Ford Fiesta 1.0 Powershift automatic (2014) review

Published:07 April 2014

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Powershift automatic (2014) review
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This is the Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 100PS Powershift. That’s Ford’s complicated way of telling you it’s teamed the top-selling Fiesta supermini (and its popular 99bhp three-cylinder petrol engine) with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The fun-to-drive Fiesta is one of our favourite superminis, whether it’s in cooking everyday guise or the laugh-out-loud fast ST Mountune edition. But an automatic gearbox isn’t necessarily good news for this fine package…

Does a trick gearbox inflate the Ford Fiesta Powershift’s eco-figures?

No – it knocks them down a peg or two. Ford claims the turbocharged, 999cc Ecoboost engine – which accounts for 40% of UK Fiesta sales – achieves 65.7mpg as a manual, but when CAR tested that very model last year, it struggled to crack 38mpg. Adding a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox drops the claimed efficiency to 57.7mpg, while CO2 output jumps from a tax-exempt 99g/km to 114g/km.

Kerbweight climbs an inconsequential 10kg versus the five-speed manual Fiesta, but Ford claims identical performance: 11.2sec from 0-62mph, and a top speed of 112mph.

Sounds like the claimed economy is a little more realistic this time

Slightly, but the Ecoboost engine’s appetite still disappoints. Our test car averaged a poor 33.8mpg – while the car calculated a full tank range of 340 miles. According to the brochure figures, 515 miles should be possible with Pope Francis behind the overly thick steering wheel of our Titanium X trim test car.

The three-pot performs well, with plenty of low-down power and overtaking urge that belies its diminutive size, but there’s no getting away from the fact that whether we’ve tested it in a B-Max, Ecosport or Fiesta, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost simply isn’t as frugal as the headlines would have you believe.

What about this new-fangled dual-clutch gearbox?

The confusingly named Powershift transmission is a mixed bag. Twin-clutches might seem like overkill – no-one really needs gearshifts so fast in a 1.0-litre shopping car that there’s no interruption in drive to the wheels. But it has to be said, about town, the Fiesta shuffles up and down its six speed ’box beautifully.

You’ll be nodding with approval at its smooth manners, right up until you exit town, and up your speed. Then, you’ll be nodding involuntarily as the box of cogs fails to keep up.

Bit of a dimwit when you need a fast-changer then?

Afraid so. A good automatic gearbox should be like a good football referee – if it’s doing its job well, you shouldn’t notice it. When you plant the Fiesta’s throttle to snatch an overtake, merge into a dual-carriageway, or even slot into an enticing roundabout gap, the Powershift gets completely caught out, dithering over which gear to choose and then shunting drive back to the wheels in a panic to get the job done. You sense all that’s needed is a software recalibration, to give Ford’s Powershift ’box similar response to VW’s DSG offerings.

The rest of the Fiesta is so good out of town – with decent refinement, comfortable ride, and best-in-class handling – that it’s a real shame the gearbox isn’t at the races. Where the manual Fiesta is a willing playmate on a sinewy back road, the automatic car is out of sorts and longs for some stop-start traffic to really excel. It all adds to the suspicion this is a car aimed at a sedate, dare we say senior customer, who’ll pootle along blissfully unaware their little Ford has one of the best set-up chassis of any mainstream car on sale right now.

But you can take control with paddleshifters, I suppose?

Not here. There are no paddles behind the steering wheel, and you can’t push the gear selector up and down to dictate changes either. Instead, Ford has opted to equip the Powershift with a tiny rocker switch on the gearlever’s right flank. In ‘Sport’ mode, it allows the driver to select a gear ‘manually’. Sounds fine, but while the current gear display changes swiftly in the instrument binnacle, the actual mechanicals are in no hurry to follow suit.

Anything else?

The Fiesta, whether in manual or automatic form, is largely a good car. But unless you’re buying the ST, it’s not £18,000 good, and that’s the asking price of this top-spec Titanium X test car: £1450 more than the manual. Ouch.

As you’d expect, Titanium X trim is very well-equipped: you get 16in alloys, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, privacy glass, cruise control, keyless go, automatic wipers – the list goes on.

Our test car piled on options to the tune of £19,470 all-in. A mid-spec Fiesta Zetec five-door, which starts at £13,495, is closer to the range’s value sweet spot.

Verdict

Unless you’re medically unable to enjoy driving a Fiesta without opting for this two-pedal model, go for the manual. It’s (slightly) more economical, cheaper, and more of a hoot to drive. VW’s Polo DSG and Audi A1 S-tronic, although pricey, do the self-shifting supermini thing better than this otherwise likeable Ford.

Specs

Price when new: £17,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 999cc 12v turbocharged 3-cyl, 99bhp @ 6000rpm, 125lb ft @1400-4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch, front-wheel drive
Performance: 11.2sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 57.7mpg, 114g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1101kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3969/1764/1468

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