The Fiesta has been in the top ten best-sellers list since it first appeared in 1977, even though some iterations have been less than perfect. Fortunately, the last two generations of Fiesta have been very good to drive, have sharp, exciting exteriors and are far more worthy of your hard earned cash.
Ford has expanded the range to include a very sweet selection of engines. There’s now a high economy Econetic version, mid-range offerings, right the way up to a just-announced high performance ST model, so there should be something for everybody.
Ford’s design philosophy is to take occasional huge leaps forward followed by smaller steps intended to hone and perfect its creations. The current Fiesta is the result of a big leap and, compared to previous models, verges on the radical. It has a bold face, deep creases down the sides and a steeply-raked window line leading up to a pert rear. Even in basic specification it is a good-looking car.
Of course, a little further up the range you get smart alloy wheels which improve the looks further still, and even the Econetic versions have a subtle bodykit to help aerodynamics whilst adding to the aesthetic appeal.
A slick and attractive exterior doesn’t often translate into a spacious and practical cabin, but the Fiesta does a decent job of accommodating passengers and luggage. Like most superminis, the front seat occupants fare best and have good head and legroom. The high seating position of the old car has thankfully been cured too.
Those in the back don’t do quite so well, but as long as you’re not above-average in height there’s enough space to sit comfortably on long journeys. Boot space is at the larger end of the class, although the rear seats don’t fold completely to give it a flat floor.
Performance and handling
The days of Fords handling with all the grace of a drunk sumo are long gone. For the last decade the engineering department has ruled over the accountants and every Ford drives with real composure and quality. The Fiesta packs a lot of fun into a compact shape, and regardless of the engine and specification you choose, you’ll enjoy quick and responsive steering, a composed chassis and well-weighted controls.
Choose a Zetec-S and you get a stiffer suspension set-up, which is fine if you fancy boy racer-esque thrills. However, the standard suspension is almost as much fun but easier to live with on poor roads.
You have plenty of choice in the engine room too, with two versions of the 1.25-litre petrol as well as a 1.4- and 1.6-, plus 1.4- and 1.6-litre diesels (Econetics use the 1.6-litre diesel). The 1.25-litre petrols are zingy and a pleasure to use and the higher output version is sufficiently quick. Of the diesels the 1.4-litre is adequate but the 1.6-litre, although more expensive, is faster and more fuel-efficient.
Economy & environment
You can’t go far wrong with whichever version of the Fiesta you choose. Even the 1.6-litre petrol can nudge 50mpg on the combined cycle, while the super-frugal Econetic can slip along consuming just under 80mpg. The latter limbos under the magic 100g/km for CO2 emissions and therefore qualifies for zero vehicle excise duty. Econetic models get the full fuel-saving package including lowered suspension, tweaked aerodynamics and energy recuperation, but all models will run pretty cheaply if you go easy with your right foot. Insurance costs are pretty low thanks to good crash performance and security ratings, plus the ubiquity of Ford dealers and spares.
Equipment & value
The only bad news with the Fiesta is that it is not especially cheap. The entry-level Studio 1.25-litre checks in at under £10,000, but it has the weediest engine, no air-con, alloys, central locking or electric windows. The cheapest three-door with the more powerful 1.25-litre engine and air conditioning is the Edge at £11,595. That’s on a par with an equivalent Volkswagen Polo, but more expensive than rivals from Seat and Skoda. However, none of those cars drive quite as well as the Fiesta and arguably none of them look quite as sharp either.
ESP is standard across the whole Fiesta range, as are front and side airbags. More than anything, the Fiesta’s sharp handling and good visibility are plus points for avoiding an accident in the first place, and should the worst happen, the Fiesta has a five-star Euro NCAP rating for adult protection.
If the bottom line of your supermini purchasing is the bottom line itself, then there are cheaper cars you can buy that will do the job pretty much as well as the Fiesta. However, the Ford has a lot more going for it. It is good to look at inside and out, is genuinely fun to drive and given its rampant popularity, will probably be a piece of cake to sell when you tire of it.
Go for either the super-thrifty Econetic or a 1.25-litre 82PS petrol and you’ll have yourself one of the smartest and best-driving superminis at any price.
Model tested: Ford Fiesta Edge Econetic
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 12.9 seconds
Top speed: 111mph
Emissions: 95g/km CO2