Ford’s mid-life changes to the Fiesta supermini get more radical the further forward you move along the car. At the back, there’s some lightly refreshed taillight clusters. In the middle, a usefully simplified climate control interface. And up front, a headline new engine: the three-cylinder Ecoboost unit from the B-Max and Focus, hiding behind a big-mouth grille that’ll provoke more than a few Aston Martin-wannabe comments.
So, are these changes enough to keep Britain’s best-selling car at the top of its game?
Where does the 100PS 1.0-litre Ecoboost Fiesta sit in the range?
Entry-level Fiestas start at £9795, but you’ll pay £12,295 to get into the cheapest 79bhp 1.0 Ecoboost variant, in Zetec trim as standard. Graduating to the 99bhp Ecoboost costs an extra £600: our test car’s Titanium spec is £14,845 as standard, carrying goodies like a Sony hi-fi with voice control, air-con, a heated windscreen and LED running lights. Our Fiesta also had £1020 of options fitted: £725 of pearlescent paint, a spare wheel (£95) and the £200 City Pack, which gets you rear parking sensors (on a supermini, tut-tut) and heated folding door mirrors.
You can get an even more giggle-some 123bhp version from £14,645. The top-dog motor brims with warm hatch, modern-day Ford Puma potential, though it’s the 99bhp car that’s the price/performance sweet spot in the three-pot range.
So, what’s the 2013 Ford Fiesta’s new engine like?
That answer comes in two parts: what it’s like to use, and what it’s like to fuel. Let’s start with the good news: if this is the future of downsizing, we like it. The 99bhp Ecoboost (signifying turbocharging and direct-injection tech in Ford-speak) motor sounds fruity, has a healthy spread of power and torque (125lb ft from 1400-4000rpm) and pulls more strongly from low revs than its rival triple in the new Renault Clio. It feels peppier than the 11.2sec 0-62mph sprint suggests, and will thrum up to 114mph. The 99bhp Ecoboost is road tax-exempt thanks to its 99g/km CO2 output, and with a claimed economy figure of 65.7mpg, what’s not to like?
Predictably, the answer is: you’ll never see such frugal numbers in anything approaching normal use. During CAR’s road test we covered hundreds of miles at motorway touring speed, interspersed with a good deal of urban stop-start traffic and town work, where the, er, stop/start system repeatedly killed and rebooted the engine faultlessly. Gears were swapped via the precise but slightly rubbery manual box when the shift arrow display recommended, but our combined average was a disappointing 37.1mpg.
Filled to the brim with unleaded, our Fiesta’s on-board computer estimated it’d travel 335 miles before it next dipped into your wallet. If it averaged the official 65mpg figure, the range would be a whopping 600 miles. Be in no doubt, the Ecoboost three-pot is a delightful engine, but if you’re looking to hyper-mile your Fiesta, you’re better off in the Econetic 1.6-litre TDCI diesel.
Does the rest of the Ford Fiesta over-promise but under-deliver?
No, it’s brilliant. The chassis is a blinder, pulling off the trick that the new Focus never quite managed: more maturity and refinement than its predecessor, while maintaining its chuckability and downright fun. The electrically-assisted power steering is quick and super-accurate, the chassis sharp and properly throttle-adjustable, yet the Fiesta rides commendably, turning our broken British network into a playground while isolating you from its blemishes. Braking is assured and there’s a firmer, more reassuring pedal action than the larger B-Max MPV. If you’re a keen driver, the Fiesta remains the go-to supermini, no question.
What’s life like inside the new Ford Fiesta?
Quieter than its French rivals: the new Renault Clio and Peugeot 208 both exhibit more wind noise around the mirrors, and the Ford just about trumps both for build quality too, if not the chrome-accented VW Polo. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Ford’s fussy cabin architecture is a matter of taste: its Polo, 208 and Clio enemies all offer touchscreen interfaces while the Ford sticks to an old school button-for-everything approach. In our Titanium trim test car, the Sony stereo fascia appeared to have caught the facelift’s Aston Martin-itus: it’s pretty, but the array of tiny buttons is daunting in those initial bonding miles. It’s roomy inside though, and over the shoulder visibility is fine, though the 276-litre boot is on the small side for the class.
One feature worthy of note is Ford’s ‘MyKey’ system, making its European debut in the facelifted Fiesta. Programmable keys allow owners to set a top speed limit and stereo volume level via your Ford dealer. A dashboard-dwelling Orwellian nightmare? Perhaps, but it brings peace of mind if you’re handing your new Fiesta over to the kids, and it should provide some insurance premium leverage too.
Despite an onslaught of trendy French newcomers like the Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio, and the ever-present premium threat of the VW Polo and Audi A1, the Ford Fiesta remains a brilliant all-rounder, and a deserved British favourite.
Beneath the German brand-bothering build quality there’s a real verve to the Fiesta’s dynamics, though not one that compromises its refinement. Be seduced by the drive, and not the pie-in-the sky economy figures, and the Fiesta’s sales party should be far from over.