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Ford Fiesta review (2006-2008)
The Rolling Stones have been around for decades, but you could hardly say they attract the yoof of today. How they must look enviously on at the Fiesta, Ford's longest-running car line, which this year marks its third decade of being down with the kids.
That's why Bluetooth and MP3 compatibility have been introduced - to keep the cool count high with those to whom both terms are everyday language. You can sometimes get what you want.
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That's also why, when teenagers complain that nobody listens to them, Ford has ensured that the Fiesta will. Voice recognition is available, controlling the climate, mobile and stereo. This is a masterstroke. In bars and snowboard resorts the world over, excitable teens will be waxing lyrical over Ford's 'well cool' Fiesta, that also plays plug-in MP3s as clearly as it handles CDs, broadcasts Pete from the pub with the clarity it transmits Pete Tong. You can even get it with a red dashboard moulding! And metallic green paint that is sure to have financing parents drawling 'oh my!' Every manufacturer is obsessed with making its cars appeal to the young. Quietly, without 'trying' ad campaigns and patronising hype, Ford may well manage this. A free insurance deal will underline teen lust.
But the Fiesta hasn't been around for 30 years by allowing kids to blow up the speakers with Arctic Monkeys. The basics need to be right and, to an extent, they are. The 2006 facelift is meant to enhance styling, as the competition, such as the Peugeot 207, Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio and new Vauxhall Corsa, edge online. Changes are minimal - new lights, slightly altered bumpers and some vivid colours - but the three-door Fiesta didn't really need much updating. It's a neat, tidy, squat shape. The five-door, however, remains less pleasing, looking like a scaled-down, more-upright C-Max compact MPV. Ah well. But you do have a vast choice of alloy wheels to have less celebratory teenagers frowning over your locking wheel nuts.
Fiestas lack external engine designations other than petrol or diesel. Most sold are petrols, as the premium for diesel forms a disproportionate part of the list price - blame all that expensive, mandatory environmental gear. From the petrol range, you've a 1.25-litre, 1.4-litre or 1.6-litre; the smaller two engines are best-sellers but rather frustratingly, Ford didn't have these to test. We remember the 1.25-litre as a noisy, gutless thing with a severe torque deficiency, albeit also very smooth and revvy in nature. The 1.4-litre is much better and well worth its £300 premium. Furthermore the 1.6-litre we did drive, in sporty, sub-ST Zetec-S trim, was an absolute delight. Slick, with good low-down shove and a pacy feel, it proved quite a sweetie.
So perfectly does it gel with the rest of the car, you'll drive it and wonder how the 2.0-litre ST could be any better. The sharp steering reacts keenly, with precision, the ride is not over-stiff yet poise through corners is taught, a chuckable nature encourages zappy driving without traits of aggression - and throttle matches steering matches engine matches brakes matches gearchange for linearity and progression. What an enthusiastic car, despite the nicely-bolstered seats being set too high, despite the slight angle to the steering wheel. It also looks spot-on and, for £11,595, had us wondering if you could ever need any more supermini - a class act alright.
Petrol or diesel?
The 1.4-litre diesel brought us right back down to earth. It is slow. It is noisy and clattery (if again smooth). It doesn't even swim with torque, leaving you pinning your foot to the floor when ascending hills, enjoying plenty of time to think where the benefit is in the £600 premium you've spent over the 1.4-litre petrol. Really, you'll only see it at the pumps, with a claimed 61mpg average - but then, so hard do you have to drive it, we doubt whether this will be a reality. However, diesel fans, despair not. The 1.6-litre TDCi is massively better - quieter, smoother, less clattery and appreciably more refined, with all the surgey pace we now expect. It's even more economical than the smaller engine (64mpg combined), though at a price: £11,695, a huge £1,200 premium over petrol models and hard to justify despite its excellence.
Harder to justify is the ST's premium over the Zetec S. Yes, an extra 50bhp means it's faster, dipping below eight seconds to 60mph, but you'll only appreciate the differences over 3,000rpm - and it's a fair bit noisier with it, with an 'angrier' engine and exhaust note. The suspension is firmer and limits are higher, but unless you approach them, it feels less involving, as if the wider rubber is clothing feedback. The Zetec S is the sweeter car; the ST is ultimately faster but less satisfying with it. And, unless you spend the best part of £500 on stripes for the doors, bonnet and boot, there's not a huge stylistic benefit for the range-topper, either. We'd save the £2,000 unless speed is all.
The Fiesta may be a thirty-something now, but it still satisfies. It retains the crown of best-handling supermini, adding good build, tidy three-door styling and some interesting tech features to the mix, too. Some engines are hardly thrillers and equipment levels do look mean considering the list prices, but keen drivers should definitely place it high on their list. Fiesta - err, don't stop, yet!
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