What Car? says...
The Ford Fiesta has a well-deserved reputation for being the small car that will put the biggest smile on your face when you drive it. And that's not the only reason it's been such a big seller for so long.
It certainly helps that Ford makes versions of the Fiesta to suit most tastes. You can have a (relatively) cheap one that looks like butter wouldn’t melt, a sportier-looking ST-Line model that mimics the near-200bhp Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch, or opt for a touch of luxury with the Titanium X version.
Ford has even considered the booming popularity of small SUVs by offering the Fiesta Active, with black wheel arches, jacked-up suspension and roof rails. If you want an SUV, though, we reckon you'd be better off looking at the brilliant Ford Puma.
There are several petrol engines to choose from, some with mild-hybrid technology to improve acceleration and fuel economy. You can't have a diesel, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or electric car version, though.
Of course, the latest Fiesta has some extremely strong competition, with like-for-like rivals including the Peugeot 208, the Seat Ibiza and the VW Polo. The Dacia Sandero massively most other small cars on price, and if you're looking for maximum space in a compact package, you might also be considering the Honda Jazz.
So, does the Ford Fiesta have the all-round talents to compete with the best small cars? We’ll tell you all you need to know over the next few pages of this review.
Read our comparison test: Ford Fiesta vs Ford Focus
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Fiesta's entry-level 1.1-litre petrol (called the 1.1 Ti-VCT 75) has just 74bhp and feels rather gutless on faster roads. We’d avoid it and go for one of the 1.0 turbocharged Ecoboost engines. These come in a range of power outputs, starting with the Ecoboost 100, which is our favourite engine in the range. It pulls well from low revs and delivers good performance (0-62mph takes 10.8sec).
The more powerful Ecoboost mHEV (mild-hybrid) 125 is worth considering if you have a bit more cash. It cuts more than a second off the Ecoboost 100's 0-62mph dash and is more muscular at low engine speeds. You can have a seven-speed automatic gearbox with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125, but it doesn't react very quickly when you ask for a burst of acceleration.
The fastest version by far is the Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch, which we've reviewed separately. That gets a unique 1.5-litre Ecoboost engine.
Suspension and ride comfort
One of the most appealing things about the Fiesta is how it combines small-car fun with big-car sophistication, and that’s true of the way it rides. As long as you avoid bigger 18in alloy wheels, the car deals well with the sort of sharp-edged bumps and potholes that are all too common on back roads.
Indeed, in Trend, Titanium and Active trim levels, the Fiesta is one of the more comfortable small cars on the market. If you want something even more supple, takes a look at the Skoda Fabia, Peugeot 208 or VW Polo.
ST-Line and ST-Line X Fiestas have stiffer sports suspension, so you feel more of bumps as you drive over them. However, the ride is very well controlled, so you won't be pogoing up and down over undulations like you would in the Citroën C3.
The Fiesta may be a small hatchback but it's as fun to drive as some sports cars, with sharp handling and precise, well-weighted steering. Indeed, it’s the car’s ability to put a smile on your face, even on the most mundane journey, that’s arguably its most endearing trait.
The sports suspension and lower ride height of ST-Line versions make the Fiesta super agile, which is great if you want hot-hatch handling without the bigger bills a powerful engine brings. Indeed, ST-Line models will embarrass all rivals through the corners – even the Seat Ibiza – although if you want the full-fat hot hatch experience, the range-topping Fiesta ST is sharper still.
Active versions are slightly less agile than other Fiestas because of their 18mm increase in ride height. The car’s body leans over a bit more in corners – although the difference isn't huge.
Noise and vibration
The Fiesta's 1.0 Ecoboost engines are remarkably smooth and quiet. You hear less of a buzz during hard acceleration than you do in rivals with equivalent three-cylinder engines, including as the Ibiza and Polo.
