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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For The Fiesta is fun to drive, cheap and has plenty of space

Against Common image, seats and cabin trim a little boring

Verdict Low running costs make it a low-risk buy

Go for… 1.25 Style Climate 5dr

Avoid… 1.3 Finesse 3dr

Ford Fiesta Hatchback
  • 1. The instrument panel can fail suddenly on 2002 models but the fault is usually picked up under warranty
  • 2. The water pump is a known weak spot – listen for grumbles and groans as the engine idles
  • 3. It's so simple to maintain that you can trust any reputable garage with the work - and keep your costs down
  • 4. Faulty pollen filter seals can let rainwater into the front footwells, so check for any signs of dampness
  • 5. The boot is a fair size for a supermini and a sensible shape
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Ford Fiesta Hatchback full review with expert trade views

It's top fun to drive, and that makes it special. No other supermini is as neat and nimble on the road.

As a package, pretty much everything else stacks up, too. There's plenty of space for the driver and front passenger, and it's a cinch to get comfortable behind the wheel. Room in the back is good, too, while the boot is a fair size and a sensible shape. Only the rather cheap look to the dash puts you off.

A good view out and direct steering allow you to make short work of town jams, and most models have enough oomph to shrug off a motorway dash, although they're a bit noisy while they do it. The Fiesta rides firmly but there's still enough give in the suspension to keep the passengers comfortable.

It's a reliable car, yet the spares are cheap when you need them. Perhaps the best news for would-be owners is that it's so simple to maintain that you can trust any reputable garage with the work.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong demand for both diesels and petrols, The 1.25 Zetec five-door with air-con is the one

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The 1.3 engine in the older models is best avoided: it's coarse, slow and thirsty. The 75bhp 1.25 is much better, with enough power to make the Fiesta fun and our favourite all rounder. The 90bhp 1.4 is faster, but costs more to run and isn’t such good value on the used market.

Other than these, there are also a 99bhp 1.6 (which is scarce on the second-hand market) and the 148bhp 2.0 in the ST hot hatch. There are also two 1.4 turbodiesels - the 67bhp version needs revving hard, but the 89bhp unit pulls well. All have manual gearboxes as standard, but you may be able to find the smooth auto that was optional with the 1.4 petrol.

The range was face-lifted in 2005, with new headlamps and extra equipment, and if your budget will stretch to it, this is the version we prefer.

Ignore the entry-level Finesse or Studio trims which are basic, although they do come with front airbags and central locking. Instead, go for Style or Zetec models. They have roughly the same specification, but the Zetec comes with alloy wheels. Look out for the Climate edition of both models, which adds air-con.

At the top of the range, Ghia has the lot: alloys, air-con, electric everything and plush trim. The ST has a lovely sports cabin and body trim. If you are looking at older models the LX produced until the start of ’05 is a good bet, as has air-con and electric windows/mirrors, but no alloys.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Great reliability. Low failure rates and low repair bills, but watch for suspension damage

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

While the little Ford is not as cheap to buy as some others, it's good for what you get. It loses value quickly from new, but then depreciation levels off. Franchised Ford dealers always have a healthy selection, but the bargains tend to appear at car supermarkets and the larger independents.

Ex-hire and loans cars can make a good buy, as some get very light use before being sold on.

The other good news is that the Fiesta's general running costs beat those of most of the competition. Servicing is needed every 12,500 miles or yearly, but the work is straightforward and cheap. Any good garage should be up to the job, and most main dealers offers discounts for older cars. Tyres, brakes and exhausts are quick to replace and as low-cost as you'll find.

Insurance, too, is a bargain: Fiestas vary between group 3 and group 6 depending on engine and trim, though the 2.0 ST falls into a wallet-troubling group 14.

Last, but not least, all except the 2.0 will regularly top 40mpg, and the diesels can better 60mpg.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong demand for both diesels and petrols, The 1.25 Zetec five-door with air-con is the one

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Generally, there's not too much to worry about. The Fiesta scores well in the What Car? Reliability Survey while JD Power gives it a respectable placing.

That said, the water pump is a known weak spot – listen for grumbles and groans as the engine idles. Dealers will fit a strengthened one under warranty – otherwise it's an £85 bill.

Also, check the front footwells for damp patches, because faulty pollen filter seals can let rainwater in. The cure is simply to re-site the filter and replace the seals if needed. It should be a warranty job, but if not, it costs about £50.

With many Fiestas coming from lease and rental companies, scheduled maintenance might not have been carried out.

The power steering rack can fail and require an expensive rebuild. An MoT test or mechanical inspection should find any problems.

Many owners complain of rattles and squeaks from the door cards and dashboard. Test driving a car should expose problem cars.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Great reliability. Low failure rates and low repair bills, but watch for suspension damage

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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