Fiesta 1.4 Zetec 3dr

It’s crunch time for the Fiesta.

It’s crunch time for the Fiesta. As with any new Ford, it comes with the weight of expectation of being billed as a future top-seller. Add the current economic crisis, and the Fiesta couldn’t have arrived at a trickier moment.

So it doesn’t only need to better its predecessor, it must rewrite the supermini rulebook. Following the sleek looks of the original Verve concept revealed at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Fiesta makes a real statement in both three and five-door forms.

Finished in bright green, our sporty three-door Zetec variant turned heads wherever it went. Without the need for back doors, the rising waistline flows into the fashionable chunky C-pillar. The shape is reflected in the angular rear lights which flank a sharp-looking tailgate. Glance at the five-door Titanium model, and you can see exactly what a wide variety of trims the new Fiesta offers. Mature, grown-up and classy, it takes on a more understated pose, which is complemented by multi-spoke wheels. Our duo proves that whether you want to stand out or blend in, there’s a Fiesta to suit.

Inside, we reckon the designers have been less successful. Again styling cues from the Verve concept appear, but some of the shapes and surfaces are convoluted. The centre console in particular has taken a leaf out of the Honda Civic’s book – and appears over-styled as a result.

Trim quality also comes up short elsewhere in the cabin. You don’t have to look far to find hard plastics, while details such as the interior door handles take a step back from the previous model. However, even though it’s virtually identical in size to the old-shape model, the new Fiesta is much more practical. Legroom is on a par with rivals, no matter how many doors you choose.

Unfortunately, Ford has applied an unimaginative approach to cabin versatility. The 295-litre boot grows to 979 litres with the seats down, yet don’t expect any folding tricks. The seatbase is fixed and the backs flop down on top, leaving plenty of useful space, but no flat load floor. You do get the same capacity in both three and five-door variants, though. Practicality isn’t significantly bettered by any one rival; we just think Ford could have done more. Head for the open road, and any voices of dissent are soon silenced. The Fiesta does for superminis what the original Focus did for compact family hatchbacks – exceeds all expectations.

As soon as you set off, every point of contact, from the pedals to the gearstick, feels perfectly placed, weighted and responsive. There’s plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel to cater for different driving positions, too.

Our three-door test model was powered by Ford’s 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit. It’s carried over from the previous Fiesta with only a mild retune, but it still delivers adequate performance. Only the high-revving Mazda 2 was quicker, although the Ford makes up for its sedate pace with polished handling dynamics. The three-door Fiesta serves up hot hatch agility as standard, and arguably offers more fun than a MINI Cooper. Even small movements of the steering wheel result in accurate and controlled cornering at almost any speed.

One gripe is that buyers are not only asked to pay £300 extra for stability control, but once fitted, the system can’t be switched off. This won’t be a problem most of the time, although the safety system is very intrusive when you’re pushing hard through bends. Climb aboard the five-door Fiesta, start the engine, and you will hear the familiar clatter of Ford’s 89bhp 1.6-litre diesel. The oil-burner doesn’t quite score so highly for its powertrain as the petrol car. The clutch, gearbox and engine simply don’t gel in such a cohesive way.

Performance is more than adequate, however, with the sprint from 0-60mph taking 12.3 seconds. In-gear punch is more than a match for diesel-powered rivals, too. If you’re going to fill your Fiesta from the black pump, chances are you will be tackling several thousand motorway miles per year. Anyone who thinks choosing a supermini as a long-distance cruiser is madness had better think again. The Fiesta devours journeys with the kind of ride comfort, refinement and economy that puts cars from the class above to shame. Over a test route that included everything from high-speed laps of a private test track to dual carriageway traffic, the five-door Fiesta managed exactly 47mpg.

For a full breakdown of the exact finances, turn to Page 52. Yet with prices starting from £8,695 for base cars, and rising to £13,695 for the flagship, there is a Fiesta for everyone. Ford has a created a hugely capable new supermini in both three and five-door form. It’s not the cheapest contender on the market – but is it the best? Read on to find out!

Details

Price: £11,495Model tested: Fiesta 1.4 Zetec 3drWHY: Mid-range petrol model scores on sporty appeal

Economy

The Ford’s £11,495 price is the highest of our three-doors. To be fair, the 2 undercut it by only £96, but the Ibiza is £1,200 less. The Fiesta’s popularity is to blame for the 42 per cent residual value – the weakest here. Fleet users will relish its 15 per cent tax rating, though, and the new car returned the best fuel economy of the three-doors, too.

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