Richard Aucock's biography
29/08/2008 00:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Ford Fiesta review (2008 onwards)

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Ford Fiesta (© Ford)

What – Ford Fiesta 1.6 Ti-VCT 120 Zetec-S
Where – Siena, Italy
Date – August 2008
Price – £12,595
Available – October 2008
Key rivals – Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 207, Mazda 2

Ford's current Fiesta is a UK best-seller. The all-new model is so good, we can only see that position being reinforced.
We like: looks, ride and handling, grown up feel
We don’t like: diesel needs more go and gears, very little else

Gallery: new Ford Fiesta
Read more Ford car reviews

First Impressions

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

The current Fiesta is the car people spending their own money choose above every other. Once behind the wheel, the way it drives pleases them. But styling? It's always been a dullard, lacking every trace of excitement seen in Focus and Ka. "Experts didn't communicate well within Ford", said the man in charge of the new Fiesta.He put that right. First result? Surely the best-looking supermini on the market? Small cars sell on style. Brit Martin Smith has directed the most stylish, with bold, muscular creases, distinctive front, sporty profile and a delicious rear. "It's called sprinty",he said. If, indeed, style sells, that sector-leading position is safe.

Watch a video road test of the Ford Fiesta Zetec S

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Not enough for Ford. "We're not happy with competing: we want to lead." Which means every area of the new Fiesta, Ford's first truly global car, has received the same intensive development. The company wanted the best on-road drive, for example. So fully benchmarked what it reckoned was the best - the current-shape Fiesta.It wanted a classier cabin, more refinement, faster engines, more safety, more space and less weight, and a response to customers' calls for a grown up-feeling, tech-laden cabin. In time, 22 countries will pour over the fruits of their labours; and it's hard to conclude anything but that they've been worth it.


Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Impressions of the best-sellers will have to wait. There is an entry 1.2-litre 68bhp, but this labours to 62mph in 16.9secs. Most will choose the 1.2-litre 82, which chops over 3.5secs from this yawning time. There's a 1.4-litre petrol and diesel too, the former offering an automatic option. We enjoyed the 1.6s instead.The TDCi 90 diesel seems to lack 20bhp and a gear ratio, but is otherwise it's the smooth-revving, sophisticated Ford diesel we're well familiar with. Usefully torquey and with mid-range go you actually feel does something, it's linear and easy - if not exactly fast. No, more excitement comes from the brand-new, £500-cheaper 1.6 petrol.

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Stocked up with variable cam timing, the Ti-VCT 120 is a gem. For a modern 'eco' petrol, it's amply useful at lower revs, but comes alive above 4500rpm. Then, to a twin-cam growl, it flings ever-harder to the redline (and, on test cars, well beyond), serving up punch and alacrity in ample measure.Ford petrols never used to be this sweet - it's an absolute corker, and like the diesel, is mated to one of the best gearboxes around. The snappy, easy shift is as accurate as the brakes and throttle, all helping make the Fiesta a delight to control. Something that will satisfy everyone, not just enthusiasts.

Ride and Handling

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Rivals are continually recruiting Ford ride and handling engineers. They can expect another flurry of tempting offers once people drive the new Fiesta. It's blinding. Eager, alert, responsive, the cornering attitude is one of gradual, linear roll and togetherness. Small cars can be soft, tip over, be soggy and hard work. Not the Fiesta. Keen drivers will adore it. Even the less keen will think it confident, balanced and 'safe'. That's why making cars drive well is a Ford priority: everyone benefits. Electric power steering saves fuel, but makers such as Renault do it badly. This, however, is the best yet. Its accuracy is commendable, weighting perfect.

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

It even self-corrects for cambers in the road. Clever stuff. But wisely, they haven't forgotten comfort. Engineers invented new types of suspension components here, to isolate the roughness of roads without blocking their feel. Supple absorbency gives a big-car, irritation-free feel, while spot-on damping flows along undulating roads with composure. Zetec-S variants get a sports set-up, which is even more roll-free. The ride is more tautly-controlled, with no extra harshness but stiffer control of body motions. All for less roll: it's superb fun. Flingable, always composed, darty and agile, this is quasi-sportiness at its best. Only through bigger potholes is it stiff: the grown-up dynamism is worth it.


Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Ford craved a 'big car' feel here. Not just in more space, although it is roomier, has good rear space and a 295-litre boot. No, in giving the refinement and solidity of a top-end Mondeo, too. The colourfully-trimmed seats are supportive, well-padded. The driving position is exemplary and fully-adjustable. Control placement is uncompromised and grown up.With impressive refinement and dynamic confidence too, it means a small car unphased by high miles - but with all the fun attributes of compactness. The punchy interior reflects this, with a contoured look that's very distinctive. The centre console, with mobile phone looks and logic, is a pleasure to use.

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Lower-dash plastics are a bit hard and shiny, but the top half is soft-touch, upmarket and can be had in some really out-there colours. We liked the purple, matching launch-special 'Hot Magenta' paint that's inspired by the Verve concept's hue. It's light and airy up front, with intrusion-free windscreen pillars and tiny additional quarterlights.Noise levels are low; at speed, it's the low-geared engines that give out most noise. But ignore Ford's claims of an £8,695 lead-in price. The effective entry model is the £10,395 Style +, which has air con as standard. Best-selling will be the sporty-look Zetec; our Zetec S added a superb bodykit, larger wheels and a rear spoiler.

Economy and Safety

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

A stiffer shell, over half of which is high-strength steel (the highest ratio for any Ford) means the company expects five Euro NCAP stars. The de rigueur knee airbag is standard on all, but ESP remains optional for all, at £300. Yet, despite more safety and noise-reducing gear, the Fiesta is 40kg lighter.Which, with more efficient engines and smoother bodywork, means much greater economy. The fizzy 1.6 petrol returns 47.9mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2. That's low. Even better, the 1.6 TDCi does 65.7mpg, and emits a class-wowing 110g/km. Skoda's far slower Fabia GreenLine needs loads of green trickery to emit just 1g/km less.

MSN Cars Verdict 5/5

Ford Fiesta (© Image © Ford)

Does the new Fiesta do anything wrong? Well, both test engines needed taller fifth gears. Riding peace is disturbed occasionally in town on 16-inch wheels. Seats fold flat in one-touch, but the resulting space isn't flat. The effective entry price is not £8,695, but £10,395. The electric mirror control is dated. There are no grab handles.Hardly fundamental stuff. The overriding result here is of a superb, class-leading car. It's the best supermini out there. It drives like no other, is more economical and cheaper to run, holds its value. Above, all, just look at it. Ford's got it sewn up. If not, there's a hundred other reasons why the Fiesta should top your list.

Ratings out of five: Ford Fiesta
Ride & handling*****
Fuel economy*****
MSN Cars verdict*****

Need to know
Petrol Engine
1.6-litre petrol
Power (bhp) 120@6,000rpm
Torque (lb/ft) 112@4,050rpm
0-62 (secs) 9.9
Top speed (mph) 120
Combined mpg 47.9
C02 emissions (g/km)/tax (%)139/15%

Gallery: new Ford Fiesta
All of our Ford First Drives
Vauxhall Corsa
Peugeot 207
Mazda 2


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