The current Ford Fiesta has been the best-selling car in the UK ever since it was introduced in 2008. So despite the fact that almost one in four superminis sold in the UK wears a Fiesta badge, Ford has given the car a striking new look and some new technology, aimed at cementing its place at the head of the pack.
The most obvious change is the Fiesta’s new nose. It features Ford’s new 'Power Dome' bonnet, shared with the forthcoming Mondeo, and, while the upper edges of the headlamp units share the same curves as the pre-facelift car, the lights themselves are narrower and more technical looking than before.
This is thanks to the addition of LED daytime running lights, which run along the bottom edge of each headlamp. All models, from entry-level Studio, right up to the new, top-spec Titanium X trim, get a five-bar chrome grille, which sits higher up than the existing model, leaving space for the front number plate below.
Like the new bonnet, the oversized grille design is lifted straight off last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show Evos concept. Completing the new look are new tail-lights, new alloy wheel designs and new colours – including a rather nice Candy Blue, and rather less successful Copper Brown.
While we were a little sceptical of the new car’s looks on the Paris Motor Show stand, on the road, the new grille makes the car seem larger and more solid than it actually is, while the daytime LEDs and splashes of chrome brighten the car’s face, both literally and in terms of bringing the design right up to date.
The current Fiesta’s interior still looks fresh, so there aren’t any major changes to the dash or switchgear. There are some new seats, which offer excellent support and loads of adjustability, and new gloss trim around the air conditioning controls. The front door handles have been redesigned, moving the electric window switches further forward for easier use. Higher-spec cars also now get a centre console armrest which doubles as a decent sized cubbyhole. It’s just a shame that the plastic than runs from the cubby to the gearlever is made from quite thin, flexible plastic.
The Fiesta gets some interesting new tech. SYNC, Ford’s fairly intuitive voice control system for changing music tracks or calling people on the go suits the Fiesta’s youth-orientated and smartphone savvy customer base. Its most useful function is that it can read your text messages out loud, including the emoticons.
SYNC is standard on Zetec trims and above, while MyKey is standard on all cars. It lets the car’s owner set limits to certain functions of the car. Using a programmable car key, the Fiesta’s speed can be set not to exceed 80mph, the traction control can’t be deactivated, the stereo’s volume set so that it only turns up to 45 per cent of its maximum volume, and the fuel light so it comes on when range is 80 instead of 50 miles. All are features designed for parents with teenage kids in mind.
Rivalling the new nose as one of the more significant updates is the addition Ford’s three-cylinder engine. The Fiesta is the first Ford to get the entry-level non-turbo unit, but the only petrol model available for us to test was the top spec 123bhp 1.0 EcoBoost version.
We’ve already tried this engine in the Focus and B-MAX, but the Fiesta is lighter than both those, ensuring even more impressive performance. The three-cylinder is very quiet on start-up, including at the lights where the stop-start system cuts and returns power pretty smoothly, too.
Around town, you barely notice the engine’s characterful engine note, but do enjoy its decent response, even from low revs. At higher speeds, the engine remains impressively quiet – sitting at around 2,600rpm in fifth gear at 70mph, the only noise that permeates the cabin is the roar from the tyres. On a twisty road, the engine offers plenty for the keen driver, too, coming alive at around 3,000rpm and delivering both a good supply of torque and a nice, off-beat growl.
Ford has left well alone where it comes to the Fiesta’s class-leading chassis, which matches the engine with a perfect mix of sporty firmness and supple comfort. The way the Fiesta darts into corners and feels light on is feet is still what separates it from the pack.