Private buyers. If you’re a franchise, you love ’em. Particularly if you’re one selling Fords – the Fiesta is the car more people spend their own money on than any other. Your excitement will be off the scale right now, too; the all-new model is starting to arrive by the transporter-load – and it’s brilliant.
Car Dealer has thus been over to Italy, for a full-on two days behind the wheel of what could well be this year’s most important new car. So what were our first impressions as we stepped off the plane to be greeted with a set of keys to a petrol three-door? It looks blinding. This could well be the best-looking supermini on sale, with proper athleticism and the sort of creases and curves makers usually reserve for coupes.
It’s a similar story inside, where the dash has a really modern and stand-out look to it. Ford has modelled the button layout on mobile phones, and it works well, looks good, and is logical. It complements fundamentals including a spot-on driving position (love the high-set gearlever and steering wheel placement), decent rear space and a 295-litre boot, the biggest the Fiesta’s ever had.
Indeed, it’s a fair bit more practical inside, given that it’s not that much bigger on the outside. Part of the reason for this growth control is to cap weights – the new model is actually lighter than the old. This, along with massive improvements to engine efficiency, means big improvements to economy. Most petrols nudge 50mpg, the diesels do well over 60, and there’s going to be an Econetic version that returns a remarkable 76mpg. CO2 emissions should be below 100g/km.
Best-sellers are expected to be the 1.4-litre petrol, and the 1.2-litre, which now comes in 82bhp guise, as well as cheapo entry-level 60bhp form (Ford expects few to buy the Studio, though: ‘not even fleets’).
We were lucky enough to try the only all-new engine, though – the 1.6-litre petrol, with variable valve timing pushing power up to 120bhp. This is a corking unit, smooth and free-revving, with vim like few Ford four-cylinder units. There’s a kick at high revs, it buries itself deep into the red-line, willingly, and is racier than the 9.9 seconds to 60mph dash suggests.
That’s probably because handling is plain brilliant. Ford knows how to make cars drive well, and the Fiesta is no exception. Even the basic models are sporty, composed, incisive and rewarding, never mind the tuned Zetec S.
Yet while that car can show ride stiffness, standard models display big-car smooth-running over bumps. It’s a cut above almost every other small car.
Ford is really on to something with the new Fiesta. It’s kept prices under control, launched a clear and logical range of trims and promised running costs below that of the outgoing model. You really can’t say fairer than that.
The company wants to keep hold of its leading retail position with this car. On first evidence, we suspect it’ll find the challenge not all that onerous.
by RICH AUCOCK