Ford expects the 1.4-litre petrol version of the Fiesta to be the best-seller. And that’s fine, but we’ve a sneaking suspicion you might be missing out on the sweet-spot in the Fiesta range. The best news is that it’ll actually cost you less too, both to buy and to run. Because we’re talking about the smallest engine in the range: the 1.25.
So a boggo Fiesta’s the best bet, is it?
Hold your horses. The cheapest Fiesta Studio three-door lists at £8514, and it’s a fine car because it shares the impressive virtues – space, comfort, style, finish – of every Fiesta, and is surprisingly well equipped. But it comes with a 59bhp version of that sweet little 16-valver. We’re talking about the 81bhp version, which starts at £9591 in Style trim. And that’s an important difference.
You’ve given a 1.25-litre Fiesta five stars for performance? Please explain
Okay, okay, don’t get carried away. This is not a hot hatch. Not with a 0-62mph figure of 13.3sec, obviously. But the rating isn’t for the raw figures; it’s about how they translate into real driving. And the fact is that this Fiesta will surprise you. And it’ll continue doing that every time you drive it, because in no way does it feel like standard 1.2-litre supermini fare.
There’s an immediate feeling of sprightliness from the moment you set off. Then torque swells from 2500rpm and carries you right past 5000rpm without feeling like the engine’s running out of breath – nail it further and it remains smooth, if a little buzzy. Take it on a motorway and it’s utterly capable of cruising in the fast lane, with power in reserve if you get cut up or hit an incline. Any speed, any gear, it’s always willing, and it’s refined with it. Plus there’s a really gorgeous burble from the tailpipe at idle.
All of which would be good enough in a 1.4-litre baby. But it’s exceptional for this engine capacity, and even more so when you consider the Fiesta’s ample accommodation – and a kerbweight of 1109kg. It’s no lightweight in any sense of the word.
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And it’s good elsewhere, is it?
Well, you’re looking at the most talented supermini currently on sale, so yes. There’s a lovely elastic ride quality to keep you buoyant at any speed – it only deteriorates on corrugated country lanes, and even then it’s hardly rough. Chuckable handling is a given, the gearchange is sweet and easy, the multi-adjustable driving position comfortable and adaptable. There’s room for four real people (or you can plonk three kids across the back seats) and the boot is capacious and practical.
Useful equipment (ABS, electric windows, mirrors, heated front screen, air-con, iPod socket) comes as standard, as do alloy wheels – and some useless stuff too (particularly the ambient interior lighting; as ambient as a lit match on a moonless night in the Grand Canyon). But forget that and remember that this is the first time Ford has bothered to build and finish a Fiesta without it feeling like a dustbin and its associated plastic liner.
Tell us about that feelgood factor
There’s a sense here that you’re getting something for nothing. Drive a Fiesta 1.4 and somehow it always manages to remind you that there’s a better, quicker one somewhere further up the range. And there is; it’s called the Zetec-S and it costs £12,331.
But the magic of the 1.25 Zetec is that it feels so cohesive as a package that every drive will remind you of your innate taste and common sense – you won’t feel like you’re missing out on something else. And in these economic circumstances, modesty could become the new bling.
No more should anybody think that a 1.25-litre Fiesta is a great second car but nothing else. Unless you habitually load up with five six-footers and a tonne of luggage and head off to France, a typical family needs no more than this. With mum, dad and two kids on board, there’s space to spare, peace and quiet (from the car if not the occupants) and it’s quick enough to keep up with – and even overtake – other traffic on any road. The fact that it looks so of-the-moment and is thoughtfully equipped is just a bonus.
Five stars though? Certainly. It’s difficult to imagine that this car could be any better than it is. And if £11,353 sounds a bit steep, haggle with your dealer – or go for a Style +, which loses the Zetec’s alloys but saves you £600 and keeps all the important stuff. Just make sure you go for the 81bhp version – and not the 59bhp one.
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