Nothing could touch the Ford Fiesta in this area when it was new and now, several years on, nothing has come along in the interim to give us cause to modify that view. Despite the apparent similarity of the Fiesta chassis to all those in the class around it, for these purposes it might as well be in a class of its own.
Certainly if driving pleasure makes it anywhere near the top of your priority list, you shouldn’t be looking at anything else before first driving a Fiesta and finding out where the standard is set.
Really when you consider the hurdles it faces - its meat ‘n’ two veg rear axle design, the need to keep development costs under control and dimensions not conducive to promoting ride quality - the fact Ford has been able not only to make it drive properly but remain comfortable is little short of remarkable.
Unsurprisingly it is the 1.0-litre cars that handle best (Fiesta ST aside) not just because they are relatively light but because that lightness keeps weight off the front wheels. The Fiesta never feels anything less than on its toes and ready for to play. Its electric steering has much improved over the years and does a passable impression of offering decent feedback while proving accurate, positive and quick geared.
The chassis itself offers outstanding body control as well a useful and entertaining penchant for altering its line through a corner according to how hard you push the throttle. Like all the best Fords, the Fiesta does not require you to splurge on the most expensive versions before it’ll keep you entertained. In the Fiesta ranges, enjoyment has become entirely and impressively democratised.
Meanwhile your progress will be smoother than you might imagine possible from a car capable of such feats of agility. It’s been done by springing the car quite softly (made possible by the 1045kg kerb weight of a base 1.0-litre car), but controlling body movements with the damping control you don’t expect to find in a car in this class.