Fiesta, each version will cost you $1,000 less.

For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Ford Fiesta on our sister site, TheCarConnection.