Ford Fiesta vs Ford Focus: which is better?
These popular siblings from the Ford family each has a new outfit to show off. We put them head to head to see which wears it best...
New Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 125 ST-Line Vignale
List price £23,780
Target price £22,839
The Fiesta, one of the best small cars to drive, has now been given a refresh. It offers a similar level of kit to the Focus, but at a much lower price
New Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line Vignale
List price £28,635
Target price £27,145
Latest Focus wears a fresh face and carries more kit than before. It also offers more power and more interior space than the Fiesta
Considered by many to be the first affordable car, the Model T’s introduction in 1908 propelled Ford to global recognition quicker than the car could reach its top speed. These days, building a reputation isn’t quite so easy, and brands spend years chipping away at it like Michelangelo carving a statue from a block of marble.
Prime examples of this are the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus, two cars that have spent an age earning their place among the best-known models in their respective classes; the Fiesta has been working at it since 1976 and the Focus since 1998. Now they’re both household names. In fact, you probably know someone who owns one.
But which is the best all-round proposition? To find out, we’re getting behind the wheel of both in newly introduced ST-Line Vignale trim (Vignale now being an optional add-on trim rather than a trim in its own right) and with the most powerful engine available in each: the 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 125 in the Fiesta and the 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 in the Focus. In these guises, there’s a near-£5000 difference in price, but is it better to stick with the smaller Fiesta or pay the extra for the Focus?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Our contenders’ mild hybrid 1.0-litre engines are very similar, but the Focus’s is more powerful, to the tune of 30bhp. And yet, because the Focus is around 75kg heavier than the Fiesta – roughly the weight of a fully grown man – it isn’t actually all that much quicker, sprinting from 0-60mph in 9.2sec to the Fiesta’s 9.5sec.
They deliver their power in slightly different ways, too, with the Focus pulling harder from low revs and propelling you forward with a progressive wave of power when you put your foot down. The Fiesta, on the other hand, tends to pause briefly before getting into its stride. This lag before the turbocharger gets to work isn’t so aggressive that the Fiesta feels like a 1990s sports car, but it’s enough to make it feel noticeably more ‘boosty’. As a result, getting up to motorway speeds or overtaking a slower car is a bit easier in the Focus, but both have plenty of grunt when you rev them hard.
The Focus pulls out a small advantage when it comes to their gearshifts. Its six-speed manual gearbox has a short, slick action that makes it particularly satisfying to use, whereas the Fiesta’s, while being very pleasant to interact with, is ever so slightly notchier and less precise. Still, light clutch pedals mean you should never experience leg ache in either car, even during long stints in slow-moving traffic.
Both cars are leaders in their classes when it comes to delivering entertaining handling, but, head to head, the Fiesta has the advantage. As tested, both get suspension that’s slightly firmer and lower than that of lesser versions, so they’re reassuringly composed through corners, but the Fiesta’s lower weight and smaller size mean it feels more nimble in bends and exhibits a bit less body lean. Its steering feels a tad more artificial in the way it builds weight, though; some drivers will prefer the more precise and progressive nature of the Focus’s steering, because this gives more confidence as you head into a corner.
The Focus is also the more comfortable car, especially on the motorway, where its ride is more settled over expansion joints and other imperfections that can have you bobbing around in the Fiesta’s seat. Slow down, though, and the difference in comfort becomes negligible; both manage to smooth out lumps and potholes with relative ease.
Neither is particularly rowdy, but the Focus is better at filtering out wind and road noise at high speeds, making it a great choice for families who cover a lot of motorway miles.
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