Ford Fiesta review
The Ford Fiesta is a top class supermini that appeals to enthusiastic drivers and economy-minded families alike
The Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s best-selling car for years, and since its introduction in 1976 more than four million examples have found homes in the UK. Designed to take on small car rivals such as the VW Polo, Peugeot 208, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa, the Fiesta combines decent practicality and low running costs with engaging driving dynamics and distinctive styling.
As with all Ford models, there’s wide range of trim levels to choose from, including Studio, Style, Zetec, Zetec S, Titanium, Titanium X, Red and Black Editions and ST. All models get the same rakish and head-turning exterior styling and are available in either three or five-door guise – apart from the Red/Black and ST, which are three door only.
Zetec models and above get alloy wheels and extra chrome trim, the Zetec S gets larger wheels and a subtle bodykit and the Titanium and Titanium X models are identified by their rear privacy glass. You won’t miss the Red and Black models that, as their names suggest, feature bold two-tone colour schemes (black with a red roof on the Black, and red with a black roof on the Red). Finally, the ST gets an aggressive bodykit, bigger wheels and a twin-exit exhaust.
Inside, the Ford Fiesta is neatly designed and robustly constructed. The use of some low rent plastics means it can’t match the VW Polo for upmarket appeal, but the Ford’s cabin is easy to use and comfortable.
The entry-level Studio is sparsely equipped, but Style models and above get air-conditioning and remote central locking, while the Zetec adds Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio, heated windscreen and ambient lighting. The Titanium adds powerfold mirrors, cruise control and automatic lights and wipers, while the Titanium X benefits from a rearview camera, keyless entry and part leather trim.
All versions offer decent practicality, with decent head and legroom in the back – although it can’t match the roomy Skoda Fabia and Nissan Note in this respect – and a 290-litre boot. The interior also gets lots of handy storage, including a number of cupholders, decent-sized door bins and large glovebox.
If you love driving, then the Ford Fiesta is one of the most entertaining small cars money can buy. With its quick steering, strong grip and unshakable poise, the Ford is huge fun to drive on twisting back roads. It’s just as home in town, thanks to its light controls and decent visibility, while low noise levels make it a comfortable cruiser.
There’s also a wide range of engines, from the smooth and efficient three-cylinder petrols, through to the economical diesels and the fire-breathing 180bhp 1.6-litre turbo in the ST.
Our choice: Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost Zetec 5dr
Engines, performance and drive
The Fiesta has a reputation for delivering fun handling and an entertaining drive, and it can still show its most recent competitors a thing or two about driver involvement.
The wide range of petrol engines available on the Ford Fiesta comprises of 60bhp and 82bhp versions of Ford’s proven 1.25-litre petrol unit, as well as the 99bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost. Despite its downsized 1.0-litre capacity, this petrol engine's muscular 170Nm torque output provides confidence-inspiring overtaking pace and allows you to power up motorway inclines that would leave some of its rivals struggling.
The Red and Black Editions, with the 138bhp 1.0 EcoBoost engine are seriously impressive. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 9 seconds, with fuel economy of more than 60mpg. It works as a nice bridge between the 125PS Zetec S model and the full-blown ST.
Ford has also recently introduced a new non-turbocharged version of this three-cylinder engine to the Fiesta range - it 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 slick-shifting five-speed gearbox quite hard to keep it going.
Ford also offers the Fiesta with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox on Zetec, Zetec S and Titanium X models. These auto 'box cars are powered by the 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit or 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engine - it's just a shame that the Ford gearbox is nowhere near as refined as the Volkswagen dual-clutch DSG unit. What’s more, manual shifts are only available via a tiny and counter intuitive rocker switch mounted on the lever.
The Ford Fiesta diesel models are even more efficient than their petrol counterparts – there’s a choice of a new 74bhp 1.5-litre TDCi and a 94bhp 1.6 TDCi. The 1.6-litre promises an economy of 85.6mpg with 87g/km emissions. Badged as an Econetic, it’s available on all variants, apart from the Red/Black models and the ST.
It’s the sharp chassis that shines brightest where the Ford 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 Ford Fiesta is as fun to drive as many hot hatches. The ST hot hatch version is even better, thanks to its meaty steering, strong grip and acrobatic agility.
