There’s a strangely satisfying feeling of driving a car with taut but well-controlled damping over broken street surfaces. Call it the silver lining of Britain’s poor roads.
In such a car, you remain fully aware of exactly what’s going on beneath you, and every crease and crack in the tarmac is communicated to you, but it’s done so delicately that at no point do you wince as bumpstops are hammered into or tense as suspension struts clang in pain.
I experience this sensation regularly on my commute to work in our Ford Fiesta. The car rides with a composure to rival that of premium saloons, rumbling over London’s pothole-ridden streets with the nonchalant demeanour of a model on a catwalk.
But as my work-bound route leaves the city streets and moves onto a twisting dual carriageway slip road, the Fiesta still feels eager to keep up momentum around the bend and have its nose angled steeply towards the inside.
I believe this enthusiasm helps to improve fuel efficiency: I can merge onto the dual carriageway without needing to power up to speed, unlike cars that have to coast around the slip road bend.
Now that it has settled in, the Fiesta averages a respectable 40mpg during rush hour, which is at least 10mpg better than I had achieved during its first few hundred miles. They say highly strung engines take more time to loosen up, and that’s true of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost, which produces a reasonable 138bhp.
Admittedly, some of the fuel economy improvement will have come from me learning how best to use the engine and its stop/start system. It’s impossible to drive like you’re wearing helium shoes in London: there are too many honking minicabs and weaving mopeds to contend with to safely allow such a technique. But you can significantly boost fuel economy by pre-empting changes ahead, such as coasting up to lights you know will have turned red by the time you get there.
The Fiesta’s motor switches itself off before you come to a complete halt so on busier stretches of road adds a good 10% (by my guess) to the time the engine is off. It restarts before you’ve depressed a centimetre of the clutch pedal, too, and feels as seamless as any other system I’ve used.
On the motorway, our 1400-mile-old car offers around 47mpg, which is well short of the claimed 62.8mpg according to the (optimistic) NEDC test. The engine never feels strained and offers good mid-range performance but, even with six speeds at its disposal, revs at around 2750rpm so can’t be as frugal with its sips of RON 95 as you might expect.
I suspect the extra torque of the Fiesta’s 1.5 TDCi diesel engine would be better suited to motorway work. That being said, our car is still fairly new, and there’s time for the motorway economy to creep up by a few miles to the gallon.
Plus the reward for having this petrol engine comes during almost all other scenarios of driving, such as when urban landscape is traded for B-road. At those times, its motivation to rev matches the keenness of the chassis. It’s a fine city warrior but is at its most enjoyable outside it.
THE SWEET SEATS The firm, supportive seats match the car’s good ride and, with flashes of red, they look the part as well.
NOT THE KEY’S KNEES Occasionally, the ‘no key detected’ message shows and won’t let me start the car until I switch the ignition off and on again.
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Life with a Ford Fiesta ST-Line: Month 1
A run-in engine means Fuel economy improvements - 30th May 2018
The Fiesta has gone through quite a transformation in its first 1100 miles. To begin with, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine felt rather tight, while also returning measly economy that barely surpassed 30mpg during my urban commute. But, gradually, that figure has crept up by 10mpg and the 138bhp triple up front has started to feel more eager to rev.
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Welcoming the Fiesta ST-Line to the fleet - 16 May 2018
‘Something-Line’ models. You know the breed; they’re the sheep in wolf’s clothing, the converse of a Q-car. They wear the muscle of their most athletic cousins, but behind the spoiler and big wheels are the heart and lungs of the family accountant.
They’re everywhere; diesel Golfs dressed like Golf Rs, Corsas impersonating the VXR and C-Classes with dreams of being C63s. Now, there’s another and it has just joined the Autocar fleet.
Say hello to our new Ford Fiesta ST-Line, which flexes biceps with metallic alloy wheels (ours are the optional 18in ones), beefier bumpers and an ST front grille, but beneath its bonnet lives a little 1.0-litre Ecoboost triple. Surely, the buying public will turn their back on such a poorly endowed fraudster?
Well, actually, no, they won’t. Turns out ST-Line is fast becoming the new Zetec. It is already the most popular trim for the Focus and now it’s climbing up the Fiesta’s popularity ladder.
