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Expert guide to buying a used Ford Fiesta
We get a lot of feedback at MSN Cars from people wanting a buyers' guide to some of the most popular used cars. So over the next 12 months or so we've asked our own used car expert James Ruppert to produce these for Britain's top selling motors, starting this month with the UK sales leader so far in 2011: the Ford Fiesta.
The Fiesta in a nutshell
It is the no-brainer small hatchback buy, which is affordable and cheap to run with an absolutely huge choice of models for sale at every price point - be it basic Studio spec, plush Titanium or the sporty Zetec S. Also because there are so many around it should always be possible to pick and choose the best available model.
What are the Fiesta's stats?
Fastest - top speed 125mph/0-60mph 8.6 seconds (2.0 ST - 2005)
Slowest - 95mph/0-60mph 16.4 seconds (1.3 - 2002)
Best - 76.3 mpg (1.6TDCi - 2009)
Worst - 38.7mpg (1.6 - 2002)
Best - 98g/km 13% tax (1.6 TDCi - 2009)
Worst - 171g/km (1.6 - 2002)
Lowest - Group 2 (Fiesta 1.0 - 1999)
Highest - Group 14 (XR2i)
NCAP Safety Rating
5 stars (2009); 4 Stars (2002); 3 stars (1998)
How much for a Fiesta?
£0 - £500 buys a 1998 1.3 Finesse 3 door with 100,000 miles
£2,000 buys a 2002 1.4 Zetec with 95,000 miles
£4,000 buys a 2006 2.0ST with 56,000 miles
£6,000 buys a 2008 1.25 Style 5 door with 34,000 miles
£8,000 buys a 2009 1.4TDCi with 19,000 miles
Why buy a Fiesta?
Ford Fiesta 1996
This has always been a great car to drive with seriously sporty handling.
The vast range of engines puts the emphasis on economy rather than refinement. The very old 1.25 engine returns around 50mpg - good for a petrol engine - while the latest TDCis are remarkable and you should comfortably get well over 60mpg.
Space has only ever been adequate with limited room in the back and boot that will just about do. Mostly though you will be buying a Fiesta because it is easy to live with and cost effective to run.
All garages can cope with servicing. Parts prices have generally been reasonable - and easy to find for older models at salvage yards.
What's the best spec Fiesta?
For modern Fiestas go for the second spec level, Edge. This means air conditioning and electric mirrors, adding to the basic Studio spec car's CD player and electric front windows. Zetec S is for those who want a sporting edge that includes revised suspension.
The previous generation Fiesta had power steering and central locking moving to the Studio, Style, Zetec and Zetec-Climate, Ghia and sporty Zetec S. Zetec with air con is undoubtedly the best compromise.
Much older Fiestas could have more marginal specification, however most will have a driver's airbag and split/fold seat. The LX and Ghia models from 2001 added the all-important air conditioning.
When was the Fiesta updated?
1995-2000 (mark 4): Revised Fiesta with new suspension and new Zetec engines.
2000-2002 (mark 5): Facelift, mainly cosmetic changes. ST model most powerful Fiesta.
2002-2007 (mark 6): All new car completely restyled and TDCi diesel engines.
2008 onwards: All-new Fiesta, ECOnetic UK's most fuel efficient 5 seat family car, 76.3mpg.
What should I look for on a used Fiesta?
Ford Fiesta 2002
Fiestas are actually quite tough little cars. However some owners can neglect the basics: cambelts should be changed at the 100,000 mile/10 year mark at least. Plus on the revised 2002 models software upgrades should have been carried out by the dealer so check the history.
Misfires, difficulty starting and the engine management light staying on could be the coil pack which will cost around £100 to replace on older cars but the later 1.4 will be £250. On the latest generation of diesels there are diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues when it gets clogged when used on short local runs. Look for the warning light which stays on and below par engine performance.
Bangs and crashes from the suspension means that the suspension drop links at the front need replacing. Some front springs have also snapped on later models.
Inside, any creaks are often traced to the rear seats that may need adjustment and lubrication. Also the folding seat buttons could need replacement. Later models have issues with the fan, so make sure it works and if not Ford may entertain a goodwill claim.
What's the market like for the Fiesta?
Very strong indeed. This is the sort of car that every buyer wants, a small hatch that will do pretty much everything on a budget.
Automatics are popular in towns of course and demand for diesels is extremely high. Air conditioning is a must for most buyers and Zetec specification is consistently the most sought after.
Which Fiestas should I buy?
If you are not bothered by creature comforts and just need a town centre assault vehicle then any basic spec can be great value. Anything with the 1.6 engine is more expensive to run and can prove to be a bargain if you don't do a huge mileage. Diesels are the ones that will hold their value, so if you want to get the most for your money aim for those.
Where do I shop for Fiestas?
Ford Fiesta 2008
Fiestas are everywhere but it is important to make a distinction between the well-cared-for private examples and some of the very tired ex-fleet examples. Fiestas are easy to find at car supermarkets, in private ads and at main dealers.
Older examples are probably best bought privately with few changes of owner and lots of local history. Otherwise car supermarkets and dealers for more recent examples, which have depreciated in the first year or so to a more affordable price, but still have the reassurance of the manufacturer warranty.
Any alternatives to the Fiesta?
Plenty. Possibly the closest would be the Vauxhall Corsa, which has become a much more spacious and refined vehicle - arguably more than a match for the Fiesta. It also has the added benefit of being cheap to run and own.
The Toyota Yaris is an extremely reliable small car that has a very flexible interior with plenty of room in the back, despite a short and easy to park body. The 1.4 diesel will return over 60mpg and these models are always easy to resell.
Perhaps the most interesting and most practical rival would be the Skoda Fabia, which is a very spacious and refined small car with Volkswagen's excellent small engines that are highly economical.
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