Ford Fiesta review – still the best supermini?
Britain’s most popular car also happens to be one of its most accessible driver’s cars
Replacing a well-loved model with the next generation can be fraught with danger, but with the latest Fiesta, Ford has managed to keep all the best bits of the previous car while enhancing areas where the old car was beginning to lag behind its rivals.
Central to the previous Fiesta’s DNA was an entertaining driving experience, and with this eighth-generation machine Ford has maintained the car’s feisty and playful nature while improving refinement, updating the interior and adding some of the tech that’s expected even in the supermini class these days.
There’s a wide choice of engines – four mass-market three-cylinder petrols, three of which are turbocharged, and one four-cylinder diesel, plus the range-topping ST performance model – and combined with the extensive trim levels there should be a Fiesta to suit just about every buyer.
An enhanced chassis hasn’t taken anything away from the driving experience but has added an improved ride and upped the refinement. Inside there’s a much better cockpit, with many models featuring large touchscreens and Ford Sync technology, although some interior trims still feel a little hard, low rent and behind the quality standard set by some rivals.
Ford Fiesta: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical specs – All petrols have three-cylinder engines, while a four-cylinder diesel is also available. Most use a six-speed manual gearbox, but an automatic is available.
- Performance and 0-60 time – Range-topping ST is rapid, but even the regular three-pots have entertaining performance in their higher outputs.
- Ride and handling – Still class-leading. An updated chassis resists understeer well and rewards the committed driver, while comfort and refinement levels have also improved.
- MPG and running costs – WLTP economy of over 60mpg makes the diesel a fuel-sipper, but the EcoBoost petrols are frugal too.
- Interior and tech – Some rivals now offer greater quality or more inspiring design, but the Fiesta’s cabin is a big step up in quality and comfort from before.
- Design – Looks like a gentle evolution of its predecessor. It’s not universally successful, but sporty models have attitude and the bright orange Fiesta ST Performance Edition is quite appealing.
Prices, specs and rivals
The Fiesta range kicks off in Trend trim, available with a limited range of engines (though the diesel is still included) and a starting price of £16,115. Gone are the days of miserly ‘Popular Plus’ equipment levels – here you still get 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, a heated windscreen and air conditioning – but the cars further up the pricing structure add just enough to tempt you away.
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Titanium is the next step up, now offering the mid-tier petrols and the diesel, as well as a standard five-door body style and an auto gearbox option. Entry point is £18,345 and it grants you a different design of 16-inch alloy, keyless start, cruise control and a few other features in addition to the Trend’s equipment.
Titanium X begins at £19,845 with the same engine and transmission options as the Titanium, but further kit including larger 17-inch alloy wheels, B&O premium audio, seat height adjustment for both front seats, partial leather trim, and a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster.
The Active Edition is a slightly different proposition, with body cladding and a slightly taller ride height – marketers probably hate it if you mention the old Rover Streetwise in this context, but that’s essentially the vibe here. It comes in at a basic price of £19,685 with the same engines as the Titaniums but including all the visual tweaks.
An Active X Edition, from £20,995, adds the option of the most powerful 1-litre EcoBoost (from £21,945), plus some of the other toys from the Titanium X, while the Vignale Edition is this generation’s Fiesta Ghia X, the £22,245 model getting the upper pair of 1-litre petrols, the diesel, leather trim, unique 17-inch alloy wheels and more.
The more evo-centric models begin with the ST-Line and ST-Line X, each offering the full range of 1-litre EcoBoost petrols and the sole diesel, and reintroducing the three-door body style. Pricing starts at £19,045 for the ST-Line and £20,315 for the X, each getting touches such as unique 17-inch alloy wheels (18-inch for the ST-Line X), an ST-style bodykit, sports suspension and sports seats.
And of course, the range tops out with the Fiesta ST, at £21,445 for the ST-2, and £23,995 for the ST-3. The killer app here is a specially tuned chassis and 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine, with options such as a limited-slip differential and even coilover suspension for £1689.
The sector in which the Fiesta competes is the hardest-fought in Europe, so you’re spoiled for choice for alternatives. Tellingly though, much fewer can compete with the Fiesta where it matters for us, which is in its dynamics, performance and sense of fun – so we’ll keep things relatively simple.
Three newcomers to the market, the Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and its cousin, the Vauxhall Corsa, all feel higher-quality and more spacious than the Fiesta, with the Peugeot in particular being one of the most stylish in the segment, but none can quite match the Ford’s sense of fun. Mini gets closer with the various versions of its retro hatchback, and also betters the Ford for quality, but by the time you get to the ST versions of the Fiesta, the Mini has no real answer at the moment. Mazda’s 2 has a fine chassis and stylish interior but relatively lacklustre engines, while Suzuki’s Swift gets a different two out of three – a light and chuckable chassis, strong engines, but a less appealing cabin.
Hot hatches are few and far between at this level too, with no offerings from previous big players Renault or Peugeot at the moment. Mini offers various Cooper, Cooper S and JCW versions of its hatchback, Volkswagen will sell you a Polo GTI, Suzuki has the Swift Sport and Hyundai’s soon to offer an i20 N, but for the time being, the Fiesta ST remains the class leader.