- Fun drive
- Vastly better interior
- Cleaner design
- Rear-end is divisive
- The odd naff plastic
The wait is over to see if the 2017 Ford Fiesta can retain its crown as the best supermini on sale in the UK. We jetted off to Spain to see what the ST-Line, Vignale and the new 1.5-litre TDCi diesel are all about.
For eight years, nothing has sold better than the Ford Fiesta in the UK. Not the plucky Vauxhall Corsa or its larger Astra sibling. Not even the common-as-trousers Fiat 500 or Mini.
Who, then, could blame Ford for sticking to a proven formula? Certainly not the accountants, nor the punters. The problem is that resting on its laurels would also be unwise, as the Nissan Micra, VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Citroen C3, Kia Rio and other key rivals are better than ever.
So what has Ford done to keep the Fiesta competitive and is it as fun to drive as it was before? Ben Griffin jetted off to Spain, where he got to drive the sporty ST-Line, luxury Vignale and volume seller Titanium as well as the new 1.5-litre TDCi diesel, for some answers.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: What's new to the party?
The seventh-generation Fiesta may use the same platform as before, but it has grown in size. It is 71mm longer and 13mm wider, in fact, with a 15 per cent increase in torsional stiffness, 30mm wider front track, 10mm wider rear track and 4mm longer wheelbase.
The exterior design has been freshened up. More sophisticated and mature was the aim – and that is a fair description. In removing uneccesary design lines, it looks cleaner yet retains that all-important recognisability. The rear-end is a bit C-Max, though.
Ford has also slapped the new Fiesta with the title of being the most technolgy-packed volume small car on sale. Nissan would potentially argue the new Micra is as accomplished, but there is no disputing there are plenty of gizmos you can add to your digital shopping basket.
For starters, you can spec a 675-watt B&O sound system, which has a sub (that replaces the spare wheel), amp, digital sound processor (DSP) and various speakers. It sounds better than your bog-standard six-speaker offering, but the surround sound mode tries too hard and ends up being tinny and unpleasant at high volumes.
There are also numerous safety systems of varying usefulness, ranging from lane assist (which works hard to counter your steering), pre-collision assist (which is quite sensitive, but at least you know it works) and adaptive cruise control (for lazy motorway cruising).
The biggest change is the revamped the cabin. It looks drastically more enticing and there are fewer buttons to worry about. It makes the Focus's drab, button-heavy mess of plastic and datedness look especially bad.
Elsewhere, it is best to describe the changes as thoughtful. The wipers cover 13 more of the windscreen for more effective rain removal, the doors are easier to close and feature door protectors to help you avoid doing damage when opening them close to another car and there is an easy-fuel cap to help avoid putting the wrong fuel in.
Ford has also tested the seats to ensure they stay as they over years of use and made the leather more resistant to soil, jean dye and other nasties that would otherwise leave their mark forever.
Sync 3 and the top-spec eight-inch touchscreen display provides a touch of wow-factor that keeps your eyes away from a few off-putting plastics. You can pinch to zoom on then navigation map and swipe between features and settings like on a phone, making it easy to use.
Sync 3 is vastly superior to Sync 2 and takes little time to learn. But it does look a tad dated (background colour gradients are so last year, darling). To be fair, ease of use is most important given that young people buy this car and their eyes should be on the road ahead as much as possible.
Overall fit and finish is solid, although a touch of cabin vibration was heard in the Vignale at certain revs. You could argue the interior of the new Nissan Micra is more exciting, but both will impress if you are coming from an older model.
On annoyance stems from the steering wheel menu button, which sits too close to your hands if you like to grip just above the wheel spoke and causes the trip computer options to pop up. We also experienced a bit of horizontal play in the Vignale's admittedly comfy seats.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: How does it drive?
Even on the larger 17 alloy wheels, the new Fiesta rides better than before. Firm enough for driving fast, yet it can be forgiving when it needs to, the suspension revisions and damping improvements are noticeable to the point of being impressive.
This is true of the ST-Line, which is firmer and more purposeful but still accommodating of poor surfaces, and the Vignale, which rides 10mm higher and is deliberately softer – and that may actually work in its favour in the UK where roads are especially bad these days.
Mid-corner ruts, meanwhile, do little to deter the little Fiesta from staying on course – even at considerable speed – while the level of vibration and noise has been reduced for a quieter, more big car-esque character.
If you are worried about the new Fiesta being less of a hooligan, panic not. The ST-Line's 138bhp (140PS) lump (unchanged from before) provides energetic pace and a reasonably interesting engine note.
The excellent chassis composure means you can chuck the 2017 Fiesta into a corner and let the generous grip levels and sharp steering do the rest as you smile uncontrollably.
The addition of torque vectoring, which applies braking to the inside wheel to help reduce understeer, helps the new Fiesta carry more speed through the bends without you ever noticing what it is doing.
Braking has also been improved; specifically, the new Fiesta has eight per cent better braking distances. Meanwhile the modular feel of the pedal and ample braking power make it easy to stop or slow down.
As for the new 1.5-litre TDCI diesel, it offers a good mix of low-down grunt and fuel economy. The torque flatlines early, as in most diesels, but the overall character is surprisingly close to the 139bhp three-cylinder petrol.
