What is it?
The seventh-generation of the Ford Fiesta – and the latest incarnation of a car that has done much to define small-car motoring in Britain since the original was launched in 1976.
Underneath the new model shares platform components with Mazda’s lightweight 2, as part of what Ford calls its Global Product Development System. But while the MacPherson strut front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension have been carried over, Ford engineers have altered bushings and spring and damper rates. European Fiestas will also get a stiffer twist beam at the rear, designed to aid handling.
As always, Ford will be offering a comprehensive choice of engines, from a basic 1.25-litre petrol all the way to the 1.6-litre TDCI diesel that we’re testing here, in range-topping Titanium trim. Spec includes air-con, 15in alloy wheels, projector headlamps, leather steering wheel, front fog lamps and trip computer – but then, it should be generous to justify the pricetag.
What’s it like?
It’s been a while since a Fiesta could genuinely claim to be a class benchmark, but this one can.
Inside, the new Fiesta feels like a class above many of its key rivals, and it feels at least two generations beyond the outgoing model.
The interior is nicely finished, attractive and spacious; Ford has based the car’s infotainment system and controls on a mobile phone, and the centre console is great to use.
The seats are supportive and comfortable, and while you sit some distance back from the steeply raked windscreen, frontal visibility is excellent. The prominent C-pillars do affect the view out of the rear three-quarters, though.
The dashboard has still a couple of hard plastic surfaces but they’re strategically placed so you’ll hardly notice. And everything that is on full display is soft to the touch and made of few enough pieces for us to suspect that it’ll stay rattle-free. Even in the early production car that we sampled, fit and finish felt excellent.
On the road the 1.6-litre diesel engine is not exactly silent under hard acceleration but it pulls hard enough. And once you’re up to cruising speed the noise deadening works a treat; we’d have no problems taking the Fiesta on long journeys, given this level of refinement and cabin quality.
Ford has been brave with its suspension set-up, and some may find the ride a bit busy around town, but in truth it delivers a fine all-round package that’s one of the Fiesta’s greatest assets. The steering is sharp and accurate, the five-speed gearbox is slick and the handling is beautifully balanced.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely, although we’re not sure that we’d opt for the range-topper, great though it is. Like all superminis, the Fiesta is going to make most sense in the middle of the range, where keen equipment is combined with competitive pricing. But, on first impressions, it looks like it’s got what it takes to be a class leader.