Legacy – this is the word for the all-new Fiesta, having reached not only its seventh ongoing generation, but also treading on the incredible success of the Mk 7 that first appeared back in 2008.
You may think Ford took its sweet time before presenting a complete new generation of the Fiesta subcompact – a model that appeared first back in 1976 and was previously refreshed for a new generation in 2008. Around nine years later – which is way more than the industry standard of six to seven years – the eighth generation has major shoes to fill. Just a fun fact – in March, with sales counted towards the outgoing generation, the Fiesta took the crown as the top selling model in Europe for the month! The trend is indeed unified with the general European car market feature – a record 1.93 million deliveries were achieved in March, with the Old Continent soaring 10.8 percent according to JATO Dynamics and again exceeding the United States as the world’s second largest region following China. Ford overall had a 14 percent increase for the month, with the Fiesta jumping 12 percent – this is virtually incredible for a moment about the be superseded by a new generation. And interestingly, during the media drive, top management confirmed they are hardly making any profit on the Fiesta due to expenses related to the new generation’s updated technical components. We have a prediction though – with the introduction of higher priced versions, the Vignale but most of all the slightly rugged Active and ST Line, things are going to change for Ford of Europe.
The latest – eighth generation of the Ford Fiesta was revealed last year during a special “Go Further” event in Cologne, Germany – Ford is one of the automakers that decided to rethink its investments into automotive shows and will skip some (not the Frankfurt Motor Show, where it debuts the Ranger Black Edition) in favor of alternative communication channels and single events. It’s important to note how the landscape is changing – more and more brands opt for their own events where the models and products they present don’t share the spotlight. The new generation Ford Fiesta is signaling a change in strategy – along with other models – that One Ford global approach now has some underlines. There are still models that will be featured everywhere – for example the new subcompact EcoSport (just to remain in the same general market size) that will also debut in America. But the new Fiesta is not making the trip across the pond anymore – as the United States is fully enamored with crossovers and trucks, seemingly abandoning passenger cars, especially the ones that are too small to be seen when backing up in an F-150. Coming back to the Fiesta – the range will now feature four distinct models (five if you count the proper ST, which is coming a bit later): Fiesta Titanium, Fiesta ST-Line, Fiesta Vignale and the Fiesta Active. No, Ford isn’t ditching the Trend, which still serves as the basis of the Fiesta lineup, especially for corporate sales – it’s just putting the Titanium in line with the rest of the versions, aiming to push it forward as the better option for retail sales. During the test drive session, we had the chance to experience the Titanium and Vignale, both with petrol and diesel engines and manual and automatic gearboxes.
Let’s kick off with the design considerations. Where do you go when your previous generation model has one of the most acclaimed styling in the segment – towards evolution, of course. The new Fiesta is thoroughly evolutionary – but with a twist. We’re not dealing with the same evolutionary styling as we’re used to see at the VAG competitors – it’s easy to set apart the new Fiesta from the old one, but it’s still instantly recognizable as the car that bears the name of a Spanish party. This means I’m certainly in a better mood about the Fiesta – if I had to talk about the design of the facelifted Golf I would be over in a line or two. Here the nuances are important. For starters – we didn’t have one – the Fiesta has retained the three-door body style when all competitors are dropping it. Then, when it comes to a Titanium version, the Fiesta is easy to set apart from the older model thanks to the new front-end placement of the fog lights, which is completely different. It’s harder to make out the changes when seeing the Vignale – but you’re saved here by the amount of available chrome, which is quite obvious even from a distance. There are some that still loved the old Fiesta so much they are rejecting the new one’s enhanced design – but as time will pass, the new version is close enough to the former to sort of “grow on you”. On a personal note, it’s also easy to distinguish the generations via the LED daylight running lights signature – though when seeing them form the side things get murkier. The profile is just about the same, though the new Fiesta is now a tad shorter and a nudge wider. No issues when looking at the back – the new taillight signature is an easy give-away.
