► Ford’s perennial supermini driven
► Updated with mild hybrid engines
► Despite its age, it’s still one of the best in its class
In 2020 we’d have introduced this supermini by saying something along the lines of ‘the Ford Fiesta is deserving of its best-selling car in Britain moniker’. But things have changed. Ford’s lovable shopping trolley doesn’t regularly top the charts – the newer and more adaptable Vauxhall Corsa does.
The Ford hasn’t changed a great deal. Which is its problem. The Peugeot 208, Toyota Yaris, and Vauxhall Corsa are all newer.
The Fiesta is still brilliant (as you’ll find out further down) but it’s just beginning to feel a bit old. The 208 and Corsa are available with electric powertrains and sophisticated infotainment setups, while the Yaris is now hybrid, as opposed to Ford’s mild-hybrid option.
Tell us more about the Ford Fiesta
When it debuted in 2017, you could have argued that it wasn’t a massive step forward in terms of design from the previous generation. With more than 17 million sold globally since 1976, Ford is taking precisely no chances. There’s no radical redesign. Only a modest jump in dimensions (+71mm longer, +13mm wider). Little evidence of revolutionary technology. Rather, it’s a gentle evolution in all departments.
At 303 litres, it’s not a big boot. But it’s fair by supermini standards. Just watch out for a pronounced – and deep – lip over which to lug your bags (a false, raised boot floor panel is available, mitigating this).
Choose your Fiesta in three-door or five-door forms (70% of Brits go for the more flexible latter option); access to the rear is straightforward in the 3dr, thanks to large front doors. Once in the back row, leg and headroom are ample by class standards and you’ll comfortably get a pair of adults in there. The new, optional panoramic sunroof robs headroom, mind, squashing taller grown-ups.
It’s a Fiesta, Jim, but not as we know it…
This is a good-looking car, make no mistake. Bright, bolder colours work best to bring design chief Joel Piaskowski’s new aesthetic to life. The good news is, even humble entry-level models look slick, modern and crisp on smaller rims.
Step inside and it’s hard not to notice the eight-inch Ford Sync3 touchscreen which dominates the centre console standard in all models now, bundling in digital control of your media, navigation and communications.
Ford revised the trim range (deleting poverty-spec Style and forlorn Zetec and bundling them together into the new Trend specification as of the beginning of 2020), which we’ll get onto in a bit. The touchscreen has a clear, logical user interface and fast processor speeds. This means it doesn’t lag. But it feels ancient in comparison with Peugeot’s virtual 3D cockpit.
At least entry-level cars come with Ford’s Sync3 system, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The latest Ford electronic architecture also brings a raft of electro gadgets for safety: there’s lane-keep assist to nudge the Fiesta back into lane, radar cruise control to keep a set distance to the car in front and a camera-based collision protection system.
The biggest disappointment of the whole package is interior quality. You’re left with a sense that Ford knows exactly how to pitch mainstream quality – the pennies have not been lavished on feelgood luxury. The materials used are without exception below what you’ll find elsewhere in the class; Vauxhall’s latest Corsa, Seat’s Ibiza, the latest Toyota Yaris, Peugeot 208 and Hyundai i20 all feel classier inside.
Granted, there’s a little bit of squidge in the dashboard lining to pass the getting-to-know you showroom prod, but many of the plastics are disappointingly sharp and crude: the door grabs feel very cheap (you touch these at least twice every journey!), the tinny glovebox opens with a pathetic flop and the heating switchgear feels flimsy compared with most rivals.
Perceived quality just ain’t the Fiesta’s strong suit… But remember this: it’s not badly built. It’s ergonomically much better than the outgoing model’s confused, smartphone-apeing layout. It all works and looks durable. It’s just very mainstream, cheap and – if you’re feeling charitable – cheerful.
Let’s talk Fiesta engines
Ford’s supermini arguably had the biggest overhaul, engine-wise, in 2020 when it introduced mild hybrid variants on its 1.0-litre EcoBoost models in line with the Ford Puma.
