Ford is the second largest US automaker but its global presence entitles it to more panache – it’s also one of the oldest carmakers in Europe, a rising star in China, the world’s largest auto market and the builder of such iconic automobiles as the Mustang or GT40.
There’s not much to day whether there’s a link between all those generalities and the Fiesta subcompact – but the truth is the future – the global – one starts there. In earnest, the Fiesta is not the sole author of the strategy, because its soul is the award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine. Together, they form the first line of attack for the blue oval – you have a well known subcompact model that can be had even at home in Detroit and an engine that has earned more awards than we remember. Subcompact model, award-winning powertrain, global impact – there you have it, it’s the automotive recipe of success in today’s highly turbulent industry. Fiesta might not have the same sales impact at a worldwide level as the Focus family – which is arguably the best selling in the world (Toyota’s Corolla debates that, though) – but the name carries its own weight. The Fiesta is Ford’s best weapon on the European continent, at least until the EcoSport small SUV will take the continent by storm just like it happened with other subcompact duos (think Renault Clio – Captur).
The Fiesta is not new, it’s just been restyled last year as a mid-life cycle refresh that entitles it to cal itself a contemporary Ford – the design cues fall in line with the styling imposed by the Fusion/Mondeo and now carried across the range. It also has a lineage carrying all the way back to 1976 and seven generations to speak of – we’re talking here about a model that carries its own weight and has been a European sweetheart just like Volkswagen’s Polo.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
Since the Fiesta has been refreshed recently, there’s room for some special lines as well – for example the Red/Black edition under review. Easy to see – design-wise – why it’s called so, we have a black body with red accents and an entirely red roof (you could also have it the other way around, with red body and black roof). The three-door hatchback also carries some ST heft, with a tailgate-mounted flap and a discrete body kit that includes modifications to the front and rear bumpers and side aprons. The model can be categorized as a cross between the ST and the normal version – it delivers elements from both without the disadvantages. More on that a little later. The trend of delivering mild-hot hatches was arguably started by the 1991 Renault Clio RSi – it was a pleasant combination of fun, comfort, handling, performance and, crucially, value for money. The recipe is entirely true today as well, with the running costs for a Red/Black edition far away from those associated with the ST. The design alterations – including the great-looking black-mate wheels will entitle the envy of a previous generation ST model and the appreciation of onlookers – it’s an easy and rather inexpensive way of setting yourself apart from the myriad of other Fiestas.
While the exterior looks astonishing and entirely desirable – even among other three door rival variants with the same aspirations – the same cannot be said about the interior. Here we have a charcoal gray flavor seasoned with some aluminum pedals, piano black trim and red stitching on leather. The latter is the one most often seen – it’s on the steering wheel, the gear lever, carpets and front and back seats. That’s actually the most obvious example of the compromises that Ford had to make in order to keep the price in check. Other than that, we have the usual Fiesta flavor: more buttons than we would care for on the center console – fortunately we have the better looking Sony infotainment system – and the Wall-E inspired instrument cluster design, which I always considered cute (it’s a subcompact, we can be playful). Since we’re dealing with a three door, let’s address the elephant in the room first – back row access. Thanks to the huge doors and the easily foldable front seats it’s above average – there you’ll find enough space for two adults on long hauls. Even families with just one kid could enjoy the model without too much hassle – my three-year old quickly learned the best way to his Isofix seat was to climb up the transmission isle directly into the center-mounted safety seat. Yeah, you won’t see many families having a Red/Black Edition, but it’s possible, nonetheless. The gadgetry inside is pretty much a standard affair, with the full compliment of Bluetooth smartphone integration, USB access and other features we have come to take for granted. On long hauls, the front seats are a bit more on the comfort side than the sporty one, with less lateral support but having no tiresome effect on long drives. Just like on any other Fiesta, the trunk access is not great, with the ridge up high and the rear hatch not very generous. Once you put the stuff inside, there’s enough room, aided by the flat floor and tilting back rest (60/40).
