Compact and comprehensively kitted
It’s all about incremental changes. That’s evident with the new Ford Fiesta: the design is markedly different but it still possesses Fiesta DNA.
The headlights have been pulled back further and there’s a new, wider grille. The new model is longer with a 71mm increase in length. Ford says there’s 16mm more legroom for rear passengers.
Stands out in the crowd
The world’s eighth most valuable car company hasn’t changed the formula much. It’s still front-wheel drive, powered by a small-capacity engine, but there is the addition of a six-speed automatic gearbox to replace the dual-clutch 'box.
But it has added a chunk of good standard kit and also worked on improving the noise, vibration and harshness levels (more on that later).
Our top-of-the-range test unit was dipped in a new hue called Blue Wave, and it certainly caused motorists a double take.
What’s it like under the skin?
Ford’s EcoBoost engine might be synonymous with the Kuga fire saga, but this 998cc engine shouldn’t be painted with the same brush. The three-cylinder, in-line turbocharged petrol unit produces 74 kW and 170 Nm on paper.
The automaker says the torsional stiffness has increased by 15% and the front anti-roll bar is now lighter and stiffer according to Ford.
The Fiesta’s chassis now offers 10% more cornering grip, while braking distances at 100 km/h are reduced by more than 8% according to the carmaker.
But do all these incremental changes translate into a car that handles better? Yes. I chucked the new Fiesta around bends and it held on, showing very little understeer (only at the limit) and no tyre squeal.
The steering is quick and fortunately has some delicious feel. I found myself searching for twisty roads to get a better taste of the handling.
This model is let down by the six-speed automatic transmission; it stutters and at some points doesn’t change cogs soon enough. It’s frustrating.
There are paddle-shifts fitted that can also be used to change gears but it just doesn’t fit the mood of the car.
The engine is gutsy but does suffer from considerable lag before spooling rapidly to give you the feeling of pulling an elastic band when pulling away.
The ride quality is commendable, soaking up the bumps and ruts when needed, there's also very little intrusion of road noise which speaks volumes of the noise, vibration and harshness levels.
It's certainly needed to grow up as many people scale down from bigger vehicles to more fuel-efficient vehicles that are easy to park despite offering slightly less space.
The interior is a good place to be. Supportive seats and fewer buttons mean you’re well catered for in terms of comfort and convenience. The seat warmers came in handy on chilly mornings.
A 20cm touchscreen houses the infotainment system and it's clear and easy to work. Ford's latest Sync system is standard on Titanium models and provides navigation and voice command. The Fiesta is fitted with Bluetooth connectivity and two USB ports across the range.
A high-end seven-speaker sound system is featured on the Titanium model.
The quality of the plastic lacked the quality feel of the asking price (in the range of N$310 600) but I could be nitpicking. Because I enjoy driving so much, the steering wheel deserves praise for the quality and feel of it. Good job, Ford.
Buyers will find the excellent standard specification a massive boon in the high-spec Titanium model.
Peace of mind comes in the form of a four-year or 60 000km service plan and front, side and curtain airbags are standard fitment across the range.
There's a list the length of your arm with acronyms for driving aids, including ABS brakes with electronic brake assist (EBA) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD). A nifty feature that assists pulling away on an incline is hill launch assist (HLA) and electronic stability and Traction Control (ESC).
The Fiesta's main rival is of course the ubiquitous Volkswagen Polo, which we would have liked to driven back to back but unfortunately couldn't due to logistics.
Having said that, the new model still feels as fun to drive as its predecessor and offers some very cool kit as standard. But most importantly, it's still helluva fun to drive. – Wheels 24