Driven: Ford Fiesta

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

The outgoing Fiesta has been around for eight years, and it’s still a fine machine. It’s great to drive, still looks good, and manages to do supermini things as well as any other supermini can. Where it had fallen behind was inside, where the interior was a mix of an outdated Motorola RAZR phone and the lighting from an unpopular nightclub of the 80s.

The blue lights and dials have gone now though, along with the countless buttons shotgunned at the dashboard. Instead there’s a grown up cabin with a tablet-sized touch screen mounted high up on the centre stack that controls almost everything. There are still buttons for the heating and ventilation system low down by your knees but, on this Titanium spec car, there’s climate control so you’ll probably just find a temperature you’re comfortable with and never touch the controls again.

A combination of digital and traditional dials sit ahead and are exceptionally clear, although the trip computer can be a bit fiddly to operate. It’s certainly not something to try to operate while driving. The same could be said of the infotainment system that, whilst displayed on a clear screen, isn’t particularly intuitive to use. Voice control is available, but it’s a tad hit and miss as with all of these systems.

What Ford has managed to improve is the perception of quality. The leather-covered steering wheel, the soft touch plastics around the interior, and the touch points such as the gear knob and window switches, all feel like they’re from a car a class or two above. Everything combines to feel reassuringly solid, almost as if the pieces aren’t put together one by one but instead hewn from a single solid lump of material. It’s genuinely impressive, and starts to make the £18,145 asking price for this car seem a little more reasonable.

Beyond that, the changes to the Fiesta are less thorough, despite being all-new. The car has grown slightly on the outside, but the interior is space is much the same as it was before. That means there’s plenty of space up front, with a couple of cupholders, a cubby just about big enough to take a smartphone, and enough head and elbow room to keep people happy. Things are tighter in the rear where it’s really best to limit passengers to two people. Headroom is reasonable, unless the optional panoramic roof is specified, but legroom is tighter than it could be, despite thinner front seats. The rear seats don’t do more than simply folding down, so there’s no van-like option to extend the boot, which itself is a tad on the small side.

What’s also not changed much between the two generations of Fiesta is how it drives, and that’s the really good news. The suspension is new, but of broadly similar design to the previous car. There’s a wider track (so more stability) and revised bushings (reduced harshness and improved precision) behind larger wheels (more grip) with bigger brakes. The result is a car that goes, turns and stops as well as anything else in the class. Every drive will put a smile on your face as it’s a joy to steer along winding ribbons of tarmac. In town it’s just as capable, feeling nimble and agile, but none of it is at the expense of comfort.

Somehow the engineers at Ford have managed to combine small car fun with the comfort and refinement of a far larger car. It’s maybe not quite as accommodating over bumps and imperfections as the new SEAT Ibiza, but it’s right up at the top of the class – just so long as you avoid the unusually large wheel options and the rubber band tyres that they come with.

The car combines comfort and handling superbly, is well equipped (outside of the base-level Style spec), feels more grown up than its rivals, and is backed up by a 60,000 miles, 3 year warranty. The Fiesta might be all new, but fortunately it somehow remains the same car that we know and love.

Model Tested: Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Powershift Titanium
Price: £18,145
Range: £12,715 – £19,875
Top speed: 111 mph
0-62 mph: 12.2 seconds
Power: 100 PS (99 bhp)
Torque: 170 Nm (125 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £248
Official fuel economy: 54.3 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 118 g/km
Car Tax: £140 (£160 in Year 1)
Insurance group: 10E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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