- Updated 30 April 2020
- 7 minute read
- By Richard Aucock
The Ford Fiesta is Britain’s top-selling new car. Month after month, year after year, it is number one in the charts. No other rival even gets close. If you believe in the wisdom of crowds, the Fiesta seems like the smartest small car you can buy today.
Why is it so appealing? Well, the Ford name helps. The company has the largest network of dealers in the UK, so you’re never too far from somewhere to buy and look after a Fiesta. It’s also one of Britain’s most recognisable car models – the first Ford to wear the name was launched in 1976.
Don't panic - Ford has moved with the times. It is able to use a huge amount of customer feedback to continually tailor the Fiesta to buyer demands. With the latest model, it has simplified the line-up, added more equipment than ever and, surprisingly, expanded the range of pricier Fiestas on offer. Back-to-basics is no longer what most small-car buyers want.
The clincher with the Fiesta is when you get behind the wheel. It simply feels right, serving up a sophisticated experience that puts the fun back into motoring. Even alongside rivals like the Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio, I always find the Fiesta that bit more pleasing to drive.
Looks, tech and design
The Fiesta has grown up. Not in terms of size, because it’s not really much bigger or smaller than average for this type of town car. Rather, in terms of its appearance. The latest version is refined and upmarket, with clean and smooth-looking lines. It has the sort of fuss-free detail you usually only see on premium cars, such as Audis.
Ford sells the Fiesta in two bodystyles: three-door and five-door hatchbacks. The latter is more popular, although buyers of sportier Fiestas generally prefer the three-door body.
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Space inside the Fiesta is okay. It’s not the largest small car you can buy, but it’s certainly not the smallest. The driver’s seat adjusts for height and the layout of the pedals, steering wheel and gearlever is hard to fault. The boot is well-shaped and, while you can find small cars with more space, the Fiesta shouldn’t feel compromised. Its cabin is solidly assembled, despite a few cheaper dashboard plastics in places.
Ford doesn’t limit the Fiesta’s onboard technology, either. Every model has a crisp 8.0-inch colour touchscreen sitting prominently on top of the dashboard. This has built-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so will connect easily to your smartphone. You can pay extra on some models to have sat-nav, but you don’t need it – just use your phone’s mapping instead. DAB radio is standard, and Ford gives you two USB sockets, rather than just one for charging up all your gadgets on the go.
All Fiestas have a good level of safety tech – automatic headlamps, speed limiter, lane-keep assist and a reminder for those in the back to put on their seatbelts. The clever Ford My Key is also included. This allows, say, parents to programme the spare key for their kids: they can limit the car’s top speed and even cap the maximum volume of the stereo.
Move up from the entry-level Trend and Ford fits an embedded modem to the Fiesta. This gives it ‘connected car’ online ability, and lets owners communicate with their Fiesta via the FordPass Connect smartphone app. It’s good for checking your fuel level from the comfort of your armchair, or making sure it’s locked when at a party on the wrong side of town. There are also various trims that come with the upgraded B&O Premium Audio System. The sound quality is truly outstanding and it’s a must-have for music lovers.
Sitting above the core Trend and Titanium models are the higher-grade Fiestas. In a nutshell, Active models ride higher and have SUV-style body cladding, while the ST-Line is sportier and the full-on Fiesta ST hot hatch sportier still, powered by a high-performance 1.5-litre turbo engine. Fast Fiestas have long been popular and the latest ST sets the benchmark for small cars - it's such a hoot to drive.
The most luxurious Fiesta is called Vignale, and really is like a little limo. As standard, it comes in a rich Frozen White metallic, and you can choose from seven other colours, including exclusive Milano Grigio grey. Ford fits extra chrome brightwork on the outside, a standard panoramic glass roof, plus rich Black Ruby leather on the seats and steering wheel. The front seats and the steering wheel have built-in heaters, to take the chill off winter mornings.
The first thing you notice when driving a Fiesta is how nice the controls feel. The gearchange is smooth and snappy, the pedals are nicely weighted (neither too heavy nor too light) and the steering gives the sense of being tightly connected to the front wheels. All Fiestas get a lovely thick leather steering wheel, too.
Living up to the bias towards sporty models, the Fiesta has a fun-to-drive feel. It tackles corners with plenty of reassurance. The body doesn’t lean over and it feels taut and controlled through bends, rather than soft and soggy. The performance ST is like a genuine sports car in this regard. The pay-off is suspension that isn’t quite as smooth over city bumps as some rivals, but it’s hardly what you’d call uncomfortable.
The best Fiesta engine is the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol - it’s the motor I'd recommend in your Fiesta. It comes in various power outputs but all have a turbocharger, so it punches well above its weight. I was amazed at just how smooth it runs, giving a really sophisticated feel. It costs a little bit more than the entry-level 1.1-litre Fiesta (which doesn’t have a turbocharger, so is slower and harder work to drive), but the extra spend is well worth it.
Part of the Ford Fiesta’s appeal is its ability to do many things well. In town, it is nimble and responsive, with snappy agility and ease of use. It also takes long distances in its stride, cruising at motorway speeds with the refinement of a larger car if you’re on a weekend away. The firm seats are supportive and it’s just such a pleasure to drive in any situation.
Cost and economy
Ford has really honed the Fiesta to ensure that even the most affordable model has all the basics covered. The Trend model has air-conditioning, alloy wheels, an approved anti-theft alarm and even a heated windscreen, to clear winter ice in a matter of seconds. The decision to standardise metallic paint makes buying one on PCP finance easier for those on a monthly budget.
Ford invented the PCP deal in Britain and its dealers are well versed in creating personalised deals across the full range. This is a surprisingly affordable small car and one with some strong finance deals usually available.
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In terms of fuel economy, the extra punch of the 1.0 Ecoboost engine doesn’t come at a cost. Official figures reveal it to be more efficient than the cheaper 1.1-litre petrol, with the most popular 1.0 Ecoboost 100 averaging as much as 50 miles per gallon accordinng to official tests (expect more like 40 miles per gallon in real life). There is a 1.5 TDCi diesel that can manage more than 60 miles per gallon, but higher pricing means it only makes for drivers who do lots of long distance journeys.
Certain Fiestas are available with an automatic gearbox, but think carefully about whether you need it. Not only do they cost more per month, due to a higher on-the-road price, but the autos also use more fuel and cost more to tax each year.
The Ford Fiesta is such a familiar sight on British roads, I felt like I knew it well before I’d even driven it. But I was surprised to discover what a feelgood car this is. It’s a class act, particularly with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine.
While you won’t travel far without seeing another Fiesta on the road, Ford has catered for this with a broad range of variants that allow you to choose a version that really suits you – from SUV-type models to sportier and faster versions. That said, even buyers of the most basic Fiesta won’t feel like they’re missing out on much in the way of features. This is a car that rarely disappoints on any level.
Add in the fact it is cheap to run, reliable, holds its value well and you're never far from a garage that can look after it, and it’s easy to see why the Fiesta is so popular. There's a reason the Fiesta is the winner of Britain's car-buying popularity contest.
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