The Ford Fiesta has been Britains best-selling car for the past four years, but the competition in 2013 is set to be tougher than ever, with an all-new Renault Clio the first of several high-profile arrivals.
In the hope of staying top of the sales charts, Ford has introduced some major updates for the new year. These include a new Aston Martin-style front grille, redesigned rear lights and upgraded interior trims, while new petrol and diesel engines also join the line-up.
However, an equal amount of emphasis has been placed on improving the Fiesta's safety credentials, with curtain airbags now standard across the range. Ford has even chosen to resubmit the Fiesta to Euro NCAP (unusual for a mid-life face-lift) in a bid to improve its crash-test rating.
Additionally, Active City Stop which helps reduce the impact of low-speed shunts by applying the brakes if it detects that a crash is imminent will be offered as an option.
Conscious that the Fiesta attracts a lot of younger drivers and in order to give parents peace of mind Ford will offer a programmable ignition key called Mykey. This allows owners to create bespoke restrictions for individual drivers. The key can limit the cars maximum speed for your newly qualified children, for example, or stop them playing the stereo too loud.
Whats the 2013 Ford Fiesta like to drive?
The big news for the 2013 Fiesta is the arrival of a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which is available in three states of tune: 79bhp, 99bhp and 123bhp. Here were testing the 99bhp version.
If youre used to a four-cylinder engine, youll find the thrum and lazy throttle response rather odd at first. The stepped power delivery as you accelerate up to speed also takes a bit of getting used to.
On the plus side, the engine is turbocharged, so it pulls hard from just 1400rpm; you dont need to work the engine at all hard to make snappy progress.
Average economy of 65.7mpg is another major bonus, although well be putting that to the test over the coming weeks with our real-word True MPG fuel economy test.
The Fiesta is a much better motorway car than before, too, because the new Ecoboost engine feels far less strained at 70mph than the 1.4 it replaces.
Regardless of power choice, though, the Fiesta is an incredibly agile car. With wonderfully accurate steering and taut body control, it changes direction with an immediacy that many sports cars would be proud of.
Combine this with minimal body roll in corners and plenty of confidence-inspiring grip, and you soon realise that the Fiesta is the sweetest-handling supermini around by a country mile.
This is even more remarkable when you consider that the Fiestas ride is brilliantly controlled, and is now marginally softer than before thanks to new higher-profile tyres.
Whats the 2013 Ford Fiesta like inside?
There are a few new interior finishes for 2013, but otherwise the Fiestas cabin is much the same as before.
That means the materials on the top of the dashboard are soft and dense, with quality tailing off lower down and on the insides of the doors.
Overall, the Fiesta still isnt as classy inside as a VW Polo, but the cabin is a grade or two above the new Renault Clios.
Zetec trim gets you a centre console plastered with too many similar-looking buttons, making it unnecessarily complicated to control the stereo.
An extra 200 (or stepping up to Titanium trim) gets you a much more user-friendly layout, along with Bluetooth for making hands-free calls and streaming music from your phone.
The Fiestas driving position is pretty much perfect. Theres two-way steering wheel adjustment and a decent amount of seat adjustment, and well positioned pedals.
Rear legroom is on the tight side for adults, although there is a decent boot and you can flip the rear seatbacks forwards when you want to carry longer loads. Unfortunately, the rear seatbase is fixed, so the seatbacks lie at a pronounced angle when they're folded down.
Should I buy one?
The 2013 Fiesta is far from a bargain, with prices for this 99bhp Ecoboost version starting at 13,625.
However, the new engine is undoubtedly the new pick of the Fiesta range, because it combines effortless performance with remarkable fuel economy on paper at least.
Put simply, if you want the finest supermini that money can buy, get down to your local Ford dealer and start haggling.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.0 T
Price from 13,645
Torque 125lb ft
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 65.7mpg (official)
CO2 g/km 99g/km