Imagine a city the size of Glasgow. Now imagine every single person living in it driving around in the same car. Well, that gives you a fair idea how many people have bought a Ford Fiesta in Britain in the past decade. Yep, Ford's humble hatchback has been the country’s most popular car for years.
And with good reason. Recent generations have been touted as the best-handling car in the small car class, earning the Ford Fiesta a solid reputation for driver appeal. There are also some fine engines to choose from, too, the most noteworthy of which are the 1.0-litre turbocharged Ecoboost units that come in a variety of power outputs.
There’s also plenty of choice regarding how your Fiesta looks. You can have a regular one that looks like butter wouldn’t melt, choose the far sportier ST-Line that apes the near-200bhp Fiesta ST hot hatch or opt for a touch of class with the chrome-adorned Vignale. Ford has even considered the booming popularity of small SUVs by offering an Active version, complete with tough-looking black wheel arch extensions, a jacked-up ride height and roof rails.
However, the Fiesta has some extremely strong competition, including the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, while the Skoda Fabia offers space and value in abundance. Does the latest Fiesta have the talents to compete? And which engines and trims make the most sense? We’ll tell you all you need to know over the next few pages.
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Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level 1.1-litre petrol engine (called the 1.1 Ti-VCT) has just 84bhp so feels a bit gutless on faster roads; it’s certainly worth opting for one the pokier turbocharged 1.0 Ecoboost engines.
These come in a variety of power outputs, starting with the 1.0 Ecoboost 100 (which actually has 99bhp). This a fine engine that's peppy around town and comfortable on longer motorway trips. The sweet spot in the range, though, is the 123bhp version (called the Ecoboost 125) because it offers stronger acceleration (0-62mph takes 10.0sec) for not a lot more money.
Finally, there's the Ecoboost 140, which is slightly faster again and worth a look if you want something vaguely quick. However, the fastest Fiesta of all (by far) is the Fiesta ST, which we've reviewed separately.
There are also two 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engines available in the Fiesta, but you’ll have to do a seriously high mileage to justify their significantly higher purchase price. For most people, the decently frugal Ecoboost engines make more financial sense.
Suspension and ride comfort
One of the most appealing things about the Fiesta is how it combines small car fun with big car sophistication, and that’s true of the way it rides. Steer clear of the larger optional alloy wheels and the Fiesta deals brilliantly with the sort of nasty sharp-edged bumps and potholes that are all too common on British back roads.
The Fiesta is one of the most comfortable choices in the small car class. Indeed, only the Volkswagen Polo can trump it for comfort. ST-Line models have firmer sports suspension, so you feel more of the bumps as they pass beneath the car, but the ride is still extremely well controlled, so you won't bounce up and down wildly over undulations taken at speed.
If you opt for the Active model, you’ll benefit from a subtly softer ride, thanks to a higher ride height and tweaked suspension that enables the car to cope even better than the standard Fiesta with sharp jolts. On the other hand, the large wheels fitted as standard to the Vignale mean it can’t deal with surface imperfections as well as smaller-wheeled variants of the Fiesta.
The Fiesta may be a small hatchback, but it's as fun to drive as some sports cars, thanks to its sharp handling and precise, well-weighted steering. Indeed, it’s the Fiesta’s ability to put a smile on your face on even the most mundane journey that’s so endearing.
ST-Line versions receive sports suspension with a lower ride height. This makes the Fiesta even more agile and grippy, which is great if you want hot hatch handling without the bigger bills that a powerful engine brings. If you do want the full-fat hot hatch experience, the range-topping Fiesta ST is sharper and more focused still, but even the cheapest versions in the line-up can embarrass all rivals, even the Seat Ibiza, through the corners.
Active versions, meanwhile, are slightly less agile than other Fiestas because of their 18mm increase in ride height. The car’s body rolls a tad more in corners and generally doesn’t feel quite so well tied down through fast, twisty bends – although the difference is only slight.
Noise and vibration
The 1.0 Ecoboost engines are remarkably smooth and quiet. Accelerate hard and you feel and hear less of a buzz than you do in rivals with equivalent three-cylinder turbo petrol engines, such as the Ibiza and Polo. The diesels are unsurprisingly noisier, but not horrendously so.
There's some road noise, particularly on versions with larger alloy wheels, but not enough to really irritate. However, there is a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, especially in models fitted with a panoramic glass roof, so the Polo is a slightly more peaceful cruiser.
Meanwhile, the Fiesta’s accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all positively weighted, making it a really easy car to drive smoothly. The six-speed manual gearbox fitted to most versions is also very precise and enjoyable to use, while even the five-speed 'box in the entry-level 1.1-litre models is almost as good.