With large boots to fill, can the seventh-generation Fiesta live up to its brilliant predecessor? We drive it to find out
What do we have here?
The Fiesta is older than nearly half of the UK’s population. Launched in 1976, it has regularly been one of the best-selling cars in the country during that time and often being the benchmark supermini for its rivals to compete with.
Now into its seventh-generation, it is available with either three or five-doors (69% of sales) while an Active crossover and a performance ST model will be added in 2018.
The new supermini is 70mm longer, 13mm wider, 20mm lower than before while the look is an evolution of the sixth-generation with softer headlight styling, a wider grille and horizontal rather than vertical taillights.
Inside, gone is the mobile phone keypad design, replaced with a simplified, cleaner look dominated by a floating 8.0in touchscreen for the infotainment system.
The SYNC 3 system includes pinch and swipe gestures, AppLink, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto let you navigate your smartphone through the home screen.
There are seven engines to choose from initially, made up of five petrol and two diesel variants.
If you are after a petrol, expected to take most orders (91%), there are two versions of an entry-level 1.1-litre with 70PS and 85PS each of which is fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox.
A three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost is available in 100, 125 and 140PS outputs. All of these are fitted with a new six-speed manual gearbox. The 100PS is also available with an optional six-speed automatic gearbox.
There are two diesel variants from the same 1.5-litre TDCi engine: 85PS and 120PS. Each is fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Trim wise, choose from seven options with the lower spec Zetec anticipated to be the best selling; Style, Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Vignale.
All models get Bluetooth, a 4.2in TFT colour screen, auto headlights; emergency assistance; lane departure warning; lane keep assist; and a speed limiter.
ST-Line adds sporty styling with a large rear spoiler, body kit, meshed front grilles, rock metallic alloy wheels, sports suspension and ST-Line exterior branding. Inside the ST-Line gets sports seats, ST-Line leather-trimmed steering wheel, aluminium gearshift insert, stainless steel sports pedals and ST-Line door threshold plates.
Titanium trim brings 16in 10-spoke alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, Ford SYNC 3 Navigation with 8.0in Touchscreen, starter button, cruise control, auto wipers, dimming rear-view, and Driver Impairment Monitor.
Prices start from £12,715. We’re testing the 1.0-litre Ecoboost with a six-speed manual gearbox in Titanium trim, which costs £16,795.
Our test car came fitted in optional Ruby Red paint (£745) and fitted with Advanced auto pack 1 (£500), comfort pack (£225), panoramic sunroof (£600), door edge protectors (£85), electric rear windows (£175), adjustable boot floor (£75), driver’s seat lumbar support (£50) – resulting in a £19,250 price as tested.
How does it drive?
Titanium trim is pitched to offer some luxury under the headlining Vignale edition with ST-Line and ST (when it arrives) available for those who have a sporting appetite.
The suspension set up is perfectly judged to tick the luxury box. It rides comfortably dealing impressively with speed humps and potholes around town while equally cosseting occupants from rougher country lanes.
It’s damping is well judged and settles the Fiesta well.
What impresses most is how easy it is to drive, particularly around town. The steering is super light at low speeds meaning tight car parks are dispatched with an air of nonchalance.
Get it out on the open road and that comfy ride doesn’t translate into a soft pitching body. It remains taught with body lean limited. There is some movement through sharper corners but nothing to cause concern or butterflies in your stomach.
Quite the opposite in fact as the grip is excellent and the steering is keen to turn in and take the Fiesta where you want it to go.
There does seem to be less feel than in the older car but it's creamily smooth, well weighted and generally pretty consistent.
Scoring a ten on the “holy crap that’s good” scale is the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol engine. The majority of the time, it is just so well-mannered and brilliantly flexible, picking up speed from almost any revs and in most gears.
There’s no turbo lag, no dead points, no “once you're over XXX revs” comments needed here. It pulls sweetly too, offering creamy levels of performance and refinement.
Shifting gears is a new six-speed manual. It’s not as sweet in many ways as the one it replaces mainly due to its longer throw, however, it is as light as a feather to move between gears which help to make the Fiesta easy to drive.
What's it like inside?
The much-changed interior has become less design led than what we saw in the last generation model. Mainly because the last ‘mobile phone’ design dated quickly (it was bang on the money at the time). It has given way to a cleaner, less cluttered and tablet look.
The dash is dominated by the 8.0in touchscreen which rises off the dash. It has a clear display and quick to react screen. The graphics are modern and the pinch to zoom map is fast to respond.
Apple Carplay integrates well but leaves you using the phone’s map without you manually disable it. The screen could do with being angled towards the driver and feels a little too close.
The electronic air conditioning controls are neat, quite small but easy to use while between the seats are the controls for self-parking, Eco mode, start-stop, parking sensors (optional here) and traction control.
Many of the controls inside have the same feel and design to those from higher up the Ford range, like the Mondeo, including auto lights, window and wing mirror controls.
The instrument binnacle is very clear and neatly styled while the 4.2in TFT screen is well sized and features the trip computer, navigation and music. It's controlled from the steering wheel. The wheel also houses controls for music, phone and cruise control.
The door contains a long but thin storage compartment, there’s a drop-down tray by the driver’s right knee, an anti-slip tray ahead of the gear lever and two cupholders between the seats.
Under the central armrest is a deep storage compartment with a USB connector and ‘floating’ removable tray on top. Additionally, the Fiesta has a split level and well-sized glovebox.
The driver’s seat adjusts with a pump lever while a rotary dial adjusts the angle of the back rest. Our test car was fitted with a manual lumbar support.
With the seat in the lowest position, head room is decent while the cabin feels well-sized if not as roomy as the new SEAT Ibiza. You still feel quite high-up.
The rear doors are large enough to make access easy to the back seats. Leg and knee room is less than ideal for adults while foot room is a little worse. Those over average height will have limited headroom. The optional (standard on Vignale) panoramic sunroof adds extra light.
The rear bench is soft and comfortable and splits 60/40 although once lowered the extended floor is not flat.
A small bottle of water will fit into the door and there is a tiny tray between the front seats. There is a coat hook on either side but no grab handles.
The boot offers 292-litres of capacity which is over 60-litres less than the SEAT Ibiza. There’s quite a high lip and step to the boot floor. There are a couple of bag hooks and some very small side compartments.
On an official combined cycle, the 1.0T EcoBoost 100PS is claimed to return 65.7mpg. However, on our test route, we managed just 42mpg.
It emits 97g/km of CO2 meaning it falls into the 18% BIK company car tax banding.
This model falls into the group 11 insurance bracket.
The Fiesta gets a three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
In some ways, the new Fiesta doesn’t feel as engaging to drive as the last one but in other ways it's so much better as an overall package feeling more grown up, classy and refined.
It has a smooth and creamy ride, stunning engine and is very easy to drive.
It remains at the top of the supermini tree but the new SEAT Ibiza takes its best-handling supermini crown.