‘The new Fi­esta’s a lover not a fighter...’

It’s al­ready Bri­tain’s top seller... and this new model is pret­tier than ever though not quite as zippy as it looks

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - CONTENTS - CHRIS EVANS

Ford Fi­esta ST-Line

Mrs Evans made two mod­est pur­chases this week, both of which pre­cip­i­tated yet more joy from this won­drous gift we call life.

The first was a new top­per for our mat­tress. I can­not tell you to what new lev­els of ec­stasy this has since el­e­vated our bed­times. Those poetic French have a say­ing, C’est le petit Jé­sus en cu­lotte

de velours, which trans­lates as, ‘It’s like lit­tle Je­sus in vel­vet un­der­pants.’ A phrase Gérard Depar­dieu uses so of­ten he’s ru­moured to have it printed on a T-shirt so he can just point his ap­proval.

The sec­ond top buy was some­thing called an Ama­zon Fire Stick, the gen­eral hype for which you may al­ready have wit­nessed. But – and I sur­prise my­self as I say this – it is gen­uinely as­ton­ish­ing. For £40 a pop, you plug it into the back of your telly box and, pro­vid­ing you have set up the nec­es­sary on­line ac­count, you can then in­stantly ac­cess thou­sands of films, games and TV shows.

‘I bet you still can’t get Those Mag­nif­i­cent Men In Their Fly­ing Ma­chines,’ I grunted sniffily last Sun­day. ‘What, you mean this one?’ said The Boss, no more than a few sec­onds later, the open­ing cred­its paused and ready to go.

Well that was it, the rest of the day was can­celled. ‘Kids, stop every­thing. I de­clare a du­vet day. Come and be­hold one of the great­est mo­tion pic­tures ever made.’ Fast-for­ward 138 min­utes. ‘Next: Monte Carlo Or Bust!’

And the movie magic didn’t end there. With the kids put to bed, Mrs E and I treated our­selves to the third of a comic-ca­per triple bill: The Blues Broth­ers. What an awe­some three­some and with one thing in com­mon. De­spite myr­iad ex­plo­sions and as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts, not one per­son cops it.

Talk­ing of ter­rific trios, the ar­rival of the Ford Fi­esta ST-Line at Evans Tow­ers this week marked this col­umn’s first hat-trick of con­sec­u­tive sporty hatch­backs. But is it even fair to make a £20k Ford fol­low the £60k Audi RS 3 hy­per­hatch and the £33k Honda Civic Type R su­per-hatch? Like fol­low­ing caviar with Aldi’s own-brand salt-and-vine­gar chip­sticks.

Which is why, in or­der to square the cir­cle, I drove the Ford twice as long and twice as far as the two other ne’er-do-wells. Ex­or­cism was the first re­quire­ment. I had to rid my­self of all lin­ger­ing thoughts of high per­for­mance, down­force and su­per-welly to give the STLine a fight­ing chance. But ac­tu­ally, no I didn’t.

When it comes to sales fig­ures, the Fi­esta could eat the Audi and Honda for break­fast. In fact, if Fi­esta were a stand-alone car com­pany, it would rank in the top ten, in­de­pen­dent of the moth­er­ship. Ford has sold a stag­ger­ing 4.5 mil­lion Fi­es­tas here since 1976 and it re­mains the UK’s best-sell­ing car by miles. So how ‘new’ and dif­fer­ent dare this new Fi­esta be? Short an­swer: very, in al­most ev­ery way.

It’s a dif­fer­ent shape for a start. Less abra­sive, less ag­gres­sive. Like the new Golf, the roofline slopes down from front to back. It’s be­come a lover, no longer the an­gry, wedge-shaped fighter. The light clus­ters have be­come more or­ganic, less pointy, still fe­line but se­duc­tive as op­posed to preda­tory. This is the pret­ti­est Fi­esta by a long chalk.

In­side is also a rev­e­la­tion. Fi­es­tas have al­ways been nar­row, short, a bit ba­sic. Not any more. This is longer, wider, more comfy, more stylish. There are even soft touch sur­faces, an eight-inch touch screen and a whole new set of di­als. Then there’s the star of the show, the B&O ten-speaker sound sys­tem (a £300 ex­tra). I wasn’t ex­pect­ing that!

Not every­thing is per­fect.

Reach­ing for the seat-belt can be a bit awk­ward, as the B-pil­lar has been moved con­sid­er­ably fur­ther back. The up­side of which, how­ever, is two gor­geous sweep­ing side win­dows. Glitch num­ber two is the claus­tro­pho­bic calamity that sur­rounds the hand­brake. My daily cup of Greggs tomato soup (food of the gods) proved far too much of a headache for any of the three cup-hold­ers to han­dle. And the boot was my pet hate, with its an­noy­ing habit of com­ing to a halt half­way be­tween closed and open.

As far as driv­ing is con­cerned, my favourite as­pect of the car is the one that isn’t en­tirely new – the mirac­u­lous 1.0-litre EcoBoost tur­bocharged three­cylin­der en­gine. The unit I tested pro­duces an in­cred­i­ble 140hp with a claimed mpg of 62.8. Not that you, I or any other nor­mal hu­man be­ing on nor­mal hu­man be­ing roads will ever achieve close to that. The gear­box is fur­ther good news, for the first time with six for­ward man­ual gears.

How­ever, I can’t say I was en­thralled by the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. For me it feels, dare I say, a bit van-like. No mat­ter how many times I tried to con­fig­ure the seat and steer­ing wheel to my lik­ing, I found the driv­ing po­si­tion ever so slightly off. Cor­ner­ing was also a bit strange. Not that the ST-Line strug­gles in any way to cope with most bends. It’s just that it all feels a bit Post­man Pat top-heavy, as op­posed to seat-of-the-pants slid­ing around un­der­neath you.

I sup­pose the real ques­tion for any­one con­sid­er­ing the ST-Line over the base model (cheaper but a lot less easy on the eye), or per­haps wait­ing for the fully blown ‘real’ ST su­per-hatch (due next spring), is: do you want a car that looks more ex­cit­ing than the bor­ing one while know­ing it’s not as ex­cit­ing as the one that’s com­ing next.

De­pend­ing which way the wind is blow­ing, the ST-Line could be per­ceived as ei­ther a value-for-money, cool-look­ing com­pro­mise or an overblown cop-out com­pared with the real deal. A case of ‘beauty is in the eye of the be­holder’, but real sat­is­fac­tion may well come to those pre­pared to wait and be a lit­tle bolder.

PS. One more du­vet day car film fact to fin­ish with: Those Mag­nif­i­cent Men In Their Fly­ing Ma­chines grossed $31mil­lion at the box of­fice against its bud­get of $6.5 mil­lion. A tidy profit in­deed. If, how­ever, the pro­duc­ers had hung on to the 1907 Rolls-Royce Sil­ver Ghost em­ployed as the char­iot of Robert Mor­ley’s fab­u­lously bump­tious press baron Lord Rawns­ley, they would have more than tripled their profit. A con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate of its value to­day is around £50 mil­lion.

Or, if you pre­fer, 2,580 2017 Ford Fi­esta ST-Lines.

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