What Car? says...
Imagine a city the size of Glasgow. Now imagine every single person living in it driving around in the same car. Well, that gives you a fair idea how many people have bought a Ford Fiesta in Britain over the past decade. Yep, Ford's small hatchback has been the country’s most popular car for years.
And with good reason. It has a well-established reputation as the most fun-driving car in the class, and there are some jolly fine engines to choose from, too – the most noteworthy being the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol that comes in a variety of power outputs.
There’s also a Fiesta to suit most tastes. You can have a regular one that looks like butter wouldn’t melt, a sportier-looking ST-Line model that apes the near-200bhp Fiesta ST hot hatch, or opt for a touch of luxury with the chrome-adorned Vignale. Ford has even considered the booming popularity of small SUVs by offering an Active version, complete with tough-looking black wheel arches, jacked-up suspension and roof rails.
However, the Fiesta has some extremely strong competition, including the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, while the Skoda Fabia offers space and value in abundance. Does the latest Ford Fiesta have the talents to compete? And which engines and trims make the most sense? We’ll tell you all you need to know over the next few pages.
And if you decide a new Ford Fiesta is the car for you, click the link at the top of the page to find out how much we could save you on the brochure price.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level 1.1-litre petrol (called the 1.1 Ti-VCT) has just 74bhp so feels rather gutless on faster roads; the pokier 1.0 turbocharged Ecoboost engines are much stronger.
These come in a variety of power outputs, starting with the Ecoboost 95. It's a fine engine that pulls well from low revs and is all most buyers will need. Indeed, we reckon it's the sweet spot in the range, although more powerful Ecoboost 125 – available only on the posher trim levels – is worth considering if have have a bit more cash.
Lastly, there's the Ecoboost 140, which is slightly faster again and also worth a look if you want something vaguely quick. However, the fastest Fiesta of all (by far) is the Fiesta ST hot hatch, which we've reviewed separately. Avoid the diesel models; they aren't especially quick nor worth the price premium.
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. Steer clear of 18in alloy wheels and the Fiesta deals brilliantly with the sort of sharp-edged bumps and potholes that are all too common on British back roads.
Indeed, in Trend, Titanium and Active trim levels, the Fiesta is one of the most comfortable cars in the class; look at the Peugeot 208 or Volkswagen Polo if you want something even more supple.
ST-Line models have firmer sports suspension, so you feel more of the bumps as they pass beneath the car, but the ride is still extremely well controlled; you won't be bouncing up and down wildly over undulations like you would in a Citroen C3.
The Fiesta may be a small hatchback, but it's as fun to drive as some sports cars, thanks to its sharp handling and precise, well-weighted steering. Indeed, it’s the Fiesta’s ability to put a smile on your face on even the most mundane journey that’s arguably its most endearing trait.
ST-Line versions receive sports suspension with a lower ride height. This makes the Fiesta even more agile, which is great if you want hot hatch-style handling without the bigger bills that a powerful engine brings. If you do want the full-fat hot hatch experience, the range-topping Fiesta ST is sharper still, but even the cheapest versions in the line-up can embarrass all rivals, even the Seat Ibiza, through the corners.
Active versions, meanwhile, are slightly less agile than other Fiestas because of their 18mm increase in ride height. The car’s body rolls a tad more in corners – although the difference isn't huge.
Noise and vibration
The 1.0 Ecoboost engines are remarkably smooth and quiet. Accelerate hard and you feel and hear less of a buzz than you do in rivals with equivalent three-cylinder turbocharged engines, such as the Ibiza and Polo. The diesels are unsurprisingly noisier, but not horrendously so.
There's some road noise, particularly on versions with 18in alloy wheels, but not enough to really irritate. However, there is a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, especially in models fitted with a panoramic glass roof, so the Polo is a more peaceful cruiser.
Meanwhile, the Fiesta’s accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all positively weighted, making it a really easy car to drive smoothly. The six-speed manual gearbox fitted to most versions is also very precise and enjoyable to use, as is the five-speed 'box in the entry-level 1.1-litre model.
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