Engine Transmission and Handling
As far as the three-door versions of the Fiesta are concerned, the engine range goes from just 65 horsepower to the powerful ST with 182 horsepower. The Red/black edition is the culmination of the standard range, with the 1.0 liter three cylinder delivering 140 horsepower and, more importantly a maximum torque of 180 Nm between 1,400 and 4,500 rpm. It won’t win any contest with the ST, but its practicality is a major selling point. The engine is balanced and silent even when you rev it up like a maniac. And because of that torque you actually don’t go the old fashioned way of sitting next to the red line to get the best out – it’s going to push hard from the start and give you the opportunity to blend performance with mileage. If you feel like acting like a hot hatch aficionado, you are entitled to do so, but the same result can actually be achieved in more mannered approach – even playing tricks on road partners when they believe you lack the necessary oomph. The engine and transmission blend in a satisfactory manner – the five-speed gearbox has a distinct mechanical feel that allows you to feel the gears and it’s slots are clean enough. Also, performance is aided by the low weight – around 100 kg less than the ST brethren. Coupled with an extremely light front end, the Fiesta will corner like a champ, mainly because of the tampered steering and suspension assembly. The electronically-assisted steering has been fine tuned, along with the stiffer, lower suspension that has harder springs and reworked dampers. The ensemble is another great compromise – it’s going to take you places you never dreamed achievable in a Fiesta in terms of dynamic prowess and won’t kill your kidneys every time you drive in the city and find some small and persistent road holes.
Comfort is not something you might expect from a car that has the skills and attributes of a hot-hatch and matches the performance of top-of the line models from just a generation ago. But it’s present – from the steering feedback at low speed to the low grumble of the engine or the lack of any suspension grieve when hitting potholes – and remember we’re dealing with 17 inch rims here. With the right tires you’ll find the Fiesta Red/Black able to redeem any corner you trow at it, also fit an capable of swift attitude changes – just like the more mature ST. We do have one complaint here – the other visible compromise was the five-speed manual gearbox. It’s rendering the Fiesta almost unusable at highway speeds – the rev counter is already high at around 110 km/h and if you continue to push for highway speeds the noise and fuel consumption will go up exponentially. When it comes to achievable mileage, we come back to the two-face argument: if you treat it like a hot-hatch it will spend the 42 liters of gas in a hurry. If you see it as fun and performance-oriented three-door you won’t be met with a disappointing stance – power is there when needed and the mileage is greatly improved if you exploit the low-rev torque. And there’s one neat trick that actually makes the Fiesta Red Black the perfect city partner – the start/stop system. Use it and you’ll be able to get near the automaker’s urban fuel consumption – which we all know is something achieved under certain, set conditions. To sum it up, we have a great looking little hatchback, one that is not as fast as the Fiesta ST but is more comfortable and practical (especially in urban scenarios).
Pro: exterior design with dynamic touches, great looking but discreet modifications. Interior space, which is greater than you would expect, especially in the back. Engine and overall handling, thanks to a well balanced suspension retune that hits the bullseye between comfort and dynamism.
Against: five-speed manual transmission that is limited in terms of highway driving and appeal. Interior that feels a bit to classic and toneless – the limited red stitching is not enough to lighten the mood.
Starting price – Ford Fiesta 1.0 65 hp 3-door – 11,700 EUR
Tested Car – Ford Fiesta 1.0 140 hp Red/Black Edition – 16,300 EUR
Engine: 1.0L three cylinder, gasoline, direct injection, turbo, start/stop system (999 cc)
Power: 140 HP (103 kW) at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 180 Nm at 1,400 – 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Dimensions: length – 3,969 mm, width – 1,709 mm, height – 1,485 mm, wheelbase – 2,489 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 42L
Trunk Capacity: 290L / 974L
0 – 100 km/h: 9s
Top Speed: 201 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 5,6L/100 km, highway – 3,9L/100 km, average – 4,5L/100 km
Rating: 3.9 / 5