Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

Does supermini class leader work as well in green guise?

You only have to look at the new Fiesta to understand why it has been such a phenomenal success. More than a year after its launch, it remains fresh, crisp and distinctive – and that’s also the case for the ECOnetic model.

It doesn’t have the racy alloy wheels of less eco-focused examples – you can’t even get them as an option – but the plastic trims are inoffensive, despite the skinny low-resistance tyres. And with lowered suspension to cut drag, this Fiesta has the same purposeful stance as the Zetec S.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Ford Fiesta

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The style of the outside continues inside. The modern dash and hip-hugging seats ensure the Fiesta feels more focused before you even turn a wheel. Shiny plastics at lower levels and bland, deckchair-style seat trim detract from the modern look, but Ford does fit air-con as standard.

In fact, the only major ECOnetic change inside is a green gearshift indicator in the speedo. This flashes when a computer analysing engine load, road gradient and driving style senses running in the next ratio would be more economical, and it works well.

There’s a decent amount of legroom in the back, although the boot isn’t quite so practical. It’s short and has a smaller opening than the Ibiza’s. The rear seats don’t fold flat, either, and their exposed metal backs will also get scratched over time.

There’s no shortage of capacity up front, where Ford’s engineers insisted on using the 1.6-litre TDCi, rather than the smaller 1.4-litre. This was a wise move as it delivers pulling power from little more than tickover and is responsive across the rev range. But the firm could have fitted even taller gearing – the Fiesta pulls 2,400rpm at 70mph in fifth, and feels a little bit busy.

This would also have aided fuel economy and in its time with us, the ECOnetic averaged nearly 52mpg – that’s 3mpg behind the Ibiza.

The Ford compensates on the road. It’s smooth and refined, and performance feels more punchy than the 13.1-second 0-60mph time suggests. The brilliant gearbox and progressive clutch ensure it’s much more sophisticated than its rival. Plus, the steering is light in town and well weighted at speed, and the sporty plastic wheel is great to hold.

In corners, the ECOnetic is a typical Fiesta, with crisp turn-in and great poise. Roll is well controlled and the skinny tyres do little to dent the fun factor. The pay-off is a firm low-speed ride, which is magnified by the sporty suspension – but its composure at speed is excellent. So this greenest-ever variant retains the driver appeal that makes the Fiesta such a hit. The question is whether it’s worth the price.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Green version of the UK’s best-selling car promises great efficiency. Does this take away from its driver appeal?

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