What's the used Ford Fiesta hatchback like?
If you're looking for a sensible used small car, it doesn't have to be dull to drive, and a case in point is the 2008-2017 Ford Fiesta. Just as the latest Ford Fiesta receives ready praise for the way it drives, its immediate predecessor packs the same sense of fun at a very tempting price.
This sixth-generation version looked great, too, and arguably even better after a mid-life facelift in 2013 brought to it the familiar large grille now commonplace in the Ford range. That update also introduced the 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder engine to the car, a marriage some see, with good reason, as made in Heaven.
There's actually a huge selection of engines to choose from. And because the Fiesta was such a popular car, there are loads of them around and plenty to choose from. Aside from the three-pot 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, in three power outputs of 99bhp, 123bhp and 138bhp, other power plants include a naturally aspirated a 59bhp or 81bhp 1.25, a 79bhp 1.0, a 94bhp 1.4 and a 118bhp 1.6, with a range-topping 180bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol in the sporty ST. For the economy minded, there were initially diesels in 67bhp 1.4 and 89bhp and 94bhp 1.6-litre forms, these later being replaced by a 1.5-litre diesel engine with 74bhp or 94bhp.
Trim levels were plentiful, and were tweaked and updated throughout the car's life. Choose Style trim over the more sparsely equipped Studio and you'll get goodies such as electric front windows and remote central locking, but stretch to the Style+ and you'll be rewarded with air-con. Zetec models have all that you could reasonably want in a small car, including 15in alloy wheels, a DAB radio, a heated front windscreen, air conditioning, hill start assistance and an infotainment system with a 4.2in screen. There were also the Zetec Colour Editions which were commonly painted in Candy Blue with a white roof, and vice versa.
ST-Line trim replaced Zetec S and was available on three and five-door Fiestas. Key highlights included an ST-styled bodykit, sports suspension, pedals and a large rear spoiler, while the Titanium models add more luxury equipment, including climate control, cruise control, adjustable lumbar support, velour floor mats and a Sony DAB stereo, as well as automatic headlights and range-sensing wipers. The range-topping Titanium X models receive mainly safety features such as a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, and keyless entry and start.
From all those excellent engine options, the turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor offers all the engine most buyers will ever need. In whichever guise you choose, this is a quite remarkable little unit and it's smoother, quieter and more responsive than the other engines in the range. The diesel is a good engine too but you have to ask whether the savings in fuel over the already frugal 1.0-litre petrol engine is worth putting up with the inevitable diesel rattle.
With sharp steering, excellent grip and a lively chassis, the Fiesta is an absolute hoot in the corners. Usually, that'd suggest there's a trade-off to be had in terms of ride quality, but that isn't the case here. The Fiesta rides remarkably smoothly, whether you're tackling a long motorway journey or just pottering around town. It comes with standard or sports suspension, the latter being fitted to Zetec models, giving them the edge for fun.
It's also quiet and stable, making it a very reassuring and relaxing car to drive for any length of time. In fact, the Fiesta feels so grown up that you'd be forgiven for thinking you were driving the larger Ford Focus most of the time.
If it's space you're after, some rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa and Skoda Fabia offer more. But while the Fiesta's rear seats have restricted leg room, making them best for children, those in the front have much more room, and the driving position should suit those of all sizes. The boot is a decent size, too, although the rear seats don't fold completely flat.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Ford Fiesta hatchback?
Make sure you check carefully for any clutch problems. Smelly, slipping or otherwise faulty clutches seem to crop up fairly regularly, so make sure the clutch bites smoothly and you can change gear easily. You should also check that the turbo is working properly on examples with one fitted; you should feel a small but noticeable surge of power while accelerating when the turbo cuts in.
Fiestas are often used in town, so check carefully for scuffs, scrapes and parking dings, and make sure you examine alloy wheels for kerbing and scuff marks. Some early cars' alloy wheels have also been known to buckle easily, so be sure to pay close attention to their condition and walk away from any car with juddering steering, odd repetitive noises from the wheel area, or other strange symptoms.
Also, check to see if the service history is complete. Some ex-fleet and lease cars may have missed maintenance work.
Diesel versions of the Fiesta have been known to suffer from fuel injector issues which can be expensive to sort out, so keep this in mind if you decide you want one of these versions.
The plastics used for the dashboard and door cards mark easily, especially when children are regular passengers. Some owners have complained about the quality of the interior materials. Stereos are known to develop faults, and the heating and ventilation system can malfunction.
There have also been several reports of water leaks, resulting in damp front footwells – this can cause mould in cars that sit for long periods of time. Lift the mats and check carefully when inspecting a car.
What are the most common problems with a used Ford Fiesta hatchback?
Poor welds on the rear axle of some Fiestas made on 5 July 2011 could fail and potentially cause the axle to detach from the vehicle. Affected examples will need to be inspected by a technician, so speak to your dealer for further information.
Rear suspension bolts
Some of the bolts used on the rear suspension of cars manufactured between 13 and 23 September 2011 could shear. Find out from your Ford dealer if your car is part of this recall.
Fire risk – diesel glow plug control module
There have been three recalls issued relating to water getting into the glow plug control module of diesel models and causing a short circuit, with a potential fire in some circumstances. It mainly affects vehicles constructed between 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011, along with some made between 1 January 2012 and 29 August 2013. The fix is to install a waterproofed module at a dealer, and most will have been fixed by now, but it's still a good idea to check since some that received a repair were recalled again because the original fix wasn't suitable.
