There's a saying that goes "There's no replacement for displacement". It is, unsurprisingly, used mainly in America, where car engines verge on the larger capacity. It's not uncommon in the US to be driving around strapped to a 5-litre engine. That's a lot of displacement, about four litres more than the Ford 1-litre EcoBoost engine found in both the new Fiesta and Focus.
In fact, engine capacity is largely an irrelevance. Cars with big engines feel different, but they don't always offer more performance. And cars with little engines can perform as well as those big-block monsters, but you won't necessarily see any saving in fuel.
But the EcoBoost is a clever idea. It reworks the traditional engine, with the intention of providing a small, yet powerful engine that weighs less and takes up less space than a conventional engine. But all that is useless if it doesn't give the performance we've come to expect from modern cars. The new Fiesta is nothing, if not brilliant looking, so with design taken care of, all we need now is for it to drive well, and everything will be right with the world.
The Fiesta really is a pretty little car. Compare it to anything else in the class and it comes out on top. Its old rival the Polo looks, perhaps, a little more solid, and these days more like a mini-Golf than a distinct car of its own, sure, it's cool looking, but it's not mould-shattering. The Fiesta, on the other hand, looks fabulous and will, we promise, put a smile on your face every time you get in it.
The nose still has that massive air intake that gives the car an Aston Martin feel. Ford is probably quite bored of people saying that, but it's an inescapable truth that the Fiesta takes its cues from the sports car manufacturer which, for a time, Ford had a stake in. It's not a copycat though, and it works well on the front of this car.
It's not just good looking though, it's actually surprisingly practical. One thing to note though, we found the three-door version of the Fiesta a bit darker inside than the five door - perhaps the darker upholstery didn't help - and there are some other issues with the larger doors, including, a more awkward reach backwards to grab your seatbelt.
There's enough room in the back though, even for adults, and the boot is sufficiently large to take in bags for a weekend away. Don't expect to get your ski gear in though - there are limits.
There are also a lof of LEDs knocking around the Fiesta, there are running lights at the front and inside you get some nice highlight detail lighting too. It's not something you expect on a car like this, but it's fabulous to look at and can also be turned off if required.
Good equipment, nice cabin
We have some mixed feelings about the dashboard in the Fiesta. Looking forward, the wheel and instruments are perfect. You've got a large, clear rev counter and speedo along with a smaller, digital display that gives you the usual trip computer information. This is finished beautifully, and really makes you feel like the car is aimed at you.
The steering wheel has controls on it, in this case for the cruise control and stereo. These are reasonably well located and easy to use. We'd say that the on-wheel cruise control is actually more convenient than the stick-based ones we've used in other cars. The audio controls also handle the Bluetooth phone connection, allowing you to reject or accept calls without taking your hands off the wheel.
The rest of the dash is slightly less to our taste, although there's nothing drastically wrong here at all. Mounted in the middle is the Sony-branded stereo. But this is more than just a radio and CD player, it's also a control for the car's menu system that control other areas. It's a key part of the car, and can't be replaced with any other unit.
What we don't like about it is the number of buttons, and the way they're spread about. Honestly, we think the non-Sony branded stereo is a bit more manageable, although both suffer from buttonitis and a slightly confusing system of working through the menus. It's not a showstopper, but what it does is slow the learning curve down slightly. We're not saying you won't quickly understand, but it's not intuitive. In a car, we're fans of intuitive because the last thing anyone needs is a distraction when driving.
The stereo itself is okay, it's not the best-quality system we've ever heard, but it's reasonably clear. Higher volumes are a little bit of a problem, and there's some distortion when you push it up high, but it's far from terrible. We love the fact that it's a DAB radio too, this is something some manufacturers are struggling to get to grips with, even now.
SYNC, which is Ford's voice-control and Bluetooth phone control system, is a bit of a mixed bag. If you're hoping to press the button and say, "Play me spotify music please" then you're in for a disappointment. While the system can advance tracks and make calls based on voice input, it's not really USS Enterprise computer smart just yet. For some tasks, it's much easier to press a button, and we mostly found ourselves doing that. No doubt after owning the car for a while we'd get used to using it; we just didn't immediately fall in love.
Our car was fitted with the Â£200 "City pack", which includes auto-folding and heated door mirrors, puddle lamps - they illuminate the floor, and are a really nice touch - and rear parking sensors. The odd thing about this pack is, there's no option to add front parking sensors on top, but if you forgo it, you can add both front and rear sensors to the car. Very odd.
Engine and performance
The EcoBoost engine is incredibly advanced and, despite being small and light with fewer cylinders than you'd normally expect, has been designed to offer performance which onlyÂ a few years ago, you would have neededÂ a 1.6-litre petrol engine to achieve.
The good news is, it performs brilliantly. We loved this engine in the Focus, and it's great here too, although the two don't feel the same at all. As with the Focus, the big problem is the noise it makes at high revs. This noise is remarkable for a car with such a small engine, and its something we've yet to grow tired of hearing. The problem is, driving at high revs is really terrible for fuel economy.
Even in normal driving though, the EcoBoost has enough pull to get you out of trouble. It's got enough pulling power to feel like a far larger engine than it is, and we can honestly say that there was no point where its on-paper modest engine capacity really bothered us. If you want even more power, then the ST comes with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost, which turns the already fun Fiesta into something else entirely.
What's interesting about the Fiesta is that the EcoBoost engine doesn't seem to add significant extra cost to the car. It would cost you about the same to have a 1.6-litre engine with roughly the same amount of power.
One piece of good news, in a world of high petrol prices, is that this car has low enough CO2 emissions to qualify for zero road tax. This is nice, and feels like some sort of victory over government, even though it's no such thing.
The EcoBoost has some little quirks, and if you're buying it as the last word in fuel economy, you might end up being disappointed. But what you do get with this engine is a frankly jaw-dropping amount of power out of a tiny, three-cylinder engine. The suspension is a little harder in this car and that is a touch less comfortable, but it makes the car feel a lot more poised on the road than the non-sporty variants.
The biggest problem with the EcoBoost is that it's just a bit too much fun to drive at high revs. We're pretty sure that normal driving would give you good economy, but we just loved having it rev loads, hearing that brilliant engine noise in the cabin and enjoying that surprising pull.
All things considered, the Fiesta is one hell of a car. It's got a price tag that's affordable enough for many, and looks that will seduce everyone. The EcoBoost is definitely the engine to go for, and with the standard equipment on the Titanium you'll be the envy of the German car driver. This is truly, the complete package.