Ford Fiesta Review
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Ford Fiesta Tested September 2008
Highly Recommended Ford has taken its long-established dynamic excellence and added striking exterior styling and a radical new interior. Our Ford Fiesta review suggests that there isn’t a better supermini out there.
The preceding generation Fiesta was always one of the most exciting small cars to drive but, sadly, amongst the least remarkable in looks. Ford has well and truly solved that predicament by transforming the looks of the car from dowdy frump to pint-sized supermodel.
Even better, the performance of the car has not been compromised in achieving this transformation. Ford has taken the dynamic excellence of the old model and polished it, without radically changing the character of the car.
The one significant alteration is that the new Fiesta is actually lighter than the old one by 40 kg - this changes an unbroken 30-year trend for bigger and heavier cars with every model update. As fuel economy targets start to take effect, all cars will need to reduce weight but the Fiesta (and its Mazda 2 cousin) is the first to actually bite the bullet.
On our Ford Fiesta road test we found that the car was recognisably a Ford: outstanding suspension means the ride is firm but well controlled, whilst the handling is agile. Steering is a tad lighter than before because of the electronic power steering, rather than the old hydraulic variety, but it is far more precise than most such systems: electronic assistance has developed a reputation for providing anaesthetised steering.
The revised engines are also top notch. The Fiesta is available with the excellent 1.6 TDCI diesel as used in both the Focus and the Mini, and the Ford installation makes it perceptibly quieter than the Mini diesel. There is also D75a revised 1.6 petrol with variable valve timing which produces 120 bhp - enough for a very lively drive. The Fiesta also has the merit of offering one of the lowest CO2 five-seater cars on sale, with a road-tax exempt 98g/km of CO2 in the Econetic version.
Ford's internal slogan for the Fiesta - "It's not our small car, it's our smallest big car" - is not completely vacuous. The supple ride and superb refinement mean that it does feel like a car from the class above. Providing you do not need more space than the Fiesta offers, you would not miss being in a larger car, even on a long journey. The only fly in the ointment – well more like a gnat - is that the 1.6 petrol is quite low geared, with the engine running at almost 3,500 rpm at 70 mph. It is not noisy, but the engine is clearly working hard on the motorway. Ford says the low gearing in the petrol version is important because most buyers will spend most of their time either in town or on medium length journeys and the gearing gives the best response in those circumstances. Higher mileage drivers might be better off in the 1.6 TDCI.
Next: ratings and breakdown
1. Styling is a massive improvement over the old model
2. Ford's traditional dynamic excellence has not been compromised
3. Smooth, economical new engines
We don't like:
1. 1.6 petrol has to work hard on the motorway
2. It won't be the cheapest supermini on the market
3. That’s it really
Most fun: Zetec S
Most sensible: 1.6 TDCI Econetic
Worst: 1.25 60 bhp