It takes very little time behind the wheel of the new Fiesta to come to the pleasing conclusion that Ford has remained true to the outgoing car’s class leading driving dynamics. It’s the small things you notice first – the controls all fall to hand perfectly and are well weighted with a precise but light clutch and a brake pedal that doesn’t have an over servoed feel to it. The ‘box swaps cogs sweetly and the Ecoboost engine seems eager.
Despite the strong family resemblance to the outgoing model, Ford has thoroughly undated the Fiesta’s underpinnings to keep it at the top of the class. It says there’s a 15 per cent increase in torsional stiffness thanks to an increased use of boron steel, laser welding and stiffer front subframe attachment points. Its track is wider than the outgoing model, too, by 30mm at the front and 10mm at the rear and Ford reckons this has also allowed the chassis to be optimised to accept 18-inch wheels for the first time.
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Reworked suspension bushes that are double bonded to be twice as stiff as those on the outgoing car are said to offer a sharper steering response. Ford says those updated bushes have also been designed to bulge in a specific way to better isolate road imperfections and work in combination with a rear twistbeam to reduce the impact of small bumps and imperfections in the cabin.
If that sounds like Ford is attempting to make the Fiesta slightly more grown up you’d be right, it is a little more refined than it was before, but the best news is that it hasn’t lost its tactility and sharpness in the process. Even when punting around town the Fiesta feels keen and threading your way in amongst other traffic is child’s play thanks to the well weighted steering and good visibility.
On the motorway the car’s a better prospect than before with a supple ride, even on the ST-Line models with the sports suspension that sits the car 10mm closer to the ground. Noise suppression is good and you could easily be forgiven for thinking you’re in a car from a class above.
Head off the motorway and onto some decent driving roads and the Fiesta is its same old playful self. Resistance to understeer has been improved thanks to a lighter, stiffer hollow front anti-roll bar and along with the rest of the changes Ford says this has resulted in a car with 10 per cent more grip than before. While that’s difficult to quantify, the Fiesta really does flow well along a challenging piece of road. You can tip it into a corner late on the brakes to bring the rear end into play or get your braking over earlier and enjoy the poise and grip as it digs in and powers off up the next straight.
The nicely weighted gearbox ensures that being in the right gear isn’t a chore although such is the spread of torque that you can find yourself leaving it in third and really not needing to swap cogs that much. Overall it’s a deeply satisfying experience and it really is one of those cars that you find yourself driving quickly without really knowing you’re doing it.
Downsides? Not many really, although we’d leave the optional 18in alloys on the options list as they really don’t offer any more grip than the 17s and can unsettle the car every now and then if you hit an unexpected dip or compression joint mid corner. But that’s about it really. It’s entertaining, has huge reserves of grip yet isn’t uncouth when just cruising. We can’t wait to sample the full fat ST when it arrives next year and as the basic platform is this good how entertaining will it be with another 60bhp and a further fettled chassis?
evo comment – Ford might say that it’s designed the new Fiesta’s suspension to take 18in alloys for the first time and while they might give the hatch tough looks we’d stick with 17s as the 18s tend to upset the car’s sweet handling balance and affect ride quality.