From £12,7158
Battery boost brings small but meaningful economy gains to Ford's stellar supermini
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
9 October 2020

What is it?

Ford's electrification efforts may not kick into high gear until the 2021 launch of the Mustang Mach-e, but it continues to add mild-hybrid power to its model line-up in the meantime.

The Fiesta is the latest to receive battery assistance, joining the Puma and Focus with a 48V architecture that promises to bring modest fuel and emissions savings to the (already rather efficient) 1.0-litre three-pot Ecoboost petrol engine. 

It's a familiar set-up, with a belt-driven starter motor feeding in extra torque courtesy of a small lithium ion battery that relies entirely on regenerative braking to charge itself. This combination cuts down on turbo lag, lets the stop/start system activate while coasting below 15mph and makes acceleration that little bit peppier. It has also allowed Ford to add a larger turbocharger and lower the engine's compression ratio, for what it claims are 5% efficiency gains over a non-hybrid engine.

The battery introduces only a minor weight penalty, so performance remains largely unchanged, with 0-62mph in 9.4sec and a top speed of 126mph. There's a slightly nippier 153bhp version that dips under nine seconds, but neither can be had with an automatic transmission.

Mild-hybrid power arrives as part of a wider update for 2020, which sees all Fiestas with Cross Traffic Alert gain active braking, and ST-Line models like our test car get a perpendicular park function for the active park assist. The optional B&O Play sound system also has its subwoofer relocated, so you no longer have to choose between banging tunes and a bit more boot space.

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What's it like?

Subtle exterior badges aside, there’s little to differentiate this Fiesta from any other version. The presence of a battery makes no impact on rear leg room or luggage capacity, and only a back-to-back drive with the outgoing model would reveal any impact on ride quality caused by the minor weight gain.

The function-over-fashion interior isn't as minimal as some rivals, with plenty of physical buttons and switches instead of everything being relegated to the infotainment touchscreen - but that's hardly a criticism in our book. A new set of icons on the instrument cluster, which highlight when the motor is recuperating energy under braking, or dishing it out under acceleration, are the only clue to what's going on under the bonnet.

The former is handy, because the Fiesta disguises its regenerative efforts very well indeed. The brakes are a lot less grabby than the ones on Suzuki’s mild-hybrid Swift, gradually stripping off speed and encouraging you to coast from further back as you approach traffic queues - something you’ll need to do frequently if you want to match Ford’s WLTP-tested fuel economy figures. The stop/start system is also very smooth and it's quick to react when it’s time to get moving again.

Electrical assistance arrives from low revs and is blended to match the engine’s torque curve under gentle acceleration, which helps the throttle feel that bit more responsive at slower speeds. It’s not seamless and off-boost acceleration can sometimes be lacking, but only momentarily. Switch to Sport mode and things sharpen up, the battery combining with turbo overboost in the higher gears to make for satisfying progress.

The three-pot retains its thrummy, characterful exhaust note, and the six-speed gearbox has the same slick shift action we’ve come to expect from the Fiesta. Precisely weighted controls inspire confidence and help you make the most of the available power.

It remains just as enjoyable to drive as any other Fiesta, with responsive steering, plenty of grip and a fantastic chassis that rewards keen drivers. And although the 18in alloy wheels fitted to our ST Line X test car do have an impact on ride comfort, only the worst road surfaces properly announce their presence in the cabin.

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Should I buy one?

Traditional engine options haven’t been completely stripped from the line-up just yet, so it’s not like anyone set on Fiesta ownership has no choice in the matter. And the efficiency gains, however welcome, are only minor - but this mild-hybrid model now feels like the sweet spot in terms of price and performance.

A fully equipped Toyota Yaris Launch Edition will set you back slightly less up front and will return better fuel economy, but it lags behind the Ford for interior refinement and driver engagement - as do mild-hybrid alternatives like the Fiat 500 and Suzuki Swift.

A Renault Clio E-tech might come close on the dynamism front, but the Ford should be near the top of the list for keen drivers who are at least considering how to keep their environmental impact in check.

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Comments
32

9 October 2020

I would like to see some editorial consistency at Autocar.  Tom Morgan says "...plenty of physical buttons and switches instead of everything being relegated to the infotainment touchscreen - but that's hardly a criticism...".  I agree with this, so can we have more criticism of unsafe interfaces on the likes of Teslas and others that distract drivers from the road at least as much as the operation of any cellphone.  This really is an elephant in the room.

9 October 2020

I'd never buy a car whose only controls were on a screen (especially if set up for left handed drivers only)

Saying that, this little titch with analogue instruments, funny old fashioned handbrake and manual gearbox is at least one generation behind the competition. It's Groundhog Day, 2013.

No wonder they gave up trying to sell them here.

Robbo

A View from Down Under

9 October 2020
Aussierob wrote:

I'd never buy a car whose only controls were on a screen (especially if set up for left handed drivers only)

Saying that, this little titch with analogue instruments, funny old fashioned handbrake and manual gearbox is at least one generation behind the competition. It's Groundhog Day, 2013.

No wonder they gave up trying to sell them here.

Robbo

A View from Down Under

Wow, if you think a manual handbrake, gearbox and analogue instrument make it at least a generation behind the competition, some people who live in the real world prefer analogue and manual, there is less to go wrong, and generally they suit a small hatch better, especially a warm/hot one, its still the best drivers car in class, and has been for at least 3 generations, one day the competition might catch up, but i doubt it, but  hey if touchscreens, and electronics and automatics are your thing, perhaps this little Fiesta is too much of a machine for you, and probably the reason they stopped selling it down under.. 

9 October 2020

And some people still prefer riding horses instead of driving cars, carburettors to fuel injection, manual chokes and advance/retard levers on the steering wheel.

There's a name for them. Luddites.

 

Robbo

A View from Down Under

9 October 2020
Aussierob wrote:

And some people still prefer riding horses instead of driving cars, carburettors to fuel injection, manual chokes and advance/retard levers on the steering wheel.

There's a name for them. Luddites.

 

Robbo

A View from Down Under

Or deported convicts 

 ;)

9 October 2020
275not599 wrote:

I would like to see some editorial consistency at Autocar.  Tom Morgan says "...plenty of physical buttons and switches instead of everything being relegated to the infotainment touchscreen - but that's hardly a criticism...".  I agree with this, so can we have more criticism of unsafe interfaces on the likes of Teslas and others that distract drivers from the road at least as much as the operation of any cellphone.  This really is an elephant in the room.

x 2

10 October 2020
275not599 wrote:

I would like to see some editorial consistency at Autocar.  Tom Morgan says "...plenty of physical buttons and switches instead of everything being relegated to the infotainment touchscreen - but that's hardly a criticism...".  I agree with this, so can we have more criticism of unsafe interfaces on the likes of Teslas and others that distract drivers from the road at least as much as the operation of any cellphone.  This really is an elephant in the room.

This really annoys me about Autocar's journalists (and some others). The two current Cupra model reviews are a case in point, they really are scared of offending the manufacturers with their glitzy new screens.

9 October 2020

I can't understand why Ford doesn't offer automatics with the new engines. 

9 October 2020
I know it's wltp, but the emissions at 122g/km don't seem particularly clever for a 1.0 hybrid

9 October 2020

£25K for a Fiesta! Next time ask Ford for one without the 22 carat gold Ford badges.

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