Little noise is generated at low revs, while pushing it hard generates a bearable din. You forget its a diesel more often than not, which is a win.
As for the new six-speed manual gearbox, Ford has lubed it up to make it smoother. It is still a tad notchy (not quite Peugeot notchy), but the throw is short enough for speedy up and downs and the gear stick is comfortable.
Overall, the Fiesta is still the number one supermini when it comes to driver involvement and satisfaction, which means fans can collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: What about practicality?
There is an extra 16mm of knee-room in the back, which has helped make the Fiesta's cabin feel less claustrophobic than its predecessor but it is still pokier than, say, the new Kia Rio. Headroom is reasonable for those in the early six-foot club.
The larger 292-litre boot is the same as the new Ibiza, but bettered by the new Micra's 300 litres. The loading area has been widened, which is handy, and the glove box is unusually large for a small car. You also get door bins of a good size for Haribo and other travel essentials.
While the panoramic roof lets you to get more vitamin action than usual, it seriously eats into the rear head room so give it a miss if you routinely carry tall adults in the back.
Forward visibility is good, but the pokey rear window makes looking at the left-rear blindspot somewhat troublesome. Reversing is easy, especially with the help of the optional rear camera.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: Fuel economy and CO2?
The 1.5-litre TDCi is the most efficient engine of the bunch, thanks to CO2 emissions of as little as 82g/km and fuel economy of 3.1-litres per 100km (88mpg) – the latter is same as the most frugal Micra.
It is also only slightly more expensive than the lowest output 1.0-litre Ecoboost alternative, which is a plus. It is, however, harder to recommend in light of the Government's sudden dislike for cancerous emissions.
Resale values could be hit, especially as at least two UK surveys have shown a severe drop in appetite from British motorists for diesels, and other costs such as fuel and road tax could also increase in the near future.
The 140PS petrol in the ST-Line and Vignale is only slightly thirstier than the 1.0-litre smaller outputs, but 62.8mpg is good going and we found it hard to knock it below 40mpg with fast driving. CO2 emissions, meanwhile, are 102g/km.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: UK cost and specs?
Vignale is the top of the pile, with the ST-Line following close behind and then Titanium X and Titanium. Below that is Zetec, then Style for those who want cheap motoring and can stomach steel wheels hidden behind a wall of plastic trim.
Standard equipment on the new Fiesta Style includes a 4.2-inch infotainment display, daytime running lights, My Key, Lane-Keeping Alert, Lane-Keeping Aid and remote central locking. Yours from £12,715 before you start faffing with the myriad customisation options.
Step up to the Zetec and your steels become eight-spoke alloys, plus you get a Thatcham alarm, Ford Sync 3 with a 6.5-inch display, three-spoke leather steering wheel and LED daytime running lights. From £14,215.
The Ford Fiesta Titanium, which starts from £16,145, adds 16-inch 10-spoke alloys, eight-inch infotainment display, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, rear privacy glass and velour floor mats in the front and rear among other things.
Besides the ST-Line's sporty exterior bodykit and 10mm lower ride height, it gets 17-inchers (18s are available for £550), sporty front seats, sporty pedals, black headlining, keyless start, air conditioning of the manual variety and a 'Quickclear' heated windscreen, which is useful but annoying to look at. From £16,145.
As for posh Vignale, it gets a few unique aesthetic touches such as a 'V' grille and a panoramic roof, rear view camera with parking sensors, 17-inch ten-spoke alloys, Vignale floor mats and electric rear windows. Prices begin at £19,345, which is quite steep for a supermini, but it does feel somewhat posh.
The Fiesta ST model, coming in 2018, will be considerably faster on paper (hello, 198bhp), but whether it will be worth the extra money is something to consider, especially as it will be powered by a different engine. A three-cylinder one, in fact.
A crossover Fiesta, known as the Active, is also due next year and will offer a higher ride height and a more rugged physique for minor off-roading stints. That could be a bit of a hit given the big trend for SUV-esque machines.
2017 Ford Fiesta review: Should I buy one, then?
Ford has managed to make the Fiesta more competent without ruining any of its spirit. It is a better car to drive, regardless of whether you go for the softer Vignale, budget Titanium or stiffer ST-Line, and most of its weaknesses have been removed or reduced in severity.
If you want an attractive, fun to drive supermini with a strong dose of refinement and excellent engines, then, the new Fiesta is hard to ignore – especially as it is also potentially safer than ever.
The latest Ibiza is a worthwhile competitor, particularly in terms of value, while the latest Micra will cater more for those who pine for a boy racer aesthetic. We also found the new Rio rather appealing. But for making a drive fun, which is a big part of supermini motoring, the Fiesta is top.
With that in mind, the Fiesta is probably going to remain the UK's best-selling car. So you may as well learn to embrace the new design, C-Max backside and all, because you will be seeing a lot of them around.
- 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder turbo petrol
- 138bhp (140PS) at 6,000rpm
- 138ft/lb at 1,500 to 5,000rpm
- 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds (125mph top speed)
- 102g/km of CO2
- 62.8mpg (combined)
- From £12,715 (from £17,595 for ST-Line 140PS)