ST-Line arrived in November, several months after Zetec and Titanium variants, yet it accounted for 23% of sales in 2017. Titanium was just 2% better than that. Although Zetec, the long-standing trim champion, represented 45% of demand, Ford thinks there’s a strong chance that’ll change this year.
Given that the Fiesta is the nation’s best-selling new model by quite some margin, and this is the first time we’ll get an extended test in this latest version, it’s fair to assume that we’ll be seeing a lot of Fiesta ST-Lines on roads.
So I should make the most of these early weeks, during which our red car is garnering appreciation from pedestrians as they wonder whether they’re seeing the new Fiesta ST months before it’s due to appear. Hopefully, these bystanders won’t feel like their glance is wasted on an ST-Line, because our car does at least come with the most potent version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost on offer.
We could have opted for the 99bhp entry model or the 123bhp midfielder, but we’ve gone for the 138bhp version because it straddles a middle ground between the standard line-up of Fiesta derivatives and the full-blown ST. In 138bhp form, the Fiesta ST-Line’s starting price is £17,945 — just £1050 less than the opening figure for its upcoming hot hatch sibling.
Once you’ve added a few options — and our car is adorned with £1550 worth of extra kit — you’ve exceeded the price of a full-bore ST. Tempting, but purchase price is only one part of the equation. If you take running costs into account, Ford’s turbocharged three-pot 1.0 engine should be much easier on my pocket.
Even in this peppiest form, the 1.0 triple is claimed to offer 62.8mpg (combined) and puff out 102g/km of CO2. So trips to the fuel station should be far less frequent than they would be in the ST, which also uses a three-cylinder but of 1.5-litre capacity and a 197bhp output. Our car should be notably cheaper to insure, too.
Ford has upgraded the ST-Line’s chassis so it more deservedly sits between the standard line-up and the top variant than most ‘something-Line’ models. The underlying structure is 14% stiffer than the old car’s, thanks to the use of more bracing in key areas, but the ST-Line adds to this with suspension tuned to offer sportier handling than the standard car, achieved primarily through higher damper rates.
This sounds promising for a B-road jaunt, but there’s a chance that it could make the car tiresome on my urban commute across London. There’s no system to adjust the damping rates, either. In fact, there’s nothing to adjust the way the car is set up at all, unless you count the Eco button that, as far as I can tell, seems only to slacken the throttle’s responses.
But I like that there’s only the one character for this car. That trait suggests it could be like an old-school warm hatch. Not that it’s old-school inside.
The new Fiesta is a much nicer place in which to sit compared with its predecessor. The previous car’s cluttered dashboard is a distant memory and the new version’s clean, simple dashboard is, to my eyes at least, a better example of design than the Volkswagen Group’s more functional layout.
Our Fiesta ST-Line has the optional B&O Play sound system, which includes 10 speakers and adds an 8.0in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That kit costs £350.
The buttons and knobs on the dashboard feel of good quality, while the soft, squidgy plastic on the dashtop feels so nice that I’ve already developed an annoying habit of prodding it while stopped in traffic. If you rejoice at the sight of unpopped bubble wrap, you’ll understand the satisfaction.
Aside from the hard, scratchy plastic for the interior door pull handles, every surface you lay your hands, feet or bottom on feels premium. Take the steering wheel, which comes with soft perforated leather, or the gearknob, which is spherical with a chrome-finished top. The cloth-covered sports seats are very comfortable and supportive, too.
All in all, this is a car with plenty of potential. Our first drives in the Fiesta ST-Line suggest this could be quite the entry-level driver’s car so, rest assured, I’ll be venturing out of the Big Smoke and heading to the country to see how hard it is to cock an inside wheel in a car with a few miles on the clock. You can take a three-pot on a track day, too, right?
I loved the ST-Line version of the previous Fiesta. While the engine is much the same, the handling is somehow even sweeter and more accurate now, and the difference between the cars’ interiors is like that between a Travelodge and a Hilton.
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Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost ST-Line specification
Specs: Price new £17,945; Price as tested: £19,495; Options: ST-Line 18in wheels £600, rear privacy glass £250, rear parking distance sensors £200, B&O Play premium sound system with 8.0in touchscreen £350, Shadow Black roof and mirrors £150
Test data: Engine 3 cyls in line, 998cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 123bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 1400rpm; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Claimed fuel economy 62.8mpg; Test fuel economy 35.4mpg; CO2 98g/km; Faults None; Expenses None
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