The really good news surrounding the Ford Fiesta is that this nimble handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement – except maybe in the ST. Big bumps and potholes are smoothed out by the supple suspension, while the interior is well insulated from wind and road noise. The ST tends to be much more uncomfortable and noisier, which is why the Red and Black Editions provide a nice middle ground. Although the little Ford EcoBoost engine emits a characterful thrum when extended, even this small petrol unit is pleasantly smooth and quiet at other times.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
A supermini should be cheap to run and happily, the Ford Fiesta doesn’t disappoint. Prices start at around £10,000 with our favourite Zetec version weighing in at just £14,000. Better still, you should be able to haggle decent deals with your Ford dealer on most models.
Additionally, the stop-start-equipped Ford Fiesta EcoBoost emits less than 100g/km of CO2 – as do the ECOnetic diesels – meaning a tax disc will cost nothing. You can also expect to return at least 40mpg in the petrol models and in excess of 60mpg in the diesels.
Our experts predict that the Ford 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.
Interior, design and technology
As it’s such a common sight in the UK, it’s a good job the Fiesta has a rather striking design. The overall style is sporty and dramatic when compared to its closest rivals rivals, with a rising waistline that gives the Ford a rakish profile.
The Zetec - the best selling model in the Ford Fiesta range - gets some extra glamour courtesy of its 15-inch alloys, front foglights, additional chrome trim and body-coloured door handles and mirrors as standard kit. Distinctive LED daytime running lights feature on all versions, apart from the entry-level Studio.
In the middle of 2014, Ford released Red and Black Edition versions of the Fiesta. These get a 138bhp 1.0 EcoBoost engine and a styling makeover that is based around either red or black paint. The Black Edition gets a mostly black body, set off by red wing mirrors, a red roof and red accents around the grille. The Red Edition is essentially the reverse. They get some sporty interior updates, too, like red stitching and sports seats.
At the top of the range is the Fiesta ST hot hatch. Featuring an aggressive bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels and a smattering of ST logos, it makes no bones about its performance potential.
Every Ford Fiesta, gets electric windows and a USB connection as standard, while Style adds air-con, remote central locking and body colooured door mirrors and handles. The Zetec gets all this kit, plus desirable extras such as a heated windscreen, leather steering wheel and trip computer. Ford also includes warm red ambient lighting, which helps give the cabin a classy feel at night. However, Ford charges an extra £200 for Bluetooth and a DAB radio on the entry-level Studio.
The Ford 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.
The chunky rotary controls for the air-con are rugged, too, and would feel more at home in an off-roader than in a city car. Blocky blue LCD displays in the Fiesta also look quite dated when compared to the colour screens and white-on-black read-outs found in newer rivals. There’s plenty of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, so it’s easy for drivers to get comfortable. ST models benefit further from figure-hugging Recaro seats.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite its neat dimensions, the Ford Fiesta is a versatile choice, particularly in five-door form. However, it can’t match the clever packaging of roomy MPV-inspired rivals like the Nissan Note and Honda Jazz for space and family-friendly practicality.
The Ford Fiesta gets adequate head and legroom for rear passengers, and lots of thought has gone into the interior, where you’ll find plenty of storage cubbies and a number of cup-holders.
Open the tailgate, and there’s a 290-litre boot when you stick with the standard repair foam; this drops to 276 litres if you specify the £100 space saver. With the seats down there are 974 litres to play with, but the high load lip and narrow tailgate mean the Fiesta has somewhat restricted versatility.
Reliability and Safety
The Ford is a volume seller and has been around for a few years, but owner satisfaction levels are actually on the up. After placing 117th in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey and 78th in 2014, the Ford jumped to 52nd place in 2015. Drivers praised the Ford’s handling, technology and ease of driving, plus the ranked it 41st out of 200 for reliability. There was a lower score for build quality, but considering Fiestas are churned out in their thousands every month, general quality is pretty good.
There are seven airbags as standard and it has tyre-pressure monitors, too. The Zetec version features Ford’s SYNC system with emergency assistance, which can call the emergency services in the event of a collision. Active City Stop, which detects the possibility of a low-speed collision, is available as a £200 option on Zetec models and above. The Fiesta’s relatively small wing mirrors are a minor gripe, though, as they can create large blind spots if they’re not adjusted precisely.