A fortnight of back-to-back Ford Fiestas (an LX and Zetec) confirmed what we already knew – put the compact Ford on the top shelf as one of the very best small cars on the market.
Ford Fiesta is a creation of Ford Europe, so it’s styling and driving dynamics are spot-on.
And the price is right on the mark too.
Combine all that and the Fiesta is the compact car by which others in the segment are measured. And that’s a bold statement because this is one of the most highly competitive markets, populated by some great cars.
Ford Fiesta Overview
Ford Australia is dominated by the Territory and Falcon but really, the Fiesta compact sedan and hatch and the Mondeo mid-size sedan and wagon also deserve star billing.
The current Fiesta lineup came from Ford Europe and boasts standout design inside and out, excellent build quality and segment-best driving dynamics from both petrol and diesel models.
Ford Fiesta is sold in four model grades – CL, LX, Zetec and Econetic. It is one of only a small number of compacts with the option of a diesel engine (Ford Fiesta offers two turbo-diesels and one petrol).
Priced from $16,990, Ford Fiesta stacks-up well in the value-for-money comparison and is a ‘must include’ on the shopping list if you’re considering a compact hatchback or sedan.
Ford Fiesta Engine
Ford is justifiably proud of its Fiesta Econetic turbo-diesel, which sips fuel at the rate of just 3.7l/100kms, but our test cars were the conventional 1.6-litre turbo-diesel and 1.6-litre petrol powerplants.
Our Ford Fiesta Zetec ran Ford’s 1.6-litre Duratec engine – a DOHC design providing 89kW at 6300rpm and 151Nm at 4300rpm. Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 6.1l/100kms.
As a result, Ford Fiesta eclipses Mazda2’s 76kW/137Nm, 1.5-litre petrol engine, while Honda Jazz is good for 88kW/145Nm from its 1.5-litre powerplant.
Ford’s new Duratorq 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine was added to the Ford Fiesta range as part of the recent WT model facelift. With 66kW at 4000rpm and 200Nm at 1750rpm, the new Fiesta diesel averages 4.4l/100kms.
Comparable small cars diesels are rare, but Citroen’s new C3 and the Volkswagen Polo both provide similar outputs (66kW/215Nm for the C3 and 66kW/230Nm for the Polo).
Mazda has said a diesel Mazda2 isn’t on the drawing boards and currently Nissan does not have a diesel option for the Micra. That’s a shame because the latest European diesels like the one fitted to our Ford Fiesta test car are pearlers – impressively quiet, smooth performers and thankfully free of the exhaust soot of earlier diesels (the new European exhaust regulations cleaned all that up).
Our Ford Fiesta Zetec was fitted with the five-speed manual transmission while our LX Ford Fiesta was fitted with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Ford says clever technology in the six-speeder (it automatically engages neutral when idling or decelerating) improves fuel consumption by 12 per cent over the previous four-speed automatic fitted to Ford Fiesta. The new transmission also provides hill-start assist.
Ford Fiesta The Interior
Ford Fiesta is a creation of Ford’s European styling studios and this is evident in its interior. The sharp design, high quality materials, nice tactile feel and excellent ergonomics all stand out in the compact car segment – especially when you compare prices.
The sporty three-spoke steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach for an excellent driving position. Our Zetec was boosted by the standard sports front seats.
Instrumentation is the usual gauges, but still a feature of the Fiesta is the center console audio and climate control module, which is styled like a mobile telephone keypad – it looks great and its simple functionality is top-notch.
Audio is a six-speaker single CD system with Bluetooth and the addition of voice control in the WT model facelift is another plus for Ford Fiesta in this segment.
Rear seat legroom is comparable with most in this segment.
Ford Fiesta Exterior & Styling
Ford Fiesta and Mondeo models have signaled resurgence for the company’s European styling studios. Fiesta is contemporary and the sloping bonnet, large headlights and narrow grille are really quite edgy when compared with some of the more conservative design in the compact segment.
Likewise the modern rear end treatment of the hatchback with its modern lights and curved hatch.
The sedan version differs with a larger fourth side window to accommodate the different C-pillar which blends into the boot.
Ford Fiesta On The Road
If you’re a performance car fan and you can afford a price tag just north of $20,000, the Ford Fiesta Zetec will tick your boxes. It looks the part with its 16-inch alloy wheels and the ride, handling, grip levels, steering feel and response over twists and curves will bring a smile to your face.
Car Showroom’s Ford Fiesta Zetec ran the five-speed manual transmission and we really enjoyed our runs over our high-speed mountain roads test loop.
Our LX was also enjoyable over the twisty stuff and in this environment, the six-speed, dual-clutch automatic really shone with crisp, precise changes. At low speeds around town the auto can be a little harsh.
Of course around town is the usual home for most Ford Fiestas and both test cars accounted well. The small 10.2-metre turning circle had our ridiculously tight CBD car park on toast and the good all-round visibility of both sedan and hatchback Ford Fiesta models provided easy street parking.
In both rural and city environments, both Ford Fiestas impressed with their levels of interior quietness.
Rear seat space in the Ford Fiesta, while not a match for the Honda Jazz…well, there were no complaints from the Car Showroom juniors (aged six and seven).
Ford Fiesta Challenges
Dual-clutch automatics are becoming common in European vehicles and, just like its rivals, Ford’s six-speeder sometimes feels a bit harsh when quickly searching for gears in stop-start city traffic. You get used to it and to be frank, the same trait is evident in European vehicles twice the price of a Fiesta.
Ford Fiesta Verdict
Just like the Ford Mondeo in the mid-size segment, we reckon Ford has a star on its hands with the smaller Fiesta. Small car buyers should put the Ford Fiesta at the top of their shopping lists, test drive one and then sample the others.
Ford Fiesta The Competition
Like the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda2 comes standard with electronic stability control. The ‘2’ also provides top-shelf driving dynamics and sharp pricing.
Honda Jazz is an exercise in smart design delivering clever packaging – its remarkably roomy. But there’s no diesel, the auto is a five-speed and to match the Fiestas specifications, the Honda gets pricey.
If your budget is tight, Hyundai’s i20 and Nissan’s Micra are worthy alternatives.