If you're looking for a second-hand supermini boasting the latest design and technology, you can't get much fresher than the Ford Fiesta. Launched in April 2002, the model was brand new from the ground up.
Its straight-edged styling looks modern, while fine chassis dynamics and a variety of engines made the car good to drive. On the inside, the simple but tough interior was capable of coping with the rigours of everyday life.
The Fiesta makes even more sense used. As it's one of the UK's top-selling superminis, supply is plentiful, while a range of trim and engine options ensures there's a car for all budgets.
The bargain baby may not be the most exciting Ford, but with insurance ratings as low as group two, as well as readily available spares, it will be very cheap to run - and an ideal first car.
* Steering: the front wheels can lose their alignment easily, causing vibration through the steering wheel. Check that this hasn't resulted in uneven tyre wear, too.
* Engine: problems with the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) can lead to engine hesitation or misfires, but dealers will provide updated software to rectify the problem.
* Bodywork: check for stone chips on the leading edge of the bonnet, as the paintwork can be quite easily damaged by debris. However, rust remains a very rare problem, even on early examples.
* Windscreen: some owners have reported difficulties with the rubber trim around the Fiesta's windscreen. The fault can result in excessive wind noise and minor leaks.
* Doors: the door and boot release mechanisms have been known to fail on early examples, although all faulty items should have been replaced under warranty.
As with most modern Fords, the Fiesta is fun to drive. Light steering and pedals make it a good novice choice, but on a winding road, the handling matches the class leaders'. While smaller petrol cars are adequate, the 1.4 TDCi diesel is our favourite, as it provides great economy and acceptable performance.
The driving position is comfortable for most, but the seats don't offer the best support. And while the Fiesta has a generous boot for its size, especially with the rear seats folded, the lack of an external boot release can be a pain.
Demand for small cars is strong, and the Fiesta is no exception. It has built respect among buyers, and as a result its loyal following has ensured used values hold up well. In the trade, well equipped variants are easiest to sell on. Low-spec models are often shunned by customers, so bargains can be found for those drivers who want affordability over luxury. Surprisingly, despite the appeal of diesel Fiestas, they do not command a price premium over their petrol counterparts. Jeff Paterson, senior editor, Glass's Guide
Life With A Fiesta
The Fiesta is a good basic car, which is fine with me, as it means there's not much that can go wrong. I have found it cheap to run and easy to maintain. Oonagh Maclnnes, Hopetoun, Edinburgh
It's a nippy little car which has returned decent fuel consumption. My Fiesta is perfectly capable of keeping up with other traffic on the motorway, and it's very comfortable inside as well. Anthony Carter, East Sussex
The Ford Fiesta has proved to be a reliable workhorse, and its sheer flexibility is enough to satisfy the most demanding supermini owners. There are only minor shortcomings to report, and our long-termer hasn't been back to the dealer once - which is no more than we would expect from the blue oval's finest. The interior is thoroughly practical, even if the overall look and feel are rather uninspiring. The plastic has a low-budget appearance, but it's well put together.