Ford Fiesta review
The Ford Fiesta is a supermini of rare quality beloved of keen drivers and economy-minded families alike
The Ford Fiesta is one of the best cars Ford has ever produced. It’s a truly brilliant supermini, combining a class-leading driving experience with great mpg fuel economy and a stylish, modern design to eclipse rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo.
The Fiesta has been a fixture at the top of the UK’s new car sales charts for years helped by Ford's attractive finance plans and generous equipment levels across a range that runs from the entry-level Style and Studio models through Zetec and Zetec S to the plush Titanium derivatives and the ST hot hatch. For the ultimate in Fiesta fuel-economy, there's also the 86mpg ECOnetic version.
We're not saying the Fiesta is perfect: the interior is still blighted by some cheap plastics, and while the price of entry-level cars is tempting at less than £10,000, the figure can rise quickly when you start adding some of the optional safety equipment.
Then again, the range-topping 180bhp Fiesta ST looks great value – it’s £2,000 cheaper than its main hot hatch rivals and huge fun to drive. Whichever Ford Fiesta model you go for, the baby Ford is a talented all-rounder that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the supermini class.
Our choice: 1.0T EcoBoost Zetec
Few superminis can rival the Fiesta for head-turning kerb appeal. With its mix of a rakish profile and bold detailing, it packs plenty of visual punch. And while Ford’s trademark gaping trapezoidal grille looks a little heavy-handed, it fails to detract from the car’s chic image.
All models get a body-colour finish for the door handles and mirror housings to keep up appearances. Our Zetec test model – the best seller in the range – is given an extra injection of style courtesy of its 15-inch alloys, front foglights and additional chrome trim. You’ll have to step up to a range-topping Titanium or Titanium X model if you want distinctive LED daytime running lights.
All cars have air-conditioning, electric windows and a USB connection, while the Zetec adds desirable extras such as a heated windscreen, leather steering wheel and trip computer. Also included is warm red ambient lighting, which helps give the cabin a classy feel at night. However, shamefully, Bluetooth is an extra £200 on the Fiesta – it’s standard on many rivals.
The Fiesta is equally attractive inside, where you’ll find a neatly designed and logically laid-out dashboard. Quality is good, too, with decent fit and finish, plus plenty of soft-touch materials – although some of the plastics used in the lower half of the cabin are a little hard and scratchy. There’s plenty of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, so it’s easy for drivers to get comfortable.
Amazingly, the sleek Ford Fiesta is even better to drive than it is to look at. Poised handling and excellent refinement give the car a grown-up feel.
The wide range of petrol engines comprises 60bhp and 82bhp versions of Ford’s proven 1.25-litre unit, as well as the 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost. Despite its downsized 1.0-litre capacity, this turbocharged engine has performed really well in all of our on-track performance tests. Its advantage is even more obvious in the real world, where its muscular 170Nm torque output provides confidence-inspiring overtaking pace and allows you to power up motorway inclines that left the other cars in this test struggling. Ford has also recently introduced a new non-turbocharged version of this three-cylinder engine, which costs less than the EcoBoost, but also has a lot less power, with 79bhp and a 0-62mph time of over 14 seconds. Still, even in this trim the engine is very refined, and surprisingly efficient, but you have to work the five-speed gearbox quite hard to keep it going .
The Fiesta diesel models are even more efficient – there’s a choice of a new 74bhp 1.5-litre TDCi and a 94bhp 1.6 TDCi. The 1.6-litre promises 85.6mpg economy and 87g/km emissions when fitted to the super-green Fiesta ECOnetic. A choice of manual of Powershift automatic gearboxes complete the line-up.
It’s the sharp chassis that shines brightest where the Fiesta is concerned. The electrically assisted power-steering is beautifully weighted and direct, allowing you to place the agile Ford with pinpoint accuracy. Add in the strong grip, superb body control and slick gearshift, and the standard Fiesta is as fun to drive as many hot hatches. The ST hot hatch version is better still.
Yet the really good news is that this nimble handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement. Big bumps and potholes are smoothed out by the supple suspension, while the interior is well insulated from wind and road noise. Although the EcoBoost engine emits a characterful thrum when extended, even this small petrol unit is pleasantly smooth and quiet at other times.
However, it’s the sharp chassis that shines brightest. The electrically assisted power-steering is beautifully weighted and direct, allowing you to place the agile Ford with pinpoint accuracy. Add in the strong grip, superb body control and slick gearshift, and the Fiesta is as fun to drive as many more expensive hot hatches. Yet the really good news is that this nimble handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement. Big bumps and potholes are smoothed out by the supple suspension, while the interior is well insulated from wind and road noise. And although the EcoBoost engine emits a characterful thrum when extended, it’s pleasantly smooth and quiet at all other times.
We've waxed lyrical so far but, unfortunately, Ford does still have a lot of work to do if it wants to match its rivals for reliability and durability.
The pre-facelift version of the Fiesta finished in a lowly 117th place in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, which highlights the concerns owners had about the car’s durability. Fortunately, the latest model appears to be more carefully constructed than before, plus the cabin is finished with decent-quality materials. While the EcoBoost turbos are relatively sophisticated, the engine has so far proven trouble-free.
Ford has also worked hard to improve safety, with all versions of the Fiesta now benefiting from seven airbags, stability control and hill-start assist. All this helped the car achieve a five-star Euro NCAP score. Also included is the brand’s novel MyKey technology, which allows you to program the top speed, stereo volume and electronic safety aids when an inexperienced driver is behind the wheel. The £200 Active City Stop autobrake system is also worth adding.
In isolation, the Fiesta is a versatile choice, particularly in five-door guise. However, it can’t match the clever packaging of roomy MPV-flavoured rivals like the Nissan Note and Honda Jazz for space and family-friendly practicality.
At least the Fiesta's cabin provides adequate head and legroom for rear passengers along with plenty of cubby space and a number of cup-holders. Opening the tailgate reveals a well shaped 290-litre boot, although capacity shrinks to 276 litres if you opt for a space-saver spare in place of the standard tyre foam. A 60:40 split-fold rear seat is also standard throughout the range – but it’s worth bearing in mind that, unlike with the Jazz and Note, the bench doesn’t fold completely flat.
You’d expect a supermini to be cheap to run – and the Fiesta doesn’t disappoint. Prices start at only £9,995, with our favourite Zetec version weighing in at £14,345. Better still, you should be able to haggle decent deals with your Ford dealer on most models.
On top of that, our stop-start-equipped EcoBoost model emits less than 100g/km of CO2 – as do the ECOnetic diesels – meaning a tax disc will cost nothing. Our experts predict that the Fiesta will hold on to its value reasonably well, with an estimated figure of 39.7 per cent after three years. As it’s Britain’s best-selling car, that’s not bad. Ford also offers a £550 pre-paid servicing pack, which covers scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles.