2 It has to be brilliant to drive
IF THERE’S ONE thing we expect from the new Fiesta, it’s that it’ll be a hoot. Agility, poise and the ability to communicate those sensations to the driver have been the bedrock of Ford products for more than 25 years. The ‘best to drive’ tag has played a key role in helping buyers look past some of the Fiesta’s weaker points, like interior plastics hard enough to withstand a nuclear blast and disappointing rear seat space.
The platform is a modified version of the old car’s and the engine line-up will be familiar to anyone with one of those on their drive. There’s a simple torsion-beam rear axle and a pair of struts at the front, between which nestle a variety of three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.
The old 1.25-litre four has been pensioned off, its place at the bottom of the range taken by a new naturally aspirated 1.1-litre triple with 69bhp or 84bhp, and five gears in either case. A series of blown EcoBoost triples offer a choice of 99, 123 and 138bhp, all backed by long-striding six-speed manual transmissions, with a dual-clutch auto optional on the 99. There’s a pair of 1.5-litre diesels too, offering 84 or 119bhp.
But who needs a rattly old diesel when the EcoBoosts are so brilliant? Which power output you end up with is partially governed by the trim you choose. Sensible Zetec (from £14,215 with the 84bhp 1.1; £580 more with an EcoBoost) limits you to a 99, but go for the plusher Titanium and you can add a flake for £500, pushing power to the next level.
That’s the car in the pictures, and it’s hard to see why you’d need more. The 123 develops the same 125lb ft as its little brother but spreads it over a wider range, dropping the 0-62mph time from 10.5sec to 9.9sec with zero impact on thirst. It’d be even quicker with gears that weren’t designed for space travel. Third is good for 100mph and there are still three cogs to go, but it’s to the EcoBoost’s credit that it still feels punchy in all of them while making motorway cruising effortless. There’s meaningful urge from below 2000rpm and then another kick during the second half of the rev needle’s climb, all accompanied by a burbly three-pot soundtrack.
Don’t let the improved noise isolation and ride comfort convince you the Fiesta’s gone soft, because this is still the best handling small car in the business – you sense that much before you’re even out of first gear, as you feed some lock into the steering to wind your way out of a parking space.
Grip is eye-popping and the weighting and response of the electric steering so much better than any other supermini. It also rides with big-car style, and the balance between those two demands will suit most drivers perfectly. But if you want to hoon, ST-Line trim is hot-hatch-lite: it looks the part and backs it up with even sharper handling, plus the option of the 138bhp EcoBoost that cuts the 0-62mph sprint to 9sec dead. Until the ST arrives, this is the most fun you can have in a Fiesta. And thankfully that’s quite a bit.