We already know the Ford Fiesta is an awesome small car when fitted with Ford's 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine; now it's time to find out if it's just as strong with a normally aspirated version of the same motor.
The Fiesta 1.0 80 is available from Zetec trim upwards, in three- and five-door forms. We're driving the five-door here (priced from £13,995) which pitches it £500 more than the same model equipped with Ford's proven 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine.
The older motor has similar power, more torque and, of course, the same amount of standard equipment – but it's less economical on paper and it can't get anywhere near the 1.0's 99g/km of CO2 emissions. Is that enough to warrant the extra expense?
What's the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 80 Zetec like to drive?
Without a turbo to help it along, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine produces a modest 79bhp (at a heady 6300rpm) and 77lb ft of torque at 4100rpm. Those figures don't sound particularly promising but in practice the motor has just about enough pep to cope.
The set-up is particularly well suited to urban roads; there's useable torque from as little as 1500rpm and providing you shift up before around 3000rpm, the engine's typical three-cylinder rumble is impressively hushed. It's not quite as refined as the 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine, though.
On more open roads the Ecoboost will get up to cruising speeds eventually, but you may find yourself thrashing it to keep up with fast-moving traffic. A motorway cruise sees the engine spinning at a heady 3500rpm, at which point the triple's grumble is a little more audible. There's also plenty of road noise.
The rest of the set-up is as strong as you'll find in most Fiestas, with a slick, precise gearshift, beautifully judged control weighs and responsive, accurate steering. The ride quality is a notch above anything else of this size, too; indeed, the Fiesta deals with speed bumps and suburban potholes more effectively than many executive saloons.
What's the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 80 Zetec like inside?
The materials on the top of the dashboard are soft and dense, with quality tailing off lower down and on the insides of the doors. Overall, the Fiesta isn’t as classy inside as a VW Polo, but the cabin is a grade or two above the new Renault Clio’s.
Zetec trim gets you a centre console plastered with too many similar-looking buttons, making it unnecessarily complicated to control the stereo. An extra £200 (or stepping up to Titanium trim) gets you a much more user-friendly layout, along with Bluetooth for making hands-free calls and streaming music from your phone.
The Fiesta’s driving position is pretty much perfect. There’s two-way steering wheel adjustment and a decent amount of seat adjustment, and well positioned pedals.
Rear legroom is on the tight side for adults, although there is a decent boot and you can flip the rear seatbacks forwards when you want to carry longer loads. Unfortunately, the rear seatbase is fixed, so the seatbacks lie at a pronounced angle when they're folded down.
Should I buy one?
If you're in the market for a small car, we'd recommend you start by looking at the Fiesta – and this version is certainly worth considering. The 79bhp engine is pretty refined and (just about) powerful enough, while retaining all of the qualities that have made the Fiesta our Small Car of the Year.
However, this version does fall awkwardly between two stools. It's only available in the more expensive trims, and we suspect that the gap in fuel economy between the 1.0 and the cheaper 1.25 will narrow in real-world use, so you'll have to be doing higher-than-average miles to claw back the extra expense (the £30 gap in annual Vehicle Excise Duty won't do it by itself).
By the same token, the turbocharged 99bhp version of the Ecoboost has similar CO2 emissions, more comfortable performance and all of the same strengths in other areas, yet costs only £500 more.
As good as this engine is, then, we'd suggest going for a 1.25 in a cheaper trim level, or finding the extra cash for the turbocharged version. This is a very good supermini – but other Fiestas are truly great.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.0-litre petrol
Price from £13,395
Torque 77lb ft
0-62mph 14.9 seconds
Top speed 103mph
Fuel economy 65.7mpg