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 you can 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.
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 75) has just 74bhp and feels rather gutless on faster roads; the pokier 1.0 turbocharged Ecoboost engines are much stronger.
They come in a variety of power outputs, starting with the Ecoboost 95. It's a fine engine that pulls well from low revs and delivers decent performance, hitting 0-62mph in 10.6sec. Indeed, we reckon it's the sweet spot in the range. The more powerful Ecoboost Hybrid 125 is worth considering if you have a bit more cash, though; it cuts over a second off the Ecoboost 95's 0-62mph dash and proving more muscular at low engine speeds. You can opt for a seven-speed automatic gearbox with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125, but, be warned, it doesn't react that quickly when you ask for a burst of acceleration.
Then there's the Ecoboost Hybrid 155, which is also worth a look if you want something really quite nippy because it sprints from zero to 62mph in just 8.9sec, although it isn’t available with Trend trim. However, the fastest Fiesta of all (by far) is the Fiesta ST hot hatch, which we've reviewed separately. Avoid the 1.5 TDCi 85 diesel engine; it isn't especially quick, nor is it 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 more comfortable cars in the class, but look at the Peugeot 208 or Volkswagen Polo if you want something even suppler.
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 very 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, even on the most mundane journey, that’s arguably its most endearing trait.
ST-Line versions receive sports suspension with a lower ride height. That makes the Fiesta super agile, which is great if you want hot hatch-style handling without the bigger bills that a powerful engine brings. Indeed, ST-Line models will embarrass all rivals through the corners, even the Seat Ibiza, but if you want the full-fat hot hatch experience, the range-topping Fiesta ST is sharper still.
Active versions, meanwhile, are slightly less agile than other Fiestas because of their 18mm increase in ride height. The car’s body leans over 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 diesel is unsurprisingly noisier, but not horrendously so.
There's road noise in all versions but most noticeably in the trims with bigger 18in alloy wheels, although not enough to really irritate. However, there is a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, especially with the panoramic glass roof fitted, and overall 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 that comes with the entry-level 1.1 Ti-VCT 75 engine. The seven-speed automatic gearbox (only available with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125) flicks smoothly through its gears most of the time, too. Happily, the Hybrid models bring further refinement; their stop start systems are exceedingly smooth and quick in operation, their brake pedals are easy to modulate (unlike some hybrids), and, because they have more guts low down, you don’t have to work the engine quite so hard to make progress, helping to keep noise levels down.
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