It’s a class family of engines no matter what power output you go for; peppy, keen-sounding and well mannered, the three-cylinder 1.0 Ecoboost engine is a great poster child for downsizing. It’s eager to rev with a pleasing turbocharged kick and a useful dollop of torque from just under 2000rpm to work through higher gears. The EcoBoost 125 is all you really need, delivering all of the niceties we’ve just mentioned.
There’s also an EcoBoost 155 variant. It’s arguably a bit excessive for a supermini that’ll spend most of its life just nipping about with the odd motorway slog, but it’s got some grin-inducing punch to it, launching itself up slip roads and ready for mid-gear overtakes at a moment’s notice. If you can’t afford an ST, an ST-Line with the 155 is a cheaper compromise.
As for the mild hybrid assistance, we’d argue it’s of negligible benefit to fuel economy in reality. It certainly is eager to switch off the engine even as you’re coming to a stop and maintain that state for far longer than the cars without it. There’s a tremendously gentle additional torque kick when the power meter on the dashboard shows the MHEV system helping you out, but what’s most noticeable is lifting off the throttle. There’s some additional regeneration going on under the skin, almost as if you’re gently trailing the brakes – it can take some time to get used to.
What’s it like to drive?
Prepare for the good news. The new Fiesta blitzes the driving thing. Our fears that they’d throw away the sheer joie de vivre of the outgoing model are unfounded. It’s every bit as much fun to drive as the old model – putting it right up there at the top of the class among those of us who like to drive.
It passes the first-mile test with flying colours. The steering is wonderfully pointy and quick, lending a sense of agility and eagerness that makes the new Fiesta a fizzy, fun companion whether you’re bumbling around town or carving down your favourite back road. A few percentage points of feel are lost with the latest electro-power-assistance – it’s a bit lighter than the old Fiesta, but still an immersive wheel to wield.
And then there’s the ride quality. The outgoing Ford Fiesta remains the best car in its class to drive bar none and – hallelujah! – they’ve kept the chassis magic intact. The way the new supermini absorbs bumps and controls its bodywork over ruts and crests and tricky corners is little short of exceptional. Larger wheels, particularly on the toppy Vignale version, can stymie that somewhat but, overall, the Fiesta is an impressively calibrated bit of kit.
Wherever you point the Fiesta, it excels. Bumps and lumps in the road are absorbed with that wonderful pliancy that Ford has made a trademark these past two decades, ever since the Focus Mk1 rewrote the rulebook back in 1998. There’s more than a hint of chassis guru Richard Parry-Jones magic in this supple suspension set-up, and for that we’re grateful.
The driving position is spot-on: this is one Ford where you can sit low enough and there’s a good view out, despite small door mirrors and those pointless quarterlight split front windows which you can’t see out of. The Quickclear heated windscreen, standard on all Fiesta models, remains a fabulous Ford feature that you’ll enjoy most days in winter (toppier Fiestas also introduce heated steering wheels for the first time).
Watch out for a bit of a blindspot around the C-pillar, however, especially on five-door models. You may need those reversing camera option packs…
Ford Fiesta: prices and specs
Good value is key at this part of the supermini market and Ford is pitching the new Fiesta a notch above its predecessor. Prices start at £16,640. Your trim range as of 2020 looks like this:
- Trend: 16in wheels, manual air-con, Sync3 touchscreen, safety pack
- Titanium: parking sensors, navigation, auto wipers and cruise
- ST-Line: 17in wheels, sporty body kit, same tech as Titanium
- Vignale: bespoke body trimmings, leather, advanced safety kit and tech
There is also a jacked-up Fiesta Active and an ace ST version:
Read our Ford Fiesta Active review
Read our Ford Fiesta ST review
Ford Fiesta: verdict
The Ford Fiesta is all the supermini most could wish for. It’s fun to drive, rewarding for enthusiasts and just about practical enough. If only it had better attention to quality inside, we’d be adding that cherished fifth star. It’s a brilliant effort. Fiesta folk can lap it up with our hearty recommendation once more.
Read more Ford reviews here