"Ford's Fiesta isn’t just good to look at, it's great to drive and very practical, too."
You won’t find a better small car on UK roads than the Ford Fiesta. Fact. That's why there was only ever one possible winner of the 2013 CarBuyer Best Small Car Award – a title the Fiesta has now won two years in a row. Having been the recipient of an extensive nose job towards the end of the 2012, the current Fiesta now has a dramatic Aston Martin-style front end and grille, and now comes fitted with a host of new technology and accessories designed to make sure it still competes with some of its newer rivals, such as the all-new Renault Clio and Peugeot 208. It certainly looks bold and distinctive and should more than easily hold on it its status as the UK's top-selling car. You still don’t get much space in the back for passengers and the boot only offers limited room for luggage, but overall Ford has managed to make the Fiesta one of the best cars it has ever rolled off the production line – and that is saying something.
Comprehensively beating its rivals in almost every regard, the Fiesta is particularly fun from behind the wheel, where no rival even comes close to matching it for sheer fun. You get to choose from six specifications, starting with the entry-level Studio and Style models - essentially neat little city runabouts for a good price. Then you go up to the mid-range Zetec and Zetec S, which are a bit sportier, before getting to the more luxurious Titanium and top-of-the-range Titanium X models. And, if you want a performance-focused hot hatchback, then the Ford Fiesta ST leaves everything else in the supermini segment in the dust.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
This is another huge strong point for the Fiesta - low emissions engines, low servicing costs and low insurance meaning that there aren’t many superminis on the market, especially with the introduction of the super-efficient EcoBoost engines. It offers excellent fuel economy, with a number of engines returning more than 60mpg and emitting less than 100g/km of CO2, making it exempt from road tax. The 1.6-litre diesel ECOnetic is the most efficient engine in the range, returning 85mpg in combined fuel economy and emitting only 87g/km of CO2. However, we’d go for the 123bhp 1.0-litre ECOboost, which returns 65.7mpg and still comes in under the magic 100g/km mark, making it both fast and cheap to run.
Interior & comfort
Ford has done a really clever job of making the current Fiesta feel like a much more expensive car than it really is – which is about as high a recommendation as we can make. All the engines are pretty quiet, even when driven quite hard, and wind noise is well reduced, even when travelling on the motorway. General road noise is hardly noticeable at all. The interior of the Fiesta feels more like what you might expect from a premium car like a Mercedes A-Class or BMW 1 Series, thanks to generally high-quality materials and lots of equipment. The front seats offer lots of space and have plenty of support to help make long journeys pass with very little discomfort or strain. The car's supermini dimensions do make it a bit cramped in the back, but the seats themselves are just as good as in the front. If you’re thinking of using the Fiesta as a family car, we’d definitely recommend going for the five-door model, which gives you a bit more space in the back for squeezing everyone in. You get an admirably small steering wheel (which means more room in the driver's seat) that comes with a wide range of adjustment, so even a tall driver will be able to fit behind it quite easily.
Practicality & boot space
The Fiesta is a supermini, so there's a limit to how practical it can actually be from the get-go. But you can help yourself by choosing the five-door model over the three-door for a start, which greatly improves access to the rear seats, especially for families. Adding two more doors doesn’t improve the amount of boot space on offer, though, which – at 276 litres – is just about big enough for one suitcase but proves to be a battle if you’re trying to store pram or a pushchair. Fold down the standard-fit split-folding rear seats and the storage capacity increases to 960 litres, but the floor has an awkward step in it that makes loading bigger objects decidedly awkward. Also, the sloping roof eats into headroom for any passengers of reasonable height, while the back seats are generally very cramped and are only truly suitable for kids to use on longer journeys thanks to limited legroom. New technology across the range does improve practicality a bit, however, including an optional reversing camera that transfers an image to the rear-view mirror - a particularly neat touch that makes reverse parking very easy indeed.
Reliability & safety
There's a real sense that Ford raised its game with the latest Fiesta, especially in terms of quality. Inside the car, everything has improved on the previous model, particularly the trim around the controls for the heater and the front door handles. In respect for fairness, it doesn’t quite match the Volkswagen Polo, but VW remains top of the heap when it comes to affordable quality in the smaller family classes. The Fiesta also didn’t fair too well in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, failing to appear in the top 100 cars list, with Ford itself ranking a disappointing 23rd out of 32 in the top manufacturers list. That is an improvement of two places on the 2012 poll and still keeps it ahead of main mass-market rival Vauxhall, but you’d hardly call it something to be proud of given Ford's status as the most popular car maker in the UK. However, this latest model is still too new to feature yet, so let's hope Ford's tweaks help it make a better showing in the 2014 poll. As is increasingly standard across the whole car industry, the Fiesta secured the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test. Electronic stability control (ESP) is now fitted as standard across the whole range and all models come with seven airbags, too. Ford's Active City Stop, which detects possible accidents and brakes the car automatically, is also available as an optional extra.
Engines, drive & performance
Where to start? The Ford Fiesta is, simply, one of the best cars to drive on the market, full stop - and easily the best in its segment by a long way. It drives well and feels great wherever you drive it, whether you’re cruising along on the motorway or heading into town to do the shopping – whatever your daily needs, the Fiesta can turn any trip into a pleasurable experience. Its agility and responsiveness is unmatched by any rival, and the whole range offers solid ride that never jolts or jars but still has no trouble ironing out speed bumps and potholes. Even the noticeably harder suspension set-ups in the sportier Zetec S and ST models never come close to becoming uncomfortable. The choice of engines are all pretty quick – we’d recommend the 123bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost, which not only offers all the performance you’d hope for from a conventional 1.6-litre engine, but is both comfortable and efficient, too. It comes fitted with a smooth five-speed gearbox, too. In terms of sheer drive and performance, the Fiesta ST is on an entirely different level to the rest of the range, delivering excitement and fun in one truly excellent package.
Price, value for money & options
The entire range of Fiestas is competitively priced, but the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio do offer more standard accessories and equipment. However the Fiesta is so fantastic overall that it can’t be considered anything but great value. The standard Fiesta is offered in six specification levels - Studio, Style, Zetec, Titanium, Zetec S, and Titanium X, while the performance-focused ST comes in ST-1 and ST-2. High-spec models like the Titanium X have much more luxurious equipment levels but you pay for it, with the price rising considerably over the lower-spec models. Considering what you get for your money, the Fiesta ST is very well priced for such an exciting car and just manages to undercut its more obvious rivals, making it a real bargain. However, our overall recommendation is the Zetec, which comes fitted with remote locking, air-conditioning and electric windows as standard, and only costs a little bit more than the entry-level model. Resale values on the used car market should be strong for the Fiesta, too, and you should get a better second-hand deal than rivals like the Renault Clio.