FIGHTING FIT FIESTA
Small cars are currently where the action is. Crowded roads, high fuel prices and angst about the looming recession have shone a sharp spotlight on small hatchbacks. So here comes Ford with the new Fiesta, keen to tell us what a great car it is for down-sizers. Which is precisely the same message that Honda is hammering on about with the new Jazz.
Both cars are bigger than their predecessors, and well-placed to grab the attention of anyone feeling squeezed by fuel bills and road tax, who decides to trade down from a bigger car. But while the Jazz has its keenest fans among retirees (average age of owner: 63) the Fiesta is much more ageless, and has gone quite funky inside to ensure it won’t be a switch-off for young singletons and thirty-something family drivers.
There is no shortage of choice among smallish hatchbacks; they range from fashionable trendies like the Fiat 500 and MINI, to silver surfers’ favourites like the Jazz and Nissan Micra. In between are lots more: the Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 207, Renault Clio, Fiat Grande Punto, VW Polo and Seat Ibiza all woo the same people as the Fiesta. None of them has enjoyed anything like the same success as Ford’s big baby. The Fiesta has long reigned supreme as king of the superminis and is the UK’s favourite small car. Last year Ford sold over 100,000 Fiestas in Britain, more than several of its competitors put together. Since the first generation Fiesta was launched back in 1976, more than 12 million have sold around the world.
So what has Ford done to rejuvenate the latestgeneration Fiesta and keep it ahead of the pack? They’ve bucked the general trend for replacement models to be heavier than their predecessors, for one thing. Although the new car is larger than the one it replaces, it is also lighter by an average of 40kg. There is more flair to the exterior styling, but inside is where the biggest change comes. Gone is the conservative ordinariness of the previous Fiesta, and in comes an upper dashboard design that mimics the look of a mobile phone. Pressed to reveal which particular phone was the inspiration, Ford’s design director Martin Smith admitted that it was the Motorola RAZR. MP3 and USB connectivity is standard across the range, of course.
It is neither the roomiest car in its class (that accolade surely belongs to the Jazz) nor the most versatile (Jazz again) but it is certainly one of the most engaging to drive. It is clingy on corners, with little body roll, and ride quality is excellent. For a relatively small car it feels very solid, well-built and grown-up. Down-sizers shouldn’t be disappointed. The engine line-up is similar to before, with 1.4 and 1.6 TDCi turbodiesels. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to report on the 1.4, only 1.6’s were available at the launch.
Ford chose the lush terrain of Siena in the Tuscany region of Italy to showcase the new Fiesta, and it galloped around the hills with a pleasing verve, not particularly phased even by some of the deeper potholes and undulations. It is a civilised drive, and pretty quiet, with little engine noise intrusion, minimal wind noise and only a light rumble from tyres and suspension.
It is not an entirely rosy picture, though. Interior space is ok, but not unduly generous. It has decent headroom if you’re my size (5ft 3ins) but average size blokes have only an inch or so overhead. The rear seat folding arrangement is not especially clever, and the seats don’t fold as flat as in some rivals. The rear body pillars are pretty thick too, so vision is restricted in the rear quarters. Not that any of this will deter the Fiesta from romping up the sales charts, and it deserves to. It’s an engaging drive, with good fuel economy and low CO2. Ford’s reputation for low cost of ownership is in its favour too.
RIVALS: PEUGEOT 207 SE PREMIUM HDi 90, RENAULT CLIO DYNAMIQUE S dCi 86, VAUXHALL CORSA DESIGN 1.3 CDTi 16v
- Engine: 1560cc, 4 cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 89bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 150lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 750kg
- Combined Consumption: 67.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 110g/km (B)
- 0-62mph: 11.9secs
- Max speed: 109mph
- Insurance group: 5