Let’s move inside – where the revolution actually did happen. Virtually everything has changed – save for one annoying feature that I’ll discuss in a moment. First off, the entire atmosphere has been updated – while the Fiesta with its central stack full of buttons (even after the facelift) reminded us it was presented in 2008, the new one steps into the future, jumping directly to Ford’s SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system – a one stop for audio, navigation and connected smartphones, complete with conversational voice commands. Tech junkies have everything – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SYNC AppLink, and numerous apps such as Glympse, Aupeo, Spotify, MyBoxMan, HearMeOut, AccuWeather, and Los 40 Principales. It all takes a new form factor as well – gone is the boxy display housing and in its place a tablet-like 8-inch colour touchscreen can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures (there are of course smaller options – floating 6.5-inch colour touchscreen, and a 4.2-inch colour screen). Also gone is the funny-looking Wall-E like instrument cluster area – but here we feel the Fiesta has take a slight backstep. When the central display is monochrome (higher option turn it colored) you feel the area is a bit retro-designed, as opposed to the general tech-savvy atmosphere. I also personally feel the new steering wheel, which is better-looking could have used more premium materials for the integrated controls. If you pack it, though, the Fiesta is certainly among the most technologically advanced subcompact offerings today. You have everything, thanks to no less than two cameras, three radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors, for 360 degree monitoring and up-front road scanning at a distance of 130 meters. Ford’s Fiesta is the first model in the range with the latest version of Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection – fortunately we didn’t get to test the system – and also remembers to cater for a very important segment demographics. Ladies might be happy to hear the Fiesta comes with the brand’s Active Park Assist with Perpendicular Parking, while other model firsts include Traffic Sign Recognition, Auto High Beam, and for the first time in the segment Cross Traffic Alert. Audiophiles will certainly appreciate the new B&O PLAY systems – we’ll certainly give it a go when the extended review comes into play.
We discussed how the interior has changed, and that includes materials that won’t be seen with the naked eye. That’s because engineers claim NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels are at an all-time low – we can concur, but with an asterisk. The engine is muffled when speaking off the Ecoboost – but jump into the diesel and you’ll hear its more distinctive rumble easier. Also, the suspension is way better in terms of sound insulation with a single issue – small and narrow, but deep pot holes will extract the usual clank sound from the back axle. All others – long, big, in sequence – present no challenge to the new generation. Also, when I drive any Ford, there’s a recurring issue that has no impact on day to day life save for certain moments when handling comes into play. Ford’s Fiesta retains the “cab forward” architecture, with a steeply racked windshield that delivers rather large A pillar blind spots – you might have an issue with them in the city when parking or when putting to work the enhanced handling characteristics of the chassis. We may remember the Fiesta – just like the Focus, for example – has always been regarded as one of the top models in the segment in terms of maneuverability and handling – and we’re happy to report that hasn’t changed. It’s not a perceivable improvement, but the details do matter – the Fiesta is better at delivering input from the road through the steering rack, has the same zen-like understanding for driver errors and corrections and at the limit delivers a stable work offload. Even here there are smart measures that have been taken – the Electronic Torque Vectoring Control will deliver an enhanced driving experience by applying the inside wheel brakes to enhance traction and stability when cornering. We also said about the wider track – 30 mm up front, 10 mm at the back and 4 mm longer wheelbase might not seem much, but do make a positive difference.
Ford delivered no surprises in terms of powertrains – you get the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 100 PS, 125 PS and 140 PS coupled to a new six-speed manual gearbox, as well as the 1.5-litre TDCi engine in 85 and 120 hp variants. We had the chance to test the 100 PS EcoBoost, including with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. We can arguably say this is going to represent the best choice for ladies – and it’s commendable that in the subcompact segment Ford has went against the piloted manual gearbox current. The auto being a traditional one you’re not going to get the same swift response as from a dual-clutch, but in turn it’s way smoother in lower gears and more elegant all around. The new six-speed manual is easy to use and exact, and interestingly models with the petrol or diesel engines actually had different manual transmissions, as evidenced by the different placement of the rear-drive position. The 1.5-litre TDCi engine – a tad noisier than the incredibly smooth EcoBoost (it’s a three cylinder, remember) – is of course the current performance champion, thanks to its technologies – optimized combustion chamber design, turbocharging – including variable geometry technology and Smart Regenerative Charging for enhanced efficiency when coasting and braking. Interestingly enough, during the media drive, the petrol and diesel engines weren’t exactly far off in terms of fuel economy – the positive difference for the diesel being of less than one liter per 100 km.