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Road Test: Ford Fiesta

Review by Feann Torr - 4/February/2009

Ford Fiesta reviewDerived from the Latin word festa - to feast - Ford's new German-built Fiesta is very tasty.

The all-new Ford Fiesta is a completely new vehicle that draws on the Blue Oval's 'kinetic' design philosophy and from the moment you sit in the vehicle it's clear that the bar has been set remarkably high.

With a sharp new style designed to appeal to younger generations, the Fiesta range starts at $15,750 for the 3-door CL model.

We're testing the mid-range Fiesta LX model, in 5-door configuration, which is priced at $18,490 and comes standard with driver and front passenger airbags, alloy wheels and cruise control.

According to Ford's CEO Alan Mulally, the new Fiesta is the first vehicle to embody the "One Ford" plan - the Blue Oval's bold first attempt at a truly global car. 

Designed from the outset to be sold in all major markets, including China, Australia, America and Europe, there's a lot riding on the new model.

It is the "most significant global vehicle project since the Model T," according to Marin Burela, Ford Australia's President and CEO who was previously in charge of Ford's global small car division.

As we discovered during our first test of this crucial vehicle, Ford appears to have broken very few eggs making this particularly flavoursome omelette.

Make: Ford
Model: Fiesta LX
Price: $18,490
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Engine: 1.6-litre Inline 4-cylinder petrol
Seats: 5
Safety: 2 airbags (driver/front passenger (x2)), ABS, EBD
Car SupplierFord Australia

Ford Fiesta review

Ford's new German-made Fiesta
raises the compact car benchmark

Ford Fiesta review

The spritely new design will attract a lot
of new customers, but it's the way the car
drives that will ultimately win over buyers

Engine: 1.6-litre I4 Petrol

The transversely mounted 1596cc 4-cylinder petrol engine has an inline layout with an all alloy construction. It has dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) that actuate 16-valves (4-valves per cylinder) that feature variable valve timing. 

The engine electronically injects fuel into the cylinders from a 43 litre fuel tank. It will run on standard grade (91 RON) or higher unleaded fuel.

Fuel consumption: 6.1L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 143g/km

Max Power: 88kW @ 6000rpm
Max Torque: 152Nm @ 4050rpm

Ford Fiesta review

Ford Fiesta review

As a city car, the Ford Fiesta is without par

Ford Fiesta review

The interior of the Fiesta is well laid out,
easy to use, and best of all it looks fantastic

Ford Fiesta review

Ford's Fiesta is a revelation

Even with dozens of vibrant and competitive rivals like the Honda Jazz and Mazda2, the Fiesta is in another league.

From the outset it's clear that the Fiesta is a class leader: it took all of about three and a half minutes driving the car from Ford's HQ to realise how much the Blue Oval's European engineers have achieved with this new global car.

The Fiesta feels like it was born to drive. It has a remarkably refined ride that is on par with some luxury cars -- truly, it feels like it's a prestige car trapped inside a compact car's body.

Simply put, it's able to soak up and deal with pretty much anything the road throws at it, quarantining occupants from diseased surfaces. Smooth roads, bumpy roads, changing road surfaces, tram lines, pot holes, train tracks, crumbling verges - the Fiesta almost seems to glide over them.

And it gets better.

Paired with the Fiesta's ultra-smooth suspension tune is one of the best gearbox-engine combinations I've come across in a compact car.

Once you're seated comfortably in the drivers seat - and it's fairly roomy for such a little car - rowing through the gears and pedalling the clutch is very intuitive.

The 5-speed manual transmission shifts cleanly and smoothly between gates and a light clutch makes this car eminently drivable.

It requires very little effort to drive the manual model but is still remarkably involving to punt around - which bodes well for the automatic variants.

The pint-sized Ford is a satisfying little buzz box, sporting what is arguably the best chassis of any car in its class. The steering is light and easygoing, which makes tight maneouvres, parking and U-turns effortless and contributes to the Fiesta's composed attitude.

With its smooth ride and sophisticated powertrain, the new Ford Fiesta truly is a compelling drive - something that can seldom be said of compact cars.

As strange as it feels to write this, few cars feel this well-rounded - compact or otherwise.

Another aspect that impressed me about the new Fiesta was the clear rearward vision. The window line is quite high but it wraps around the rear of the vehicle giving you a good field of vision, cutting down the size of the blind spots.

The story of sophistication continues inside the Fiesta LX, where occupants will find cloth seats upholstered with patterned fabric. This gives the cabin more character than the usual black-grey seats of most budget cars.

Featuring a futuristic centre console with a wing-like motif for the control panel - not to mention some of the best soft-touch dash plastics in existence - it's hard to believe that Ford is making money from the vehicle.

The sense of quality in the cabin is astonishing for a compact car and the overall design (particularly the futuristic instrument dial shrouds) is refreshingly original. Inspired by mobile phones, the interior is designed to appeal to generations X and Y but I reckon its got universal appeal.

