It is difficult to overstate how successful the outgoing Ford Fiesta has been. The list of the UK’s best-selling cars has been topped by this car for the eight years since it went on sale. It has never merely edged victory either, but beaten all others by a country mile: in 2016 the sales gap between the Fiesta and its nearest rival was more than 43,000 units.
JUL 13th 2017
First Drive: 2018 Ford Fiesta
Then, to sign off what has been an extraordinary run for the Mk7 Fiesta, Ford clocked up the sale of the one millionth example in the UK just weeks before its replacement arrived. No pressure, then…
Before talking about what this new Fiesta is, it is perhaps wise to consider what it needs to be. After all, the car it replaces sold on merit rather than price, and more impressively still remained unbeaten for ride and handling even at the end of its nine-year production run.
So the new Fiesta needs to steer beautifully and have a suspension setup that is as in tune with British roads as Eric Clapton is with a guitar. It should be affordable both as an outright buy and on monthly payment plans (85% of private Fiesta buyers use a PCP finance scheme), packed with technology and, as is with way with any new car, bigger than the model it replaces.
That last point is particularly pertinent given the Fiesta’s launch coincides with the arrival of the new and already highly acclaimed Seat Ibiza, a car that brings newfound levels of space to what we will surely at some point have to stop referring to as the ‘supermini’ class.
Sure enough, the Fiesta has grown in size (by a full 7cm in length), although the gains in interior space aren’t as great as one might expect. The boot, for example, swells by a meagre 10 litres in the five-door model, which means it’s still 50 shy of the Ibiza. Nor do the rear seats feel that much more spacious for one tall adult to travel behind another.
Climb in the front, however, and any reservations start to melt away. For a start, Ford’s new dashboard is a triumph, combining neat design with a responsive touchscreen (up to 8 inches in size), yet retaining proper buttons for the most important controls. Set off on your journey and, within a mile, you just know the old Fiesta magic is still there.
The engine range at launch consists of a 1.1-litre petrol with either 69bhp or 84bhp, plus three versions of Ford’s highly acclaimed 1.0-litre Ecoboost (99, 123 or 138bhp) or a 1.5-litre diesel with 84 or 118bhp. The 1.1 gets a five-speed manual whereas all others come with six gears including, in the case of the Ecoboost, an optional torque converter automatic. We’d be inclined to avoid the 1.1 or the 1.5 diesel not because they are any worse than units found in rivals, but simply because Ford’s Ecoboost is so inherently good, combining the quiet, smooth and high-revving nature of a petrol triple with the low- to mid-range punch of a turbodiesel. It’s a shame Ford’s manual gearbox has lost a little of its satisfyingly robust action in the transition from Fiesta Mk7 to Mk8, but the driving experience remains otherwise unharmed.
Again, it’s the handling that does it, with even the most basic Fiesta having a response and weight to the steering that puts many sports cars to shame, along with a front end that not only hangs on gamely but also reacts consistently to changes in throttle position. This is a humble hatchback that feels genuinely sporty. And yet still the Fiesta’s ride is rarely less than completely settled thanks to suspension that feels in perfect harmony with a typically bumpy British road.
Throw in the latest driver assistance safety technologies (there are 15 in total), plus four distinct model lines from the core Style and Zetec to the forthcoming Active crossover, plush Vignale and sporty ST, and it’s hard to see how it won’t be business as usual for the Fiesta when it comes to dominating the sales charts.
Engine: 1.0 Ecoboost
Transmission: 6-spd manual, front-wheel drive
Bhp/lb ft: 138/133
Top speed: 106mph
Price as tested: £16,750
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