The Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s best-selling car for the last eight years – eight years! In its 40-year life 4.5 million examples have been sold, almost a quarter of which were the outgoing model.
So in developing the new Fiesta Ford had to be very careful not to spoil a winning formula. Despite that, they’re calling this an all-new car, not a refresh.
To the casual observer that all-new approach isn’t instantly obvious. Adhering to the old “if it ain’t broke…” philosophy the new car closely resembles the old one but is a good 7cm longer and 1.3cm wider. Closer inspection reveals a simplified surface with fewer creases and bulges to the panels. It’s a clean, simple look that improves on a car that still looked good nine years after its launch. There are new lights front and back designed to emphasise the car’s additional width and a choice of new alloy designs from 16 to 18 inches.
Over the coming months the Fiesta’s four “flavours” will all come to market. The standard trim Style, Zetec and Titanium cars will be joined by sporty ST-Line models; the luxurious Vignale and, next year, the crossover-styled Active. Each will have its own unique exterior cues and options to match the different perceived customer groups.
While the exterior is a subtle refinement of the previous model the interior is massively different and all the better for it. The old Fiesta’s cabin was its Achilles heel. After nine years in production and despite refreshes it felt old-fashioned and poorly thought out. Virtually every rival offered something better.
Now it’s right back up there with the best of them. The cluttered, button-heavy centre stack has been replaced with a simple clear arrangement. Higher-spec models are dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen boasting the latest Sync3 system while lower down the food chain a 6.5 touchscreen comes with Sync3 or a 4.2-inch screen is mated to the MyFord Dock for mobile devices.
Whichever screen takes up the centre of the dash, the arrangements around it are logical and easy to use and the reshaped dashboard looks and feels a big step up in design and quality.
Ford Fiesta Titanium 5-door
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 10.5 secs
Economy: 65.7mpg combined
CO2 emissions 97g/km
Overall, the cabin quality is up there with the toughest rivals too. Everything feels built to last and switchgear operates with a reassuring solidity. The seats are firm but comfortable and as long as you avoid the optional panoramic roof it feels spacious, although some rivals offer more rear space.
Refinement is a real strength, too. The Fiesta manages to display a level of sound insulation that cars in the class above would be proud of and long journeys would be a doddle in the comfortable, quiet cabin.
Higher end models get all sorts of goodies, including heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and that big touchscreen. But even the most popular Zetec trim features 15-inch alloys and the 6.5-inch touchscreen.
The Fiesta’s biggest strength has always been the way it drives and it continues to leave competitors behind in these stakes. A lot of work has gone into making it stiffer yet smoother and its setup seems to suit British roads so well. Composed damping means even poor surfaces don’t intrude into the cabin but it manages to maintain enviable body control. Quick and accurate steering instantly engages the driver and make it a fun thing to pilot regardless of which engine is under the bonnet.
Under the bonnet is another area where Ford has taken what works and built on it. The flexible 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been carried over in 99bhp, 123bhp and 138bhp tunes and now comes with a six-speed manual in place of the old five-speed gearbox. The old 1.2 petrol has been replaced with a 1.1 and there’s a new 1.5-litre diesel with 84bhp or 118mpg and a claimed combined economy of 88.3mpg.
The 99bhp 1.0-litre is expected to remain the big seller. It’s quiet and smooth and delivers a good amount of pull most of the time. The 123bhp’s advantages over the 99bhp are hard to see. It doesn’t feel much quicker and economy and emissions figures are virtually identical. From past experience we know that the 138bhp is another matter but we didn’t get to test that in the new car.
The other two engines are expected to be small volume sellers. The non-turbo 1.1 would be fine for purely city driving but lacks the 1.0-litre’s flexibility and pull at higher speeds. The 84bhp diesel is quiet and smooth enough but doesn’t feel as punchy as the 88bhp unit in the Kia Rio, for example.
The Fiesta range starts at £12,715 for a Style with the non-turbo 1.1 petrol engine but don’t expect to see many of those on the roads. Most popular is expected to be the manual five-door Zetec with the 99bhp petrol, which will set you back £15,445. Astonishingly, Ford expect 15 per cent of new Fiestas sold to have a list price north of £20,000 thanks to the introduction of the Vignale, Titanium and Titanium X trims.
Whichever trim buyers go for they’re getting an excellent machine. Everything that made the old Fiesta such a success is still present in the new one and its biggest problem has been comprehensively dealt with. With a package as good as this it’s hard to see its best-seller title being lost any time soon.
Ford say the new Fiesta is the most technologically advanced small car on offer.
The new model brings a brace of driver assist and safety features usually only found on larger cars as well as a purpose-developed audio setup.
Depending on the trim level drivers benefit from everything from forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control to blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance and cross traffic alert. Some models also add traffic sign recognition, auto high-beam functions, keyless entry/start and rain sensing wipers. Titanium models even get a heated steering wheel.
Fiesta is the first Ford to feature an enhanced version of pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection that features a wider camera angle and uses the car’s headlights to improve nighttime detection.
It also features park assist with parallel and perpendicular functions and will now apply the brakes during such manoeuvres if it thinks you’re going to hit something.
The Sync3 system – standard on all but basic Style cars – features a quick simple interface with DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, voice control and emergency assistance as standard. Satellite navigation is available from Zetec upwards.
Everyone seems to have a tie-up with a hi-fi manufacturer to develop a bespoke set-up for their car. In the Fiesta’s case the arrangement is with B&O Play and the result is pretty impressive. Standard on Titanium X and as an option pack for most other models, this packages a 10-speaker 675-watt sound system with Sync3 navigation. The sound is crisp, clear and seriously loud – exactly what a certain section of Fiesta buyers will be looking for.
In setting it up the engineers used a wide range of artists, from Adele to the Foo Fighters. As well as creating a great system their efforts have reassured me that I’m not the only person whose iPod features Alison Kraus alongside Korn.