Fleet News

New Ford Fiesta



DURING my teenage years I used to spend quite a bit of time being ferried about, often from pub to pub, in the back of various friends' Ford Fiestas. Being well over six feet tall, I found it quite a squeeze.

I was reminded of my youth when sitting in the back of the new Fiesta, but only to the point of noticing that this is a much bigger, more spacious car as opposed to feeling the returning twinges of lower backpain.

And so it would be unfair to cite the experiences of my desperate teenage years as a negative for the new Fiesta because it is an excellent big little car.

Like all segments, the B sector is growing in size. It is also maturing. The new Fiesta is no longer cheap and cheerful. It is cheap and deadly serious.

'Small cars are crucial to the success of any volume car manufacturer in Europe,' said Ford of Europe chairman David Thursfield. 'You cannot truly succeed as a brand in Europe if you don't get your small cars right.'

So the car has grown about 10cm in height and length, and is slightly wider, and the extra dimensions have really been made to count.

What is unlikely to grow though is the price. Although prices are not yet available, it seems that costs will be not far north of present Fiesta levels. For the two cars on test, the 1.4 Duratec 16V Ghia and the eight valve 1.4 Duratorq TDCi Ghia, that means about £10,800 and £11,300 respectively.

The common rail diesel 1.4 8V unit, developed in conjunction with PSA Peugeot Citroen, is also found in the 206 and Saxo.

Ford has very conservative plans for the diesel, expecting only about 10%-20% of total volume to be this variant.

The diesel only emits 114g/km of CO2, but the combination of falling into the 18% company car tax band and a likely £500 higher P11D price than the petrol equivalent will make it more expensive tax-wise by at least £80 a year than its nearest petrol models under the forthcoming BIK tax system. It just shows how daft the 3% diesel surcharge is, especially on smaller cars.

A CO2 level of 153g/km, and a combined fuel consumption figure of 44mpg, puts the 1.4 Duratec 16V version slap bang in the top end of the competition, without being miles better or worse than equivalent 206, Polo or Corsa versions.

Other engines to be offered in the range will be petrol-powered 67bhp 1.3-litre Duratec and 99bhp 1.6-litre Duratec 16-valve units.

A Ford insider also told Fleet News that alongside three and five-door variants, the Fiesta-based Fusion concept car is likely to go into production, alongside another niche model, possibly aimed at the youth leisure market.

Ford has been very keen on crash protection in the Fiesta, claiming it is the first car in its class to have dual stage air bags. It has a collapsible steering column to help avoid chest injuries and more high strength steel in the body structure to make the car more rigid and channel impact forces away from occupants.

The airbag system might not sound a particularly interesting innovation, but it does serve an important purpose. There is growing evidence that needless injuries are being caused by airbags inflating forcefully in low speed impacts when an arm, in front of the wheel, is being pushed into the drivers' face.

The dual stage sensors in the Fiesta detect the speed and force of the crash, and inflate accordingly, avoiding unnecessarily violent deployment.

Behind the wheel

The new Fiesta is a cute looking car, without going too far down the 'let's make it look like a motoring Pokémon' approach that some manufacturers have adopted on their small cars.

Externally and internally, Ford has imbued the Fiesta with a sturdy, chunky character. The messy swoopiness of the Focus dashboard has been consigned to the annals in favour of Mondeo-like functionality.

Buttons and dials are all clean and clear, except for the rather ZX Spectrum-esque digital fuel gauge, and the gearstick has been raised 90mm, putting it in an easier to reach position and the seats can be adjusted for most people of non-freakish build. A steering column that telescopes for reach would have made it better still.

The car comes with a leather steering wheel throughout the range, and although most of the cabin plastics are hard to the touch, they don't look cheap. In fact, only the Volkswagen Polo has a higher quality standard cabin in the segment.

All the extra crash protection on the new car means it is nearly 100kgs heavier than the old one, and it is noticeable, particularly with the 79bhp 1.4 Duratec 16 valve engine, which could do with more power. At 13.2 seconds its 0–62mph time is nearly two seconds slower than the old model, and the car struggles, particularly going up hills. The engine has to be revved hard to get it going at all, which makes it fairly noisy.

Much more fun to drive is the 67bhp 1.4 Duratorq TDCi. As increasingly seems to be the way, the diesel-engined version is the more impressive. It has much more torque, and barrels along with no fuss at nearly 66mpg. Because it does not have to be revved as hard as the petrol version, it is quieter too.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Fiesta is its ride quality. On the 14-inch wheels with taller tyres, it swept across the pot holes of the rural Spanish roads during its launch event with the sort of meaty thump normally associated with big executive saloons.

The sportier 15-inch wheels lose a little of that quality, but trade that off with zippier handling. In fact, the Fiesta feels very composed and level headed. On the limit of grip, there is good feel through the steering wheel and the car gently understeers.

I enjoyed driving the Fiesta: it has just the right compromise between sportiness and in town usability, a precise gearbox and decent brakes. It might be no Mini in the driving enjoyment stakes (who would have expected that?), but it is fun, safe and it should maintain Fiesta's position as a major player in the B segment fleet business.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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