The Ford Fiesta has evolved again. Jonathan Crouch drivers the clever three cylinder 1.0 EcoBoost petrol model
Ten Second Review
Ford's latest Fiesta looks very different to that which has gone before but it's probably not as radical under the skin as you might expect. Still, the introduction of the excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is extremely welcome. Ford's latest Fiesta looks very different to that which has gone before but it's probably not as radical under the skin as you might expect. Still, the introduction of the excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is extremely welcome.
With over four million Fiestas sold in the UK since 1976, it's a fair assumption that Ford knows what it's doing when it comes to developing small cars for a demanding clientele. The latest Fiesta is no exception. This car is effectively a midlife facelift of the sixth generation car and it was first shown at the 2012 Paris Show. The front end incorporates a styling theme we first saw on the B-MAX small MPV, with a big Aston Martin-style front grille that's fast becoming the Ford family look. It's a small vehicle with some very big shoes to fill. Its predecessors were Britain's best selling cars in 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2009, 2010 and 2011 but I have a suspicion that this latest version will carry on that winning streak without breaking too much of a sweat. Its secret weapon? A 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engine.
Certain realities exist in the supermini market. The additional cost of diesel engines rarely makes them big sellers, so this is where the state of the art in petrol engines is often played out. Right now, Ford's 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder unit is looking like it might just be in the box seat. It's available in both 100 and 125PS guises and it's already been a big hit in the Focus, winning the 2012 International Engine of the Year award along the way. With less lard to lug around in this installation, it's pretty vivid, especially in 125PS form, getting the Fiesta to 62mph in just 9.4 seconds. The Fiesta has long been one of the very best superminis to drive. Expect that still to be the case, even though here, the underbody changes are relatively few. Ford has developed new chassis and suspension components to improve the ride quality and refinement of the car and further refined the Ford Electronic Power Assisted Steering system. Though other small cars cosset you from bumps more effectively, the penalty is a vagueness when it comes to body control. This one lets you know the bumps are there but even on the most tarnished tarmac, lets very few of them into the cabin, skipping across the poorest surfaces with grip and composure through the tightest corners, all the while offering unrivalled driver feedback that's complete but not intrusive. The many drivers in this country who've never owned anything but a Fiesta probably think that all small cars drive like this. Take it from me: nothing could be further from the truth.
Design and Build
That massive trapezoidal front grille might have a few people looking twice and wondering whether an Aston Martin Cygnet is attempting an overtake. So yes, it's certainly distinctive - but not an unattractive feature and something that works well with the Fiesta's shape. Inside, Ford has relocated electric window switches, heated seat switches and interior door handles in the new Fiesta. A full leather-rim steering wheel is offered for the first time and a smart five inch central colour display supports the model's first integrated navigation system. It's a smarter cabin too, with a high-gloss finish for the upper instrument panel that flows to the lower centre console and is replicated in the door panels. A satin-chrome detailing finish is also offered, along with Ford's signature Ice Blue lighting to illuminate dials, switches and displays. There's more storage room too. A new central arm-rest also provides additional cubby space and the door pockets are larger and more practical. If you're going to be using the back seats regularly, opt for the five-door version: in the three-door, the windows are small and set high up, so light isn't abundant. Either way though, you might be surprised at the space available: even a couple of six-footers should be reasonably comfortable. Out back, a concealed load space has been introduced beneath the boot which has an adjustable floor height to simplify loading and unloading heavy items. As before, there's 276-litres on offer with the seats up. As for the styling changes, well that massive trapezoidal front grille might have a few people looking twice and wondering whether an Aston Martin Cygnet is attempting an overtake. So yes, it's certainly distinctive - but not an unattractive feature and something that works well with the Fiesta's shape.
Market and Model
You'll need to be budgeting in the £13,000 to £14,000 bracket for a Fiesta with this 100PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. It's certainly worth the £500 premium you'll pay over the normally aspirated 80PS version of this same powerplant. If you want the five-door bodystyle rather than the three-door we tried, there's a £600 premium to find. You're going to need quite a budget though, if you want this 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine with 125PS as this unit only comes with the plushest trim levels. Take it from me: the 100PS is really all you need. As for equipment, well, even entry-level Fiestas come with stability control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, a CD player with controls on the steering wheel, central locking and electric heated mirrors. There are nice touches too: we particularly liked the EasyFuel cap-less refuelling system. At the top of the range, Titanium variants are very well equipped and there's an ECOnetic version also on offer. Even ritzier are the Titanium-X models. These feature the Keyfree system, partial leather and include a SONY DAB stereo. One intriguing innovation is MyKey, a segment-first technology feature that allows parents to limit the speed of the car. Plus it prevents the driver from deactivating safety technologies such as Electronic Stability Control and the Active City Stop low-speed collision avoidance system. It can even the cap the volume level of the stereo in order to encourage safer driving. Another interesting innovation is SYNC, an in-car connectivity system that features Emergency Assistance that directly connects the vehicle occupants to local emergency services operators after an accident. It can do so in the correct language for the region whilst continuing to liaise with the driver in English.
Cost of Ownership
The Fiesta has always been a bit of a star where running costs are concerned. When the engines used to be a bit off the pace, the asking prices were low. Now that the Fiesta has some of the most fuel efficient engines in the sector, the list prices of the cars are a little higher - but to compensate, residual values have improved in turn. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine returns some excellent figures with both variants returning a stellar 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and registering just 99g/km - which means free road tax and no London congestion charge. Insurance premiums and maintenance costs have been kept low by an intelligent approach to manufacturing. Bake-hardened steel on the front wings, for example, offers better resistance to low speed bumps and scrapes. Headlamps and tail lamps are positioned high, away from potential impacts, while specially shaped 'crash cans' are designed as sacrificial parts, collapsing predictably in an impact to prevent more extensive damage and higher repair bills.
The Ford Fiesta has always been a vehicle that the British public has warmed to. There's an unpretentious quality to it and a focus on providing the things that really matter to small car buyers - fun handling, an affordable asking price, low running costs and decent accommodation and space. Now you can add strong safety provision and low emissions to that list as well. The latest car has a polish and self belief that we've never seen from the Fiesta before. In short, this blue collar car has made good. Especially with this 1.0 EcoBoost petrol engine fitted.