The Fiesta’s new appearance exemplifies the care Ford has taken not to step too far from its predecessor’s shadow.

No one, certainly not a repeat buyer, is likely to mistake this new generation of it for a rival. There’s a much higher chance it will be mistaken for the previous generation. That likelihood, though, somewhat understates the first-rate job done with the exterior styling.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
You can tell the UK matters to Ford because it has split the Fiesta’s rear seats 60/40 to the benefit of buyers of right-hand-drive variants

The last model was distinctive, but stubby, too, and notoriously wedge-like in profile. Most of the best work has been done on softening and simplifying the design; using straighter lines or, in the case of the bonnet bulge, eliminating them completely. Of course, the real coup is proportional: the new Fiesta is 71mm longer and 13mm wider than before – a modest growth rate given its starting point but significant enough for the evolutionary approach to result in a more satisfyingly balanced and subtly better-looking car.

Alongside the daintiness, Ford has added some additional muscle mass. The car’s structure is claimed to be 15 percent stiffer than its predecessor’s, a benefit of 35 percent more boron steel, stiffer mounting points for the front subframe and rear torsion bar and an increase in laser welding in the body.

Improved torsional rigidity is the ideal starting point for a chassis overhaul, which, in the Fiesta’s case, includes a lighter, stiffer anti-roll bar in the nose, tougher, double-bonded suspension bushes and a physically larger twist beam at the back.

Having increased the front track by 30mm and the rear by 10mm, Ford claims 10 percent more cornering grip, too, abetted by brake-operated torque vectoring.

The ride and handling are not aided by any commensurate loss of weight, though. The previous Fiesta was not particularly heavy, but persisting with its platform (and making the body larger) has negated any meaningful reduction in mass, which makes the 117kg difference between our test car’s claimed kerb weight and the Ibiza’s stand out, on paper.

At the very least, it gives Ford’s latest engine line-up more work to do. The backbone is familiar, based on three recognisable versions of the turbocharged 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine: 99bhp, 123bhp (tested here) and 138bhp.

It’s twinned with a new six-speed manual gearbox, as is the 119bhp 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, which will deliver CO2 emissions as low as 82g/km.

At the base of the pecking order are two flavours (69bhp and 84bhp) of the same naturally aspirated 1.1-litre three-pot that shares its architecture with the Ecoboost motor, albeit with a wider bore and longer stroke.

Its introduction means the venerable 1.25-litre Sigma engine, already outdated at the previous Fiesta’s inauguration, finally exits stage right. 

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Superminis

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out
  • BMW X3
    First Drive
    15 October 2017
    A satisfying rework of the X3 that usefully improves its handling, cabin finish, space and connectivity to make this BMW a class front-runner again
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
    First Drive
    13 October 2017
    Off-road estate is now bigger, more spacious and available with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, but is it enough to make its German rivals anxious?