Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi review

4.5 out of 5
£15,635 (as reviewed) £9,795 (starting price)

For

Beautiful design, great equipment as standard and as optional extras, solid engine

Against

This diesel engine isn't ideal for a city car, more expensive than a more powerful petrol version,

Let's make one thing very clear, the Fiesta is probably not the car you think. When Pocket-lint was a young, newly qualified driver, the Ford range was a lot simpler. It went, Fiesta, Escort, Sierra and then Granada. The progression was from basic in the Fiesta, to luxurious in the Granada.

Things are different now, and while the Fiesta isn't really a luxury car, there's more than enough choice in the specification to make it as well-specified as cars far more expensive.

The design, that front end and the interior

The first thing that crossed our mind when we say the Fiesta was simply "wow". This is a car that, while loved by many, has never really been a looker. Until now. The front grille - which first showed up on a concept car a few years ago - is unashamedly Aston Martin in its styling. But you can't just throw a grille like that on a car and expect it to work without spending time on the other details.

But Ford has done just that. The lights are drawn backwards in an elongated manner, giving them a more aggressive and sinister look, which matches brilliantly that massive grille. The back of the car is stylish too, with a distinctive look that brings something new to these super-compact cars. This is certainly not a car that borrows from the Fiat 500 or VW Polo, and that makes for a head-turning design.

Since we've been driving about in this one, people have remarked how cool it looks, how nice it is inside and how incredible that front-end styling is. Not everyone loves that grille though, but for those who do, it quickly becomes something that you look forward to seeing at the start of a journey, and one that you enjoy seeing reflected in the back of boring euroboxes as you scoot around town.

Inside the car, things continue in a likeable way. The instrumentation, rev counter and speedo are smack bang in front of you with no distractions. There's a small display in the middle, which has a "change up" indicator, along with your mileage and some basic info from the trip computer. There's even instant MPG consumption rates, so you can keep an eye on your right foot's impact.

There's also in-cabin illumination, which we have to say we found to be utterly brilliant. It's a small design point, but it makes you feel that Ford views this as more than just a little runabout, but as something people are going to fall in love with, and indeed, we did.

The plastics are high-quality too. The centre column is a hard plastic, but there are a couple of cupholders here and the whole thing feels like it's solid enough to last 10+ years on the arduous British roads.

Long-range comfort

One of the things that separate the Fiesta from cars like the Fiat 500 is that it's much more aimed at comfort. We've been on a couple of decent-length journeys in the the Fiesta, and compared to the 500 it's a more-comfortable place to be. It's also quiet, and even at motorway cruising speeds, it feels like a much larger car than it is.In fact Ford seems to have got the gears set up perfectly for cruising, because at all the key speeds, from 70 down to 30mph it just feels settled and you don't have to work at maintaining the speed.

The suspension in this model is also very much set up for city driving, and speed bumps are handled with skill. Hit them at the speed limit, and the car just takes them in its stride. There's a little bounce after, but if you smack one faster than you should by mistake, then it's not going to send your spine on a visit to outer-space.

First, if you want a lot of equipment, you can certainly have it as an option. Our review car came with a CD player, along with on-steering-wheel controls for it. There are options to have the Sync system too, with voice control, and there is also a Bluetooth option. If you've not used Bluetooth in a car, we suggest you try it - it's a lot safer than messing about with your phone.

You also get Ford's front-window demister, which we have to say we miss enormously when we jump in any other kind of car that doesn't have it - it's a Ford-owned patent, and you don't see it a lot elsewhere.

We really like the basic Ford radio/CD player. It's a no-frills type affair, but it really works very well indeed. There are media connections too for charging and playing music from an iPod. Our car came with the connector for the previous generation iPhone and iPod, but it's all standard USB stuff, so replacing with a Lightning connector won't be a problem. Audio is sent over an analogue wire too, which means you can plug in any phone or MP3 player. Interestingly, our phone detected the car as a media device, but got itself into a state over it and just kept beeping, but that's a phone-related issue, not a car problem.

There are also some nice features such as parking sensors, auto-folding mirrors with puddle lights that were fitted to our car. This stuff is utterly brilliant and a must-have addition to the car and at £300 for the pack, it's pretty much a bargain. Well worth considering.

MyKEY

One of Ford's cleverest ideas is MyKEY. If you have children of driving age, you'll love it because it allows you to give them a key to your car, but to keep a handle on what they can and cannot do with it.

For example, you can lock the traction control on, so it can't be disabled, as well as limit the top speed and volume of the sound system. It's also possible to have the car warn your youngster about their speed when they hit a pre-defined soft limit. It can't keep them completely safe, of course, but it can help to rein in those limit-pushers, just a touch.

To set it up, you simply program one of your Ford keys to be a MyKEY - the other will be an administrator, so don't give them the wrong key - and adjust the limits as you see fit. Simple, but effective.

The engine

There's nothing much wrong with the engine in this Fiesta, it's a solid 1.5 litre diesel with turbo to fill in those gaps you get in diesel performance. It's not a quick car though, and it's geared entirely around city driving with ratios that make it relaxing in traffic.

We can say that with some certainty, because the steering feels perfect for whizzing around small streets, avoiding parked cars and generally getting you into and out of spaces without lots of battling with the steering wheel. It's a little bit lacking in response on a country road, but this isn't really a racing car. Even so, the Fiesta whips along those roads with aplomb, and you never feel it's hurtling out of control.

But our problem with this particular engine is that diesels are not as economical on short runs, and we suspect that most people who buy this car will do so for town use. It's not bad to drive in these circumstances, but you're not going to get the best economy in a cold diesel. So for the sort of stuff we do on a day-to-day basis, like the school run, you'd be better with a small petrol engine. We haven't driven them, but we suspect that the slightly more powerful, and cheaper, 1.2 or 1-litre petrol engines might be a better option for most low-mileage users.

That said, the official combined fuel economy of this car is 76.4. While we think that might be stretching it a bit, you can't argue with it's official rating of 98g of CO2 per 100KM, which means it will cost you nothing in road tax. And there's no doubt that, driven right, this can be a fantastically frugal car.

For those who do want to go with petrol, there's also the 1-litre, 3-cylinder ecoboost engine available, and we'll be looking at that car soon too, but if it drives like the Focus, it's quite likely we'll fall entirely in love with it.

Verdict

We like the new Fiesta a great deal. This is a car that looks amazing from the outside, is comfortable inside and has a level of equipment that you would pay through the nose to get on a German car.

We have some doubts about the particular engine in this one. It is a magnificent power plant for city driving, but we wonder if people buying it might be penalising themselves with a diesel engine where a petrol would be cheaper to buy - by quite a decent chunk of money - and cheaper to run in all but the longest journeys.

Even so, we loved the plucky little Fiesta. It's amazing how far this much-loved car has come since its introduction in 1976. The future is even brighter for this car now too, as Ford has added it to the list of cars that are available both in Europe, and North America. So perhaps US drivers are about to have some fun in a car with very European sensibilities, and that's stuffed full of the same character that makes the Fiat 500 so popular.