By Mark Nichol
It’s no exaggeration to call the Ford Fiesta a genuine icon. Since 1976 Ford has racked up 16 million Fiesta sales worldwide, and it’s consistently in the top 3 best-selling cars in the UK, very often on top. But just in case you need a refresher, the Fiesta is a small 5-seat hatchback and today rivalled by stuff like the Volkswagen Polo and, of course, the Vauxhall Corsa.
Today’s Fiesta was released in 2017 but it was updated in 2022, with Ford adding a bit more tech and tweaking the styling a little. The changes were minimal to be honest, but that’s all they really needed to be: a Ford Fiesta leaseremains an ideal way to drive the benchmark small runabout.
What's Good About It?
Generations of improvement have made the Fiesta one of the best small cars on the market, mainly because of its blend of space, refinement, solid build and exceptional dynamics; on the Venn diagram of qualities you’d want from a day-to-day runabout, the Fiesta sits in the middle of multiple overlapping rings. It’s not perfect, and there are other small hatchbacks that have some superior individual qualities, but nothing in this class quite has the Fiesta’s spread of talent. Nor basic sense of driving fun.
What Could Be Better?
There are no real problems with the Fiesta, but it is one of the smaller cars in the supermini class, both in terms of boot volume and wheelbase length – wheelbase being the main determiner of rear legroom. So, if you prefer to drive a smaller car but need it to have maximum interior space, you might want to look at something like a Renault Clio, whose boot is 100 litres bigger than the Fiesta’s and whose rear-seat space is notably better. The Skoda Fabia is closer to a Clio than a Fiesta in size terms, too.
We’d also suggest that this latest Fiesta has perhaps lost a little character as compared to the model before it, although that’s a result of Ford giving it a more ‘grown up’ feel in general – you might see that as a strength. Still, it’s fair to say that if it’s real visual appeal you want with your small hatchback, the Peugeot 208 or SEAT Ibiza have a bit more flair.
Still, the Fiesta is available in 11 colours with several interior choices too, so if customisation is important to you check out our Ford Fiesta colour guide to see what's on offer.
What’s It Like To Drive?
The last Fiesta was really the benchmark for ride/handling compromise for the entirety of its life – it got the balance of the 2 near enough perfect, and nothing ever really toppled it. At its core this version feels basically the same, typified by a steering rack that’s one of the best in any car. It feels light, so it’s relaxing to use day-to-day, but it turns the car sharply without feeling twitchy, and it actually serves up more road feel through your palms than a lot of sports-car steering racks. The Fiesta is, fundamentally, one of the most fun-to-drive cars on sale at any price.
All Fiestas are now powered by 3-cylinder petrol engines, with a 75hp 1.1-litre at the base and then a 1.0-litre turbo engine in 3 states of tune, called EcoBoost. The high-performance ST model has a 1.5-litre turbo engine. The base engine has nowhere near the character of the EcoBoost stuff, and nor is it any more efficient – all Fiestas bar the ST return around 50mpg on average, so the base engine is really only recommended if you’re looking to keep your purchase costs as low as possible. It’s actually only available with basic ‘Trend’ spec.
Really though, Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo is one of the great small petrol engines. It has diesel-like punchiness in the middle of the rev range, and yet – unlike most diesels – you can rev it hard and it sounds absolutely mega. It’s like Ford attached a small petrol engine to Kurt Cobain’s distortion pedal, in the best possible way. And actually, the engine’s character helps give the Fiesta the same quiet-loud-quiet dynamic of a classic Nirvana song; at low speeds, the Fiesta’s refinement really is exceptional, with very little engine noise or road noise, but put your foot down and you get this big throaty chorus.
The only real criticism we’d throw at the engine is that it’s not happy operating at very low revs – it can feel like it’s going to stall – and so around town you’ll find yourself shuffling between gears a lot. It’s no big deal because the Fiesta has a lovely gearbox, but if you think that’ll bug you, consider an automatic model.
Spec does alter the driving experience a little, too. ST-Line versions have lower, stiffer suspension, and while it’s fantastic for that small percentage of the time you’ll be driving the car for pure enjoyment, some might want a bit less harshness through the wheels. The hot ST’s suspension seems to have very little up and down travel, and sometimes when you hit an especially pronounced road imperfection the car takes a few short sharp bounces before it settles down again. No doubt many buyers will feel that the ST-Line or even the ST’s set-up will add to this car’s overtly dynamic character – they really do – but other versions ride with noticeably more comfort.