All Fiestas create some road noise, especially those on the bigger 18in alloy wheels, but it’s never loud enough to become irritating. There's a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, too, so overall the Polo is a more peaceful cruiser.
Gearbox wise, the six-speed manual fitted to most versions is very precise and enjoyable to use, as is the five-speed manual that comes with the entry-level 1.1 Ti-VCT 75 engine. The seven-speed automatic (only available with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125 engine) flicks smoothly through its gears most of the time.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All Fiestas come with a height-adjustable driver's seat, and in its lowest setting, you sit higher up than you do in many other small cars. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some may prefer a lower-slung driving position. Active models have a ride height that's 18mm higher, but you don't really notice the difference.
Height aside, the driving position is tough to knock. The seat holds you securely in place through corners while remaining comfortable over long distances. Our only gripe is that you can’t have adjustable lumbar support (unless you go for the Ford Fiesta ST).
The physical controls for the air conditioning (which are replaced by automatic climate control on some of the posher trims) are logical and clearly marked. The cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are a bit fiddly, though.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Forwards visibility is good in the Fiesta, but the car's thick rear pillars and relatively small rear side windows hamper your view when you look over your shoulder. It's easier to judge the corners of the boxier Skoda Fabia.
Better news is that you’ll be able to see plenty at night because all versions come with bright LED headlights. If you go for any version above Trend, you can upgrade those to optional matrix LED headlights that can be left on full beam without blinding other drivers.
The standard heated windscreen, which can defrost itself in moments, is a major boon in winter. Rear parking sensors are also standard on all trims apart from entry-level Trend (where they're optional), and you can add front sensors and a rear-view camera to most models.
Sat nav and infotainment
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring come as standard across the range, meaning you beam certain phone apps (such as Google Maps and Waze) to the touchscreen. For that reason, we wouldn't bother paying extra for the optional built-in sat-nav.
All trim levels come with two USB ports and a six-speaker stereo. Sounds quality is reasonable, but the punchy Bang & Olufsen sound system upgrade is well considering if you love listening to music.
The interior bits you touch regularly – the steering wheel, gearknob and indicator stalks – feel fairly upmarket by the standards of the class, and the Fiesta even has soft-touch plastic on parts of its dashboard. You won’t find that in a Fabia.
Mind you, the Fiesta’s interior doesn’t feel quite as solidly screwed together as the Ibiza’s or Polo's, nor is it as plush inside as the Peugeot 208. You’ll also notice some unappealingly textured plastics lower down on the dashboard and doors.
All X versions have part faux suede seats, although they don’t feel as classy as you might expect given the extra cost.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Despite its slightly raised driving position, the Fiesta has plenty of head room in the front. Leg room is also good, so you’ll have no complaints – even from friends measuring more than six feet tall.
There’s a reasonable amount of oddment storage, including an accommodating glovebox and an area ahead of the gear lever that’s just about big enough for a smartphone. Each door pockets can hold a small drinks bottle and there's a pair of cupholders conveniently positioned between the seats.
Rear space isn't the Fiesta’s strongest suit. A pair of six-footers will fit, with leg room similar to that offered by the VW Polo, but it's not quite on a par with the Seat Ibiza and nowhere near as roomy as the Honda Jazz.
Head room isn’t quite as generous as in some rival small cars either. The middle rear seat is quite narrow by class standards, and three adults in the back will find it a bit of a squeeze.
Seat folding and flexibility
Ford hasn’t given the Fiesta any special seating tricks to make its interior more versatile. All models get a simple fixed rear seatbase with a backrest that splits 60/40 and folds down – that’s par for the course in this class. The Jazz has much more versatile rear seats, with seat bases that flip up to get tall items, such as a pot plant, onboard with no drama.
Need a big boot? Well, we managed to fit five carry-on suitcases below the Fiesta's parcel shelf, and that isn't at all bad. Mind you, there's even more room in the boot of a Jazz, Ibiza or Polo.
