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Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCi

On paper, the Fiesta enters this contest as the clear favourite for victory.

The practical five-door version of Ford’s supermini has set new standards in this sector, and is our undefeated class champion, thanks to its combination of eye-catching looks, a practical interior and entertaining driving dynamics.

But the Ford can’t rest on its laurels, particularly when faced with stiff competition from diesel versions of the revised Clio and talented 207.

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So, will the entry-level oil-burner maintain the Fiesta’s unbeaten road test record?

Well, there’s no denying the car’s visual appeal is undiminished. To our eyes, the head-turning Ford’s mix of curves and creases sets the styling benchmark in this sector. Go for our Zetec test model, and the lines are enhanced by subtle chrome detailing and smart eight-spoke alloy wheels.

Inside, the designers have been equally bold. The swooping dashboard design, mobile phone-inspired centre console and perfect driving position are highlights, while the standard ambient lighting pack bathes the interior in a warm red glow at night.

Form doesn’t come at the expense of function, though, because the Fiesta serves up decent versatility despite the fact that it’s the shortest and narrowest car in this test. As with the new Renault, it will accommodate five adults at a squeeze, while the load bay can swallow an impressive 295 litres of luggage.

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That’s not to say the cabin is without fault. Some of the plastics used on the bottom half of the dashboard feel cheap, and practicality is hindered by a rear bench that doesn’t fold completely flat.

Keen drivers will also be disappointed by the Fiesta’s straight-line performance – the diesel engine falls some way short of the pace set by the more powerful Renault.

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However, as it tips the scales at 1,030kg, the Ford is decisively faster than the 207 – which is fitted with the same powerplant, but is 213kg heavier. The Fiesta is also more refined than either rival, both around town and at motorway speeds. Only on steep inclines and when overtaking does its lack of zest become frustrating.

But we have no complaints about the sparkling chassis. Regardless of the type of road you’re driving on, any journey in the Fiesta is an event to be relished. The steering is direct and provides masses of feedback, the gearbox has a snappy and precise action and the body control is superb. Ride comfort is excellent, too, and the Ford is unfazed by even the roughest surfaces. It’s this mix of agility and composure that really impresses, making the Zetec a car that can always match your mood.

However, your temper could be tested by the Ford’s price tag. It weighs in at £14,295 – that’s £375 more expensive than the faster and equally well equipped Renault. So, the question is whether the Fiesta can overcome this disadvantage with its long list of talents.

In detail

Price: £14,295

Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 67bhp

0-60mph: 14.4 seconds

AE economy: 41.4mpg

Euro NCAP rating: Five stars

Why? The five-door Fiesta has yet to be beaten on test. Do its sparkling driving dynamics live on in the entry-level diesel?

 

Details

Chart position: 1
WHY: Does class leader make sense in entry-level diesel form?

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