Ford’s Fiesta is given a facelift

Ford’s latest Fiesta looks very different to that which has gone before but it’s probably not as radical under the skin as you might expect. Still, the introduction of the excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is extremely welcome.

With over four million Fiestas sold in the UK since 1976, it’s a fair assumption that Ford knows what it’s doing when it comes to developing small cars for a demanding clientele. The latest Fiesta is no exception. This car is effectively a midlife facelift of the sixth generation car and it was first shown at the 2012 Paris Show. The front end incorporates a styling theme we first saw on the B-MAX small MPV, with a big Aston Martin-style front grille that’s fast becoming the Ford family look.

It’s a small vehicle with some very big shoes to fill. Its predecessors were Britain’s best selling cars in 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2009, 2010 and 2011 but I have a suspicion that this latest version will carry on that winning streak without breaking too much of a sweat. Its secret weapon? A 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engine.

Certain realities exist in the supermini market. The additional cost of diesel engines rarely makes them big sellers, so this is where the state of the art in petrol engines is often played out. Right now, Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder unit is looking like it might just be in the box seat. It’s available in both 100 and 125PS guises and it’s already been a big hit in the Focus, winning the 2012 International Engine of the Year award along the way. With less lard to lug around in this installation, it’s pretty vivid, especially in 125PS form, getting the Fiesta to 62mph in just 9.4 seconds. There’s also an 80PS 1.0-litre and a 75PS 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. Customers also get to pick from a 95PS 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic diesel, a 105PS Ti-VCT petrol 1.6 and 60 or 82PS versions of the rather old 1.25-litre engine.

The Fiesta has long been one of the very best superminis to drive. Expect that still to be the case, even though here, the underbody changes are relatively few. Ford has developed new chassis and suspension components to improve the ride quality and refinement of the car and further refined the Ford Electronic Power Assisted Steering system. There’s also the option of the company’s clever six-speed sequential Powershift transmission. Those who really enjoy a fun steer will no doubt gravitate towards the 180PS 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine fitted to the Fiesta ST model.

That massive trapezoidal front grille might have a few people looking twice and wondering whether an Aston Martin Cygnet is attempting an overtake. So yes, it’s certainly distinctive - but not an unattractive feature and something that works well with the Fiesta’s shape.

Inside, Ford has relocated electric window switches, heated seat switches and interior door handles in the new Fiesta. A full leather-rim steering wheel is offered for the first time and a smart five inch central colour display supports the model’s first integrated navigation system.

It’s a smarter cabin too, with a high-gloss finish for the upper instrument panel that flows to the lower centre console and is replicated in the door panels. A satin-chrome detailing finish is also offered, along with Ford’s signature Ice Blue lighting to illuminate dials, switches and displays.

There’s more storage room too. A new central arm-rest also provides additional cubby space and the door pockets are larger and more practical. If you’re going to be using the back seats regularly, opt for the five-door version: in the three-door, the windows are small and set high up, so light isn’t abundant. Either way though, you might be surprised at the space available: even a couple of six-footers should be reasonably comfortable. Out back, a concealed load space has been introduced beneath the boot which has an adjustable floor height to simplify loading and unloading heavy items. As before, there’s 295-litres on offer with the seats up.

Like most superminis, this Fiesta sells in the £10,000 to £18,000 bracket - and there’s a pretty typical £600 premium if you want to progress from the three-door to the five-door bodystyle. Trim levels start with Studio, rising through Style with low emission Style ECOnetic also available. From there there’s the slightly sporting Zetec model which has long been a popular choice, an ECOnetic version of it and then the three-door-only Zetec-S. This adds yet more sporty flavour, offered either the 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi diesel power or the 1.0-litre 125PS Ecoboost engine.

At the top of the range, Titanium variants are very well equipped and there’s an ECOnetic version also on offer. Even ritzier are the Titanium-X models. These feature the Keyfree system, partial leather and include a SONY DAB stereo.

As for equipment, well, even entry-level Fiestas come with stability control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, a CD player with controls on the steering wheel, central locking and electric heated mirrors. There are nice touches too: we particularly liked the EasyFuel cap-less refuelling system.

Parents’ control

One intriguing innovation is MyKey, a segment-first technology feature that allows parents to limit the speed of the car. Plus it prevents the driver from deactivating safety technologies such as Electronic Stability Control and the Active City Stop low-speed collision avoidance system. It can even the cap the volume level of the stereo in order to encourage safer driving.

Another interesting innovation is SYNC, an in-car connectivity system that features Emergency Assistance that directly connects the vehicle occupants to local emergency services operators after an accident. It can do so in the correct language for the region whilst continuing to liaise with the driver in English.

The Fiesta has always been a bit of a star where running costs are concerned. When the engines used to be a bit off the pace, the asking prices were low. Now that the Fiesta has some of the most fuel efficient engines in the sector, the list prices of the cars are a little higher - but to compensate, residual values have improved in turn. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine returns some excellent figures with the more powerful 125PS version returning a stellar 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and registering just 99g/km - which means free road tax and no London congestion charge.

In fact what’s remarkable about this improved Fiesta range is how so many models go below 100g/km. It’s now the exception where you find a variant in this line-up that puts out more than the ton, especially as you ascend the range and leave the older engines behind. The 1.5 TDCi 75PS, the 1.6 TDCi 95PS and all versions of the 1.0-litre engine all fall below 100g/km. The ECOnetic diesel registers just 87g/km and a combined economy figure of 85.7mpg. Even the 180PS 1.6-litre petrol Fiesta ST hot hatch manages 139g/km of CO2.

The Ford Fiesta has always been a vehicle that the British public has warmed to. There’s an unpretentious quality to it and a focus on providing the things that really matter to small car buyers - fun handling, an affordable asking price, low running costs and decent accommodation and space. Now you can add strong safety provision and low emissions to that list as well. The latest car has a polish and self belief that we’ve never seen from the Fiesta before. In short, this blue collar car has made good.

Highlights? It’s tough to know where to start. The1.0-litre Ecoboost engine is undoubtedly the ace in the hole, but don’t overlook the ECOnetic diesel either. The Powershift transmission is worth investigation too, especially if you’re driving in town and want to give the clutch leg a rest.

With some genuinely intriguing safety and communications systems, this improved Fiesta looks set to stay at number one for some time yet.