Is a Ford Fiesta a Good First Car? (incl. Ford Fiesta ST)

The Ford Fiesta is a good first car as it is inexpensive to buy, and the compactness makes it easy to drive for new drivers.

It has several pluses, but you have plenty of options in the small car segment.

ford fiesta good first car

6 Reasons to Get the Ford Fiesta for Your First Car

#1 Good Fuel Economy

EPA estimates for the sixth generation subcompact Fiesta (2011 to 2019) are 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined.

The earlier model years (2011 to 2015) of the same generation Fiesta can return marginally higher mileage, averaging 31 mpg to 33 mpg in mixed driving.

That said, some competing hatchbacks can achieve a more impressive fuel economy.

 Fuel Economy
MINI Cooper31 mpg combined
Ford Fiesta30 mpg combined
Ford Focus34 mpg combined
Toyota Yaris35 mpg combined
Honda Fit36 mpg combined
Ford Fiesta vs. other subcompacts fuel economy.

#2 Suitable Drivetrain & Power for a First Car

First cars only need an engine with sufficient power to travel from A to B as efficiently and safely as possible.

The 1.6L four-cylinder engine with a manual transmission in the Ford Fiesta is adequate for the job.

2011 to 2019 Ford Fiestas produce 120 hp.

Further, the delivery of the beginner-friendly horsepower is through a front-wheel-drive system, which is the better drivetrain for new drivers.

Rear-wheel drives are comparatively more difficult to control, while an all-wheel drive provides extra traction but is costlier to buy and maintain.

#3 Average to Solid Safety Ratings

Good first cars must provide excellent crash protection because inexperienced drivers are more likely to get into a collision.

The mediocre safety ratings for most Fiestas aren’t confidence-inspiring when many compact cars today can score full marks.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2014 to 2019 Ford Fiesta ‘Good’ in all their crashworthiness tests, except for the Small Overlap Front (driver-side), which only received a ‘Marginal’ rating.

The IIHS rating applies to the sedan and hatchback body styles.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the same Ford Fiesta 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
 Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)
Ford Fiesta3.6/44/5
Ford Focus3.8/45/5
Honda Civic4.0/45/5
Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, and Honda Civic safety ratings.

However, the 2011 to 2013 Ford Fiesta (sedan and hatchback) won the IIHS Top Safety Pick awards; they are your go-to options if you want the safest Fiesta.

The compact Honda Civic is an incredibly safe first car, judging by the numerous IIHS safety awards to date.

It deserves to make your shortlist.

#4 Easy Car to Drive & Park

Small cars with diminutive dimensions are the easiest to drive due to their weight and light steering.

Its slightly larger sibling, the Ford Focus, is an easy car to maneuver, so the smaller Ford Fiesta is the perfect vehicle in tight urban settings.

The hatchback understandably has a shorter length than the sedan, but the difference in drivability is insignificant in the subcompact Fiesta.

The Fiesta has generous-sized glass areas all around with relatively thin pillars, providing a splendid view of the road out the front.

However, the small rear window and backseat head restraints block rearward vision.

An SUV with upright styling works best for visibility, but the Fiesta’s nimbleness is a massive plus in city driving.

#5 Affordable Insurance for Teen Drivers

Vehicle model, trim, and age, plus driver profile and location, play a huge role in determining the insurance premium you pay.

For example, the most expensive city can be up to 3x the cheapest for insuring a car.

As such, requesting quotes from multiple insurers is the best way to get an accurate estimate.

That said, insurance premiums for the Ford Fiesta are some of the cheapest among small cars.

It is cheaper than the Ford Focus, Subaru Impreza, and Honda Civic – they are excellent small cars worth considering.

#6 Thoroughly Inexpensive First Car

Ford Fiestas have an attractive entry-level price tag that works well for budget-conscious buyers.

A ten-year-old Fiesta sells for around $5,000 to $7,000, depending on the car’s condition.

For comparison, a similar-age Honda Civic costs approx. 50% more and a Honda CR-V at twice the price.

2019 was the final model year for the Fiesta, so used models are your only option.

Ford Fiesta Drawbacks You Should Note

Mediocre Reliability

Ford vehicles typically aren’t as reliable as their rivals.

Consumer Reports ranked Ford #18 out of 28 automakers, and RepairPal ranked the Ford Fiesta #15 out of 21 subcompact cars in reliability.

JD Power rated the sixth-generation Ford Fiesta (up to 2019) between the 60s and 70s out of 100 – subpar and worrying when more-popular compacts from Honda, Toyota, and Mazda consistently score above 80/100.

