Ford Fiesta 1.6 ECOnetic

The hugely popular Fiesta has a bigger, more powerful engine than the VW - but will that hurt its chances of winning this green shoot-out?

The Fiesta needs no introduction. Ford sold more than 117,000 of its class-leading supermini last year, and the green Econetic version is hugely impressive.

Although the Fiesta’s success means there are plenty on the road, familiarity hasn’t dulled the attractive hatchback’s appeal. Its sharply styled front end and rising waistline provide an athletic look. Econetic models get steel wheels with plastic trims, but we think they are smarter than the Polo’s alloy wheels.

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

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Inside, the Ford has a more youthful design, which is highlighted by the distinctive centre console. However, the Fiesta’s switchgear doesn’t match the Polo for quality. There’s no leather steering wheel, cruise control or trip computer in the Ford, either.

Getting comfortable is easy, thanks to the excellent driving position giving a wide range of adjustment. And when you fire up the 1.6-litre diesel engine, you’re greeted by a more refined soundtrack than in the Polo. The torquey powerplant outmuscles the much smaller 1.2-litre in the VW, too.

It gives 94bhp and 200Nm of torque – advantages of 20bhp and 20Nm respectively. Add lower gearing, and the consequences on the road are predictable: the Ford simply doesn’t feel like a fuel-sipping special. Mid-range punch is strong and the Fiesta is considerably faster than its rival, and more relaxing to drive as a result. The five-speed manual also has a much crisper action.

The fact Ford has carried over the supermini’s considerable dynamic ability makes it even easier to forget that this model wears an Econetic badge. The steering is full of precision and feel, the car responds accurately to inputs and it rides smoothly, despite its lowered suspension.

Through a series of corners, the ECOnetic is just as engaging to drive as other Fiestas, and delivers more grip and composure than its rival. It’s a capable cruiser, too, with a refined cabin at high speeds.

The fly in the ointment comes at the pumps, because the Ford couldn’t quite match the VW’s excellent fuel return. In our hands, it managed a solid 46mpg, which is 1.8mpg adrift. This is key in a test of eco models – although the Fiesta is still very efficient, and 98g/km emissions mean it’s also exempt from road tax. That’s impressive when you consider how good it is to drive.

The choice will depend on how much you value pure economy and the sacrifices you’re prepared to make. But either way, the Fiesta ECOnetic is a brilliant green buy.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Tuned to deliver maximum efficiency, the Fiesta is our current green supermini class leader. But now it faces its sternest test.

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