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The Top Gear car review:Ford Fiesta
For:Great-looking, smart inside, refined, easy to use and with a great overall dynamic package
Against:A little of the sparkle has gone, a few options should be standard, while some cabin trim still under par
What is it?
It’s recognisably a Fiesta. It drives like one too. But the bits that needed fixing – the cabin and the driver-assistance tech – have had a major re-vamp.
Actually that’s not entirely fair. It’s not just the uncompetitive bits that have been worked on. The whole thing is pretty much new. That wasn’t the initial plan. After all the outgoing car was entirely new just eight years ago so they were just going to give it a re-skin, do the other vital changes, and go for a beer. But one change led to another and the engineers and designers ended up fiddling and fettling with almost every part of the car.
People liked the old Fiesta, and it took up residence at the apex of Britain’s sales charts. So it’s justifiable that Ford hasn’t torn everything up and started again with the styling. Instead the designers modernised and evolved the look.
Driving the old Fiesta usually made us happy, so again it hasn’t been radically altered. There’s been some diligent evolution though. And with that, as we’ll see, the character has changed a bit.
The big news though, is the inside. Everyone knew it had fallen way behind. Gritty blue display screens and a control system modelled on a Motorola RAZR (look it up kids) had long lost their relevance. So that’s where the main changes have gone on.
There’s now a smooth tablet screen, sized according to trim level, decent connectivity, and a completely restyled dash and instrument pack.
The Fiesta has got quite a bit longer, but none of that is any immediate use. It’s mostly just bigger bumpers, which the insurance companies wanted. The wheelbase is a trivial 4mm longer. To find a little more useable space there’s been a bit of chipping away around the back seat – which has a thinner cushion – and the boot lining.
The body styling takes a very similar face as before, but removes some of the creases in the body, while adding extra curves to the side sculpture. It’s a subtly grown-up look. At the back the old vertical tail-lamps give way to horizontal units that emphasise the width. They’re LEDs in most models. Most versions have LED from running lights in a mascara trace around the headlamps too.
The familiar 1.0 three-cylinder remains, in a wide range of turboed outputs up to 140bhp. The old 1.25-litre four is gone, replaced by the three-cylinder in unblown 1.1-litre form. The diesels are 1.6s, up to a stout 120bhp. But no-one much buys Fiesta diesels. All turbocharged cars get six-speed gearboxes, a brand-new one for the petrols.
The suspensions are new, to provide the wider track. That said, they use the same principles: strut front, torsion beam behind. But we see bigger and more sophisticated bushings in many locations aimed at reducing ride harshness while boosting cornering precision. Stiffer arms do the same. Higher-spec dampers keep the motions better controlled. Bigger wheels and uprated brakes help the gripping and the stopping.
The driver assist menu includes auto braking. During our test we were being directed into a parking space by a guy who trusted us and stood in front of the car. We intended to brake, we really did, but we didn’t have to because the car did it for us. Ford claims the same system works at night to look out for pedestrians stepping into the road.
There’s also, standard or optional, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, speed-limit sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, and cross-traffic warning for when you’re reversing out of a parking space into the road.
None of those things are unique but for a small car it’s a pretty well-stocked list.
The new range will get more diverse. Right now we have Zetec and Titanium trims as on the old car, plus a semi-sporty ST-Line. There’s also for the first time a luxed-up Fiesta Vignale, which might be over-egging it a bit. Next year the full-fat ST launches. At that time a jacked up ‘country’ edition launches, wearing crossover-style black plastic perimeter cladding. That’s called the Fiesta Active, but it’s not 4WD.