"Ford's Fiesta isn’t just good to look at, it's great to drive and very practical, too."
Ford has given the Ford Fiesta a comprehensive makeover, giving it a new dramatic Aston Martin-influenced front grille and some new technology to help it compete against new arrivals like the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, and maintain its position as Britain's top-selling car. Some of our criticisms remain, particularly about passenger space in the back and luggage capacity, but overall Ford has transformed the car into one of the best ever Fords - and one that comprehensively beats its rivals, especially when it comes to driving. The Fiesta range starts with the Studio and Style specifications, which offer a neat little city run-about at a good price, Zetec and Zetec S get a little sportier, Titanium is luxurious, and Titanium X tops the range. Finally, you have the performance-focused Fiesta ST, one of the best hot hatchbacks in the supermini segment, which is due later in 2013. The Fiesta was an easy winner of our 2013 CarBuyer Best Small Car Award.
The Fiesta is quite simply one of the best cars to drive in its segment. It feels good in almost any situation, whether driving to the shops or cruising on the motorway, whatever your daily drive requires the Fiesta will cope - and better still make it a pleasurable experience, with a feeling of agility and responsiveness many of its rivals lack. The ride in all of the Fiesta range is good, firm but not jarring, and there's little trouble from potholes and speed humps, even in the Zetec S and ST models with noticeably firmer suspension. Engines are pretty quick across the range, including the 60bhp 1.2-litre petrol, but the pick of the range is the 123bhp 1.0 litre Ecoboost, which, along with its smooth five-speed gearbox, is both comfortable and efficient. When it comes to driving, the Fiesta ST is on a different level to the rest of the range - and arguably the rest of the supermini segment - delivering fun and excitement in one superb package.
Ford has done an excellent job in making the Fiesta feel like a much more expensive car. Wind noise is kept to a minimum even, at motorway speeds, while engine noise across the range is good, even under strain, and road noise is also well dampened. The Fiesta feels as comfortable a place to be as the much more expensive Mercedes A-Class or BMW 1 Series. In the front, the seats offer plenty of support and space, making long journeys pass with ease. In the rear, the dimensions of the car make space a little cramped but the seats are comfortable and supportive. The five-door models deliver a little more space for those in the back and would be our choice for families. The steering wheel is admirably small, and has a wide range of adjustments, which means that a tall driver will fit behind it with ease.
The Fiesta marks a step forward in terms of quality for Ford. Trim inside the car is better than the previous version of the Fiesta, especially around the heater controls and front door handles, but it does still feel lower quality than a Volkswagen Polo. The drive for improvements in reliability at Ford has led to the latest Focus jumping nearly 60 places in the Driver Power Survey in 2012, and the new Fiesta feels like it should be able to achieve the same sort of advances in coming surveys. Electronic stability is now standard across the range and all models have seven airbags fitted. Ford's Active City Stop, which can detect possible accidents and help brake the car, is available as an option. Euro NCAP have awarded the car the full five stars in its crash safety tests.
Access to rear seats in the three-door model is a bit tight and anyone with a young family would be best advised to look at the five-door. Even then they may struggle with the boot, which at just shy of 300 litres is big enough for a suitcase but struggles with a pushchair or pram. The rear seats do fold down, making the boot space 979 litres, but the floor has an awkward step in it, making it somewhat awkward to load bigger objects. The rear seats are a squeeze, with the sloping roof restricting headroom for taller passengers and only providing cramped legroom. New technology across the range helps with practicality and the optional reversing camera, which transfers an image to the rearview mirror, is an especially nice touch.
Value for money
The Fiesta comes in seven specifications: Studio, Style, Zetec, Titanium, Zetec S, Titanium X and ST. All are priced competitively, but the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio offer a bigger range of equipment as standard. High-spec models like the Titanium X do give more luxurious equipment levels but the price rises considerably over the lower-spec models. The Fiesta ST is very keenly priced and just manages to undercut its more obvious rivals and for that you do get one of the best cars in its class. The pick of the range for us is the Zetec, which comes with remote locking, air-con and electric windows as standard and only costs a small premium over the entry-level models.
With a number of low emissions engines, low servicing costs and reasonable insurance, the Fiesta should be cheap to run. Fuel economy in particular will make the Fiesta an attractive option, with a number of engines emitting less than 100g/km. The 1.6-litre diesel ECOnetic is the most frugal engine in the range, returning 85mpg and emitting only 87g/km. However, our pick is the 123bhp 1.0-litre ECOboost, which returns 65.7mpg and still comes in under the magic tax-free 100g/km number, making it both nippy and cheap to run. Depreciation should be reasonable for the Fiesta and better than rivals like the Renault Clio, so you should get a good price when you come to sell it on.