On a more basic level, and regardless of spec, the Fiesta’s driving position has a real ‘big car’ feel. The seats and steering wheel have plenty of adjustment – even the tallest won’t feel hemmed in – and the pedals have a light, natural feel that makes for effortless progress. It’s easy to brake progressively and to change gears smoothly. It all just feels… right. The manual gearbox set-up is one of the best on the market.
How Practical Is It?
The Fiesta is a perfectly practical small runabout, in that it has 5 seats, space enough for adults in the rear – albeit, taller adults will feel quite hemmed in – and enough boot space for a week’s worth of shopping and more. It does sit at the smaller end of the supermini spectrum, though, and while that helps it to feel truly compact around town – a strength – it does mean that outright flexibility isn’t necessarily the best. At 292 litres, the boot is only marginally bigger than that in the MINI 5-Door, while the Renault Clio has a 391-litre space, the Skoda Fabia 380 litres, and a Peugeot 208 offers 311. The Fiesta’s cargo bay isn’t the most flexible either. There’s no adjustable twin floor and when you fold down the 60/40 split rear bench, you’re left with a big ridge to negotiate when loading bulkier stuff.
Rear space is decent and there are 3 seatbelts across the back bench, albeit as per any smaller car, the middle-rear occupant has definitely drawn the short straw for shoulder space. Elsewhere in the cabin oddment space is as you’d expect, including a fairly sizeable glovebox and storage for your mobile phone in front of the gearlever, although the door pockets are on the thin side.
How Much Will It Cost Me?
The Fiesta’s starting price is a shade under £19,000 with leasing rates starting below £250 per month with Vanarama. It’s fair to say that the Fiesta is a very good value proposition when it comes to overall monthly costs, not least because it’s cheap to insure: a base model currently sits in Group 2 on the 1-50 scale, and all models bar the 200 horsepower ST are very reasonably grouped. In addition, fuel efficiency is excellent, not just on paper but in real life too. The 125hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost model is rated at 52.3mpg on average, and we’ve found that it returns a solid 48-50mpg day-to-day.
The 2022 update brought a few spec changes, including the discontinuation of the 3-door model, so all Fiestas now have rear doors. The Vignale specification was dropped too, which was Ford’s take on a small luxury car – quilted leather interior and such like.
Those other trim levels are many and can look a little confusing between Trend, Titanium, ST Line and Active, with ‘X’ options for most of those on top. The pertinent point is that all Fiestas are adequately specced, with every version getting the same touchscreen infotainment set-up and manual air conditioning, at least. You’ll have to go up to Titanium X for a set of alloy wheels (it’s plastic wheel trims below that), and anything with ‘ST’ in the name is sportier, including stiffened suspension and styling tweaks. The ‘Active’ version denotes slightly higher suspension and some protective plastic body cladding, making it more suitable for gravelly roads. Albeit, it doesn’t have 4-wheel drive.
Anything Else I Should Know?
We tend not to think about what it takes to ensure that a car will last under the duress of standard ownership, but unusually, Ford has given us some insight into the process with this Fiesta. Apparently the doors of the outgoing car were a little heavy, so Ford has made the doors of this one take exactly 20% less effort to close. Ford even developed a robot backside to sit on each of the seats 25,000 times to test them for durability. All the other robots make fun of it, but you can thank it every time you return to your Fiesta and find the seats as plump and accommodating as they ever were.
Oh, and Euro NCAP tested the Fiesta in 2017 and judged it to be 5-star safe. So it appears the car itself is as sturdy as the seats are.
What Alternatives Should I Look At?
The Corsa feels very light and easy to drive, is more spacious than the Fiesta, and is also available as a full EV.
The most striking-looking small car on the market, with a driving experience to match. The driving position won’t suit all, though.
Fantastic interior quality, and a refined drive.
The Vanarama Verdict = 9/10
"The Fiesta is more grown up than ever, offering the refinement and quality you’d expect of something much bigger, and yet it remains the most fun-to-drive small hatchback on the market. The Ecoboost engine is world class, too, with a blend of character and efficiency that few can match. Despite being in a class of great cars, it’s difficult to overlook the Fiesta. "
3 Things To Remember About The Fiesta:
The most fun-to-drive small car this side of a MINI hatchback
Any of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engines sounds great and will return 50mpg
Not the biggest car in the class, both in boot space and rear seat terms