However, Ford vehicles are showing signs of improvement in the reliability stake, so buying newer Ford models is the wiser decision.

Above-Average Maintenance Cost

The average repair and maintenance cost on a Ford Fiesta is $552 annually.

It is higher than the subcompact cars’ average of $456 per year.

Annual upkeep for the Fiesta is slightly lower than the Ford Focus ($552 to $569).

However, you’ll be paying considerably more if you compare it to cheaper-to-maintain Hondas and Toyotas.

 Maintenance Costs
Ford Fiesta$552/year
Ford Focus$569/year
Honda Fit$390/year
Toyota Yaris$333/year
Ford Fiesta vs. other small cars maintenance cost (RepairPal)

Limited Room

The backseat is tight, and trunk space is subpar, even for a subcompact.

Opting for the hatchback body style over the sedan will gain you some cargo capacity (with all seats in place).

Best Ford Fiesta Year for Your First Car

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base trim).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.Reliability
2019 Fiesta3.6/44/527/35/3074/100
2018 Fiesta3.6/44/527/35/30NA
2017 Fiesta3.6/44/527/35/30NA
2016 Fiesta3.6/44/527/35/3078/100
2015 Fiesta3.6/44/528/36/3171/100
2014 Fiesta3.6/44/528/36/3171/100
2013 Fiesta4/44/529/39/3364/100
2012 Fiesta4/44/529/38/3372/100
2011 Fiesta4/44/528/37/32NA
Ford Fiesta model years comparison.

The 2016 Ford Fiesta is probably the better model for your first car as it has the best reliability record.

According to CarComplaints, the 2013 Ford Fiesta has the most overall complaints, followed by the 2011 model.

Transmission issues (shuddering when accelerating) are the most reported problems for those two model years.

However, each used car is different with its own service history, so please inspect before buying.

Opt for 2011, 2012, or 2013 Ford Fiesta sedan or hatchback (they are IIHS’s Top Safety Pick award winners) if you want a small first car with the best crash safety.

Ford Fiesta Compared with Similar Vehicles

You have several exciting alternatives to the Ford Fiesta at a similar price range.

See how the Fiesta compares with its subcompact rivals below.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Fuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Ford Fiesta27/35/3071/100$5523.6/44/5Good
Honda Fit33/40/3679/100$3904/45/5Excellent
Toyota Yaris32/40/3580/100$3334/45/5Good
Mazda Mazda 328/36/3180/100$4334/45/5Average
MINI Cooper27/37/3183/100$8464/44/5Good
Ford Fiesta comparison with similar vehicles.

The Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Mazda 3 are compelling options in the hatchback segment.

They have higher fuel efficiency, solid reliability, and excellent safety ratings – the perfect first car if you like the hatchback body style.

Plus, the Honda Fit offers more cabin room and cargo area.

Their annual maintenance cost is considerably lower than the Ford Fiesta; the average for subcompact cars is $456 per year.

However, a vehicle’s maintenance costs vary depending on its age and service history.

Is the Ford Fiesta ST a Good First Car?

The ST is a speedier trim of the base Ford Fiesta.

In the hands of a better-skilled pilot, the Ford Fiesta ST is an excellent and fun first car.

But for most new drivers, the Ford Fiesta ST is an average choice for a first car, although it has good qualities worth emphasizing:

  • Powerful turbo engine – 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 197 horsepower.
  • Pricey – the ST is relatively expensive considering the base trim’s entry-level price.
  • Sporty handling – first cars need not be dull.
  • Strong fuel economy – only losing 1 or 2 mpg after gaining more than 70 hp over the base model is an excellent deal.
  • Compact and easy to drive – the same qualities of the Fiesta remain.

Ford Fiesta vs. Fiesta ST

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base trim).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
VehicleHorsepowerDrivetrainFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Ford Fiesta120 hpFWD30 mpg$5523.6/44/5Good
Ford Fiesta ST197 hpFWD29 mpg$552+NA4/5Good
Ford Fiesta vs. Ford Fiest ST for a first car.

Both trims are good for new drivers, although most first-time car owners should opt for a regular Ford Fiesta as it is more beginner-friendly.

The higher-priced Fiesta ST comes with performance credentials that will probably suit teen drivers who have had a couple of years of driving experience under their belt.

Still, the expensive upkeep and poor reliability should concern first car shoppers.

Cheaper and more dependable alternatives like the Honda Civic should be on your shortlist.