What is it?
Our first drive of the facelifted Fiesta - Britain’s biggest seller - on home turf. Despite the car's newness, some 17,000 buyers have already placed a deposit on a 2013 model.
Who can blame them? There are detailed alterations in the fine print, but to these eyes it’s an already good-looking supermini made prettier. Beneath the finery Ford has now fitted arguably the best engine of last year.
Not all will buy the 1.0-litre Ecoboost model, of course - the venerable 1.25 and 1.6-litre Duratec and two versions of diesel Duratorq are also available. The three-cylinder EcoBoost is now the headliner, and of its three sub 100g/km CO2 variants this, the 99bhp mid-ranger with five doors, is predicted to make up the bulk of sales.
Ford won’t let you buy an Ecoboost engine in its entry-level Style spec, but a new range-topping Titanium X level has been added to the other end of the range. Satellite navigation migrates to the supermini for the first time (albeit as a cost option) and better tech, including the innovative, parent-friendly MyKey, help to make it seem younger and better equipped than ever.
What is it like?
First, if only to make the early adopters sweat, here are the niggles. The Fiesta’s interior has been spruced with new buttons, rehashed door cards and fresh trim materials. But the architecture still smacks a little too much of shiny surface gloss rather than ageless appeal. While that won’t trouble deposit-paying parents today, their offspring might find the cabin dates too quickly for their liking.
It’s a noisier space, too, thanks to the offbeat presence of the Ecoboost. As we discovered with the B-Max recently, refinement turns out to be more of an issue on Ford’s smaller platform than it is aboard the larger Focus – the vibrations inherent in the irregular three-pot rhythm register more vividly here.
It’s installation has also required the electric power steering to be retuned. Despite brimming with the usual suppleness when in use, it now suffers from a touch too much artificial weight on the straight-ahead (particularly as the front end is now lighter than ever). Finally, slightly fickle throttle mapping makes it easy to spill forward on the engine’s initial torque delivery when really all you require is a constant velocity.
Quibbles galore, then? Well, no, not really. The blemishes are all sheltered beneath the familiar Ford polish. The Fiesta’s appeal, perhaps even more so than the Focus, is underwritten by its dynamics. And, for all its thrummy grumble, the new motor is a compelling counterpart.
It’s predictably less giving at the top end of its lower output (and lacks an overboost function), but the same 125lb ft appears at 1400rpm and keeps the five-speed, 1101kg supermini remarkably tractable. While its accelerator pedal could do with a little more consistency, the engine's underlying energy means its happy to push on at all engine speeds.
Crucially, this ensures the Fiesta is eminently usable whether it is on the motorway in its leggy top gear or scurrying down a B-road in any of the preceding ratios. The chassis remains as well suited to the UK’s roads as any conceived since its 2008 debut. The car, which delivered 55.6mpg on the 70-mile journey home, conceals its compromises incredibly well.
Should I buy one?
Certainly. Doubtless those with a more committed driving style, or perhaps buyers from the class above, will appreciate the extra power afforded by the higher output version – which neatly shrinks the 0-62mph time beneath 10 seconds – but as a family runaround (the Fiesta’s starring role) this 99bhp version deserves its expected popularity.
Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0-litre EcoBoost 100PS
Price £14,245; 0-62mph 11.2 seconds; Top speed 112mph; Economy 65.7mpg; Co2 99g/km; Kerb weight 1101kg; Engine Three-cylinder, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 99bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at1400-4500rpm; Gearbox Five-speed manual; Fuel tank 42 litres; Boot 276 litres; Wheels 15-inch alloys