Cracked cylinder head – Fiesta ST
This applies to the sporty ST model that used the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, and specifically to examples built between 2 June 2010 and 20 December 2014. The cylinder head of the engine may crack and allow oil to leak out onto hot engine components and start a fire. A technician will need to inspect the engine to determine what needs to be replaced; a coolant level sensor will also need to be installed and a software update carried out to provide better audible and visual warnings to the driver if the engine is overheating.
Rear seat belt buckle
Some Fiestas manufactured between 23 September and 11 November 2014 might have defective rear seat belt buckles that won't properly restrain occupants in a frontal collision. Examples affected by this will need to have new buckles fitted to prevent potential future injuries.
Seat belt bolt
The top bolt on one of the seat belts fitted to the right-hand side could be incorrectly tightened and could put the occupant at an increased risk of injury in a collision. This applies to Fiestas made from 26 February to 26 August 2016, and will need to be checked over by a technician to make sure the bolt is tightened correctly.
Brake servo failure
An internal fault in the brake servo of some vehicles built between 5-20 December 2017 could lead to a loss of braking assistance. If your car is suspected to be affected by this, a technician will need to check the manufacture date of the servo to determine if it needs to be replaced.
Is a used Ford Fiesta hatchback reliable?
Out of 28 rivals, the Fiesta came 19th in the small and city car class of our most recent reliability survey. Ford as a brand finished in 27th place out of 32 car manufacturers.
If you would like to see the full reliability list for small cars, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Ford Fiesta hatchback will I get for my budget?
Pre-facelift cars can be had for under £2000, though that kind of money will only really buy you a high-mileage example, so it's worth spending a bit more.
You'll need to spend at least £3000 to find a mid-range Zetec version in petrol or diesel form from 2009. Most pre-facelift Econetic examples range from between £3000 to £4500 depending upon condition and mileage.
Facelifted Fiestas, distinguished by their much larger front grille, were built from 2013 onwards, and you'll need to pay at least £5000 for one. If you want the sought-after 1.0-litre petrol turbo engine, you'll need to up that budget to around £5500.
Performance versions of the Fiesta include the sparky Zetec S, which starts at £4000 for an early 1.6-litre or around £6000 for the later 1.0-litre turbo. The grin-a-minute ST, with its 1.6-litre turbo engine, is covered in this separate review.
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How much does it cost to run a Ford Fiesta hatchback?
The 59bhp and 81bhp 1.25-litre petrol engines delivers an official economy figure of 50.4mpg under the old NEDC The 1.4 manages 48.7mpg; the non-turbo 1.6 does 47.9mpg, while the ST achieves 46.3mpg. The diesels trump these results, with both the 1.4 and 1.6 producing just over 67.2mpg. The Econetic delivers an impressive 76.3mpg.
The 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre engines were replaced with 1.0-litre petrol turbo engines when the Fiesta was facelifted; according to official figures, the 99 and 123bhp versions delivered 65.7mpg, while the more powerful 138bhp version that came along later in Zetec S form dropped that to 62.8mpg. Later 1.5-litre diesels are the most efficient Fiestas on paper at 78.5mpg or 88.3mpg for the Econetic alternative. Bear in mind that all these economy figures were calculated using the older NEDC method, rather than today's more representative WLTP test regime.
If you choose an Econetic diesel engine, and assuming your car was registered before March 1 2017, you'll enjoy free road tax. That's because this engine's CO2 emissions are below the 100g/km threshold. Non-Econetic versions emit 110g/km. Post-facelift 1.0-litre petrol cars also qualify for free road tax, aside from the 138bhp version, which emits 104g/km.
As for the rest of the range, a 1.25 petrol puts out 129g/km; a 1.4 133g/km, the 1.6 134g/km and the turbo 1.6 in the ST 141g/km.
Road tax (VED)
Many of this generation of Fiesta will have been registered before the 1 April 2017 alteration in car tax, so the rate you'll pay will mostly be based upon the amount of CO2 the engine produced (see above paragraph).
Servicing and insurance
Other running costs are also low. Servicing is cheap on every model, especially older ones that are out of warranty and can take advantage of Motorcraft servicing at £159 a pop. Insurance for pretty much every version (aside from the ST) will be inexpensive, and while the Fiesta is generally reputed to be a pretty reliable small car, anything that does go wrong should be pretty inexpensive to fix.
Which used Ford Fiesta hatchback should I buy?
If you're looking at a pre-facelift Ford Fiesta, the 81bhp 1.25-litre engine is a good bet. For more performance try the 95bhp 1.4-litre, or the 118bhp 1.6 - which is particularly entertaining to drive.
However, if you can afford it, the later 1.0-litre petrol turbo is a more desirable option than any of these. A 1.0-litre 100 should be more than enough for most people, though if you fancy a bit of extra pep, the 125 is even more enjoyable.
Zetec models have all that you could reasonably want in a small car, including alloy wheels and traction control.
Our favourite version: 1.0 100 Zetec
What alternatives should I consider to a used Ford Fiesta hatchback?
The Vauxhall Corsa is a very competent alternative to the Fiesta. It's not quite as much fun to drive, but its interior is better finished and it offers a little more room in the back. It's also great value.
If you want a car that feels truly high-quality, though, you should take a look at the Volkswagen Polo. It's pricey, but you get what you pay for, with a solid-feeling interior and very composed, mature driving experience.
There's also the Honda Jazz, which rides firmly and feels a bit wooden to drive, but offers deeply impressive practicality, with clever rear seats that fold forwards so you can fit tall objects in, as well as folding down in the traditional way. It's also extremely reliable.
If you just want a small car that's immense fun to drive, the Seat Ibiza might be worth a look. Its chassis isn't quite as well sorted as the Fiesta's, but it is still very involving.
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