There’s also a fairly large drop down from the entrance to the boot floor – not ideal when you're trying to slide in heavy items.
Dropping the rear backrests leaves an annoying step in the floor of the Fiesta’s extended load bay, and Ford doesn't offer a height-adjustable boot floor to iron that out.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
If you're hoping the Ford Fiesta is a budget option, you’ll be mildly disappointed. Compared with the Skoda Fabia and some other small cars, it’s actually quite pricey. Discounts are reasonable, though (visit our New Car Deals pages to see how much you could save). The Fiesta is also predicted to depreciate more slowly than many of its cheaper rivals.
If you’re buying on PCP finance, as many small car buyers choose to, the Fiesta will usually cost you more each month than an equivalent Fabia or VW Polo – although special offers can change this.
On the plus side, the Fiesta is cheaper than lots of alternatives to run as a company car because of its relatively low CO2 emissions (especially with the Ecoboost mHEV engines), and monthly leasing rates are often temptingly cheap.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Trend trim is well worth a look. It comes with 15in alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen and a heated front windscreen.
If you can, we’d suggest going for Titanium trim, which adds LED headlights, privacy glass, rear-parking sensors, an automatically dimming rearview mirror and keyless start.
Or if you want a sportier-looking Fiesta, ST-Line is the trim to go for. It’s similarly kitted out to Titanium trim but adds 17in alloy wheels, more aggressive styling and stiffer suspension, which improves agility. Titanium X and ST-Line X add even more luxuries but are too expensive for us to recommend.
The Fiesta fared badly in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – ending up at the bottom of the small car class. Ford didn’t fare much better, claiming 27th place out of the 32 brands included. That was below Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen.
The Fiesta’s standard warranty lasts for three years or 60,000 miles. That's broadly in line with the class average, but some way short of the five-year, unlimited mileage cover offered on the Hyundai i20.
You can add an extended warranty that will cover your Fiesta for an extra one or two years, but you’ll need to sign up for it when buying.
Safety and security
All Fiestas come with seven airbags, lane-keeping assistance, plus Ford’s MyKey system – a programmable ignition key that can be used to limit the car’s top speed, mute the sound system and prevent the stability control system from being disabled. This should give you some peace of mind if you decide to hand the keys to a driver who's recently passed their test.
However, the big disappointment is that automatic emergency braking (AEB) doesn’t come as standard with any trim level. It’s reserved for the options list as part of the Driver Assistance Pack, which also adds a driver impairment monitor and adaptive cruise control. Sadly, this pack isn't available on entry-level Trend trim.
All versions come with an engine immobiliser to deter thieves and a Thatcham-approved alarm.
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Ford will be discontinuing the Fiesta in the summer of 2023. Sadly, there isn't much profit in small cars these days. That's why an increasing number of manufacturers are their dropping small hatchbacks and focusing on SUVs and electric cars, instead.
The Fiesta is a very good car. Highlights are that it is superb to drive, has a great driving position and comes with plenty of standard kit. There’s also numerous trim levels to choose from.
We reckon the Fiesta’s best engine option is the 1.0-litre Ecoboost 100. It has 99bhp, pulls from low revs and has plenty of pace while remaining economical. Our favourite trim is Titanium.
We class the Fiesta as a small car and the larger Focus as a family car. While both can seat five and carry luggage, the Focus is both longer and wider than the Fiesta, meaning it is more spacious for passengers and has more boot space.
Reliability isn't a strength of the Ford Fiesta. It was reported to be one of the least dependable small cars in the most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, and Ford as a brand didn't fare particularly well, either.
Both cars compete well with their direct rivals, although we don't consider either an outright class leader. The Focus is more practical, quieter and more comfortable – but then it's more expensive to buy, so that's hardly surprising.
|RRP price range||£19,350 - £27,380|
|Number of trims (see all)||9|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||42.2 - 56.5|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,069 / £1,814|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,138 / £3,628|