Analysing why Ford’s supermini regularly tops the UK car sales chart
A familiar sight on British roads for the last 40 years, Ford’s Fiesta rarely falls outside the top three best-selling cars in the UK.
People have always bought it because it’s always been a great all-rounder. Let’s look in a little more detail at the specific attributes that make it so good.
The basic Fiesta comes with a 1.25-litre 80bhp petrol engine, but you’re better off spending a little bit more for the non-turbo 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Even better than that is our recommended 99bhp 1.0T Ecoboost. You’re unlikely to feel short-changed on performance pace so no need to be tempted by the more expensive 123bhp version. Of the ‘hot’ versions, we prefer the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine of the standard ST over the 17bhp more powerful ST200. You can go diesel. The 74bhp 1.5 TDCi engine is reasonable, but the uprated 94bhp version doesn’t really justify its higher price.
Avoid the bigger alloys and you’ll find the Fiesta delivers a superb combination of small-car agility with a big-car ride. You’ll need to spend a lot more on other cars that will match or improve on it. ST-Line trim firms up the suspension but the tradeoff for tighter handling is poorer comfort. Same goes for the ST and ST200 versions. They’re all about sharp handling, and they are more settled than non-ST Fiestas at higher speeds, but the town ride is relatively jittery.
Keen handling and nicely-weighted steering mean lots of fun behind the wheel, irrespective of the journey. The lower ride height of ST-Line models adds to the feeling of agility and gives you a sporty feel at low cost. For more money you can go for the ST which we reckon is the most engaging hot hatch on the market.
The three-cylinder petrol and the diesel engines are noisier than the four-cylinder petrols when you’re pressing on but things quieten down at steady speeds, with very little wind noise. Big-wheeled versions will create more road noise, but not enough to be a deal-breaker. All the main controls operate with slick precision.
For regular drivers the high driving position and supportive seats are part of the Fiesta’s appeal. Every model offers seat height adjustment and only the Zetec misses out on adjustable back support. Long journeys are a doddle. Only the jumbled dashboard design jars a little. The Fiesta’s dashboard is something of an acquired taste, however; the main instrument readout is clear, but the centre console is cluttered and it takes time to get the hang of all the buttons and switches.
That distinctive body shape trades visibility for looks to some extent. There’s no shortage of bodywork to obscure your view. Still, it’s no worse than many other superminis. Ford’s quick-acting heated windscreen is standard on every model and a real joy in winter. You can get all-round parking sensors on most trim levels, and a rear-view camera on some models.
The Fiesta’s mobile-phone inspired system has dated quite badly and demands fiddly menu scrolling using small buttons. On the plus side, every Fiesta has a USB socket, a digital radio and Ford’s Sync system, which lets you use your mobile phone on the move and control music from your phone or MP3 player using voice commands. Again, it’s not the best system but it works reasonably.
Though it doesn’t feel as ‘premium’ as a Mini or a Polo, the Fiesta does feels well built. Having said that, don’t buy one if you’re expecting a classy ambience. Door panel plastics are not as soft as those on the top of the dashboard. There’s a big difference in cabin glitz between the range extremes.
The windscreen slopes and the driving position is high but there’s still decent front headroom. Leg and elbow room are also ample for two sizeable adults. Oddments space is OK, nothing more. You can fit small smartphones in the gearlever cubby and you get two cupholders between the seats.
The Fiesta packs a fair amount of space into its compact footprint. Limited head and foot space in the back means that three adults would be a squeeze on longer trips though. Other five-door superminis like the Honda Jazz and Nissan Note are easier to get into thanks to wider-opening doors.
A deep and well-shaped 290-litre boot gives average space for the class. Honda’s Jazz or a small estate like the Skoda Fabia Estate will work better for anyone who prioritises absolute space but the Fiesta will work fine for the weekly shop. If you have a baby buggy, check that it fits.
Fiesta list prices look high, but big discounts are on offer via not just online brokers but also Ford showrooms. They will protect you from average resale values. Just about all of the Fiesta’s 1.0-litre petrol engines – and every diesel one – produces less than 100g/km of CO2. We got a real-world 52.3mpg from the lower-powered diesel and a real-world 46.2mpg from the 1.0 Ecoboost 125. You can keep maintenance costs down by opting for a three-year plan.
Zetec is our favourite spec as it has most of the stuff you would want – heated windscreen, Ford’s Sync Bluetooth and voice-control system, DAB radio and hill start assist – along with some nice cosmetic upgrades. Titanium X models add luxury items like a rear-view camera, heated part-leather seats and a keyless entry system. ST models have body kits, 17-inch alloy wheels and grippy Recaro sports seats.
The Fiesta has an above-average reputation for reliability and better than that of rivals like the Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa. Its three-year/60,000 mile warranty is average for the class but looks less impressive against the five-year/100,000-mile offering of the Hyundai i20 and Toyota Yaris, or the seven-year one on the Kia Rio. You can extend the factory warranty to five years/100,000 miles, however.
Safety and security
Stability control and seven airbags are standard Fiesta features. It scored a maximum score in its 2012 Euro NCAP crash test and in Thatcham’s ‘stealability’ resistance test. We would recommend adding the automatic city emergency braking system that’s optional on 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol models and all diesel models.