The Ford Fiesta is a bit of a staple of the car world. Affordable, reliable and fun, it has been planting smiles on the face of the average motorist for 36 years. Back in 2008, Ford gave the car a major refresh, with a new set of punchy colours and a significant design overhaul.
The world of the low-priced car moves fast, however, and is hotly contested by every major manufacturer. Competition is rife and the old Fiesta was starting to feel a touch long in the tooth compared to its tech-loaded competitors. This new Fiesta comes packed to the brim with gadgets and gizmos, boasts a new more aggressive look and launches with even more striking colour schemes. But has Ford got it right? Pocket-lint took the Fiesta on a fairly hairy ride around Rome's city streets to find out.
The car comes with a variety of engines, starting from a 1 litre petrol, going all the way to a 1.6 diesel. Also included in the range is the rather brilliant 1 litre EcoBoost engine.
Of the models we drove, the EcoBoost easily felt the most at home in the Fiesta. The diesel was extremely smooth and packed a decent punch in the middle of the rev range, but the EcoBoost added a bit of fun to the Fiesta drive. In a vehicle as small as the Fiesta, the turbo on the EcoBoost kept the car nippy at city driving speeds while still coping with faster cruising.
As for the ride, the Fiesta is responsive but not to the point where it feels overly twitchy, like some of the smaller competitors. Compared to the likes of the Fiat 500, say, this is a much smoother car to drive in every respect. It handles bumps better, feels more dynamic in corners and gives a quieter ride.
Ford has done a great job with the gearbox in the Fiesta. Shifting has a satisfying clunk without being too mechanical. The clutch is smooth and there's enough throw so your leg doesn't get tired while driving in the city or in traffic. The pedals and the gearbox offer enough feedback to keep the Fiesta feeling sporty.
The new-look steering wheel is peppered with buttons to control the car's Sync Bluetooth audio system. Rather than the Focus approach, which has everything at the bottom of the wheel - forcing you to look away from the road for an uncomfortable length of time - Ford has put them on the wheel. Controls are still a bit convoluted, but it is definitely better.
As for Sync itself, Ford has put together a very polished in-car entertainment system. The voice control works, if you say things clearly enough. The system had little issue with our iPhone, as long we didn't try to stream any music stored in the cloud. Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone are all supported, as are USB keys loaded with media.
Also thrown in to the Fiesta's new tech package is emergency assist, which will pair with your phone and call the emergency services automatically should you have an accident. It will even give GPS co-ordinates to the authorities and route the call to your phone so you can speak to them.
Then comes MyKey, which is designed to stop younger drivers having too much fun in their parents' Fiestas. Essentially the system will let you set speed limiters, volume limiters and even keep the unbuckled seat belt beep on permanently.
As for safety, the Fiesta is a bit like a giant marshmallow in an accident, with seven airbags including one for the drivers knee. Ford has also added Active City Stop, which will brake the car in traffic and bring you to a stop provided you aren't going over 15km/h.
We did get to give this a test, which was fairly frightening to do and it worked. It cuts the engine, sticks on the hazards and brings you to a stop, all rapidly enough.
Externally, the car has a new-look front, with a much bigger grille. It looks a bit like it has been stolen from an Aston Martin, but this is no bad thing. The front comes with a new set of headlights, complete with a daytime LED light cluster. There is also the option to go for big 17-inch wheels and for a full-leather interior, including the steering wheel. Add on extras like this and you can expect the price to go skyward quickly.
The new Fiesta then, as a small affordable car, more than lives up to its heritage. The new EcoBoost engine ensures it drives well, all the new tech keeps it well ahead of similarly priced competition and a vast choice of colour schemes - including a new copper, blue and yellow - adds in some fun.
You get the impression though, having driven the previous Fiesta, that Ford has been careful not to mess with the recipe too much. That makes sense, because the last Fiesta was great, and the new model just fills in the gaps. For those after one, expect the Fiesta to start rolling out in January.
A sporty ST version is also planned, with a different look front and uprated engine, so for those after something a touch quicker, it may be worth holding out.
Prices start at £9,795 for a 3 door 1.25 petrol in Studio trim. For those after the 1 litre EcoBoost option, this is from £13,645 and starts in Zetec trim level. For a full price list head over to the Ford website.