The dashpad is finished in contrasting colours to the rest of the interior plastics, adding to the cabin's high-end look and like the ultra-modern Mondeo the kinetic design permeates almost all design aspects. Everything from the instrument dials - even the needles - to the centre console and the door handles all look very modern and this bodes well for Ford's future product line-up.

The LX model we tested also featured voice control; a feature that used to be sole preserve of luxury cars. You can activate the Blue Tooth phone functionality to dial up numbers or program radio stations without taking your eyes off the road.

Steering wheel controls comprise cruise and stereo/menu inputs on the LX model and though there's a lot to take in at first - 10 buttons all up - the system works well once you've spent a few days toying with the system.

Like all good compact cars there's a profusion of storage bins throughout the car to safely stow mobile phones, MP3 players, wallets, bags, food, drinks, maps - you name it. And there's also an external AUX jack to plug in audio devices and the range-topping Zetec models even come with iPod/USB connectivity.

Detailed menu systems on the LX and Zetec models mean you can spend hours customising car options, which will appeal to gadget lovers. Meanwhile the small details like the door lock/unlock button on the centre console add to the car's user friendliness.

Rear seat room isn't massive but rear leg room has improved over the previous model and boot space of 281 litres means you can get four people and all their beach gear in the car. 

The air-con is pretty good too, as we discovered on a sweltering 42° day...

The rear seats can also be folded down in the traditional 60:40 split-fold formation to load bulkier items into the car. Opening the small rear hatch - even with hands full - is not difficult either.

Ford's new WS Fiesta also sits quite low to the ground and I found that this aids ingress and egress - though older drivers may not share this opinion.

Another benefit of this low ride height is that you feel closer to the road, giving you more of a 'connection' with the car. This closeness to the road is a real boon when you reach tight, twisting roads as the well-sorted chassis ensures the Fiesta is satisfying to drive.

There's not too much body roll when you build up steam through corners and the progressive steering gives it a sporty persona, but this never overrides its overall smoothness.

By and large, it's difficult to criticise the way the Fiesta behaves on the road.

Even when the time comes to fill up the vehicle, the new capless fuel filler makes the whole rigmarole quick and efficient and hassle-free.

Fuel efficiency is another strong suit of the Fiesta, with the manual model's 1.6-litre engine using 6.1 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined city/highway cycle, which is relatively frugal for a car that weighs almost 1.1 tonne.

We managed around 6.7L/100km over about 450 kilometres of mainly urban and some highway driving.

In top gear (5th) while cruising at 100km/h the car engine spins @ 3000rpm and the motor is surprisingly responsive, able to accelerate for overtaking needs at this speed without any need for a down shift.

It's a flexible, revvy little unit that churns out 88kW and 152 Newton metres of torque and will happily putt along at 60km/h in 5th gear.

The engine revs cleanly and puts its power to the ground effectively via the 5-speed manual and if you do find some nice winding roads that require haste, the Fiesta hits its stride at around 4000rpm and can hustle along pretty swiftly when kept above this mark.

Our Fiesta LX test car featured the optional safety pack ($1,000) which adds thorax side airbags, a driver knee airbag and dynamic stability control (DSC) with traction control, the latter of which kicked in only a couple of times when we took off too quickly from standstill.

The only real issue I found with the Fiesta was that there were some annoying creaks coming from the rear, but this is more likely due to media car abuse rather than anything to do with build quality.

Though I'm not completely sold on the new design, everyone we showed the car to thought it was a real head turner and if nothing else it's an evocative, modern look, one thateschews the tall body design of some compact cars. 

The front end design features an ultra-slim grille underneath which sits a large air dam that adds a sporty edge. The headlights work well and are one of the first features that attracts the eye, and the rear is likewise fairly attractive with neatly integrated brake lights.

Ford's Fiesta is low, sleek and well-proportioned and will no doubt set a new standard for what small car buyers will expect.

Despite having a super sophisticated feel, impressive features and an ultra-modern cabin, compact cars rely most heavily on their looks to make sales and in this respect Ford appears to have nailed it.

Overall: 4.5/5

One of the best compact cars we've ever driven, the Fiesta is sumptuous vehicular cuisine. It's very much a mini Mondeo, motivating ever-so-smoothly like its bigger sibling, yet quietly and with a level of sophistication that's left me dumb-founded.

With ultra-modern designs inside and out, this is a tremendous effort from Ford is a very positive sign for the company's future.

It's an urbane little vehicle with an expressive exterior and plenty of useful features that represent remarkable value for money when priced from under $16,000.

The Fiesta has changed the playing field forever. It has a bevy of neat innovations and manages satisfy the driver like no other compact car on the market.

Who knew compact cars could be this slick? In a nutshell, this is the best compact car on the market.



  • Sophisticated Feel
  • Smooth Ride
  • High Quality Interior
  • Responsive & Frugal Engine
  • Fiddly Cruise Control

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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