Car reviews - Ford - Fiesta - range
Refinement, handling, value, features, safety, space, quality, presentation, smooth Powershift, added practicality
Room for improvement
Power drop, Thai WZ still lacks original German WS’ reach-adjustable steering and soft-touch dash panel, Dustbuster nose cone
29 Aug 2013
SINCE the current-generation Fiesta was launched in December 2008, the light-car class it belongs to has fractured dramatically.
Back then, buyers could choose between a traditional B-segment hatch or sedan, priced from about $13,000 (Holden TJ Barina or Hyundai Getz) to around $25,000 (VW Polo TDI or Peugeot 207).
Nowadays, however, there’s a distinct sub-$14K class (the so-called ‘sub-B’ Suzuki Alto to VW Up), $15K up (regular light cars such as the Fiesta), and $22K up light SUVs (Holden Trax, the soon-to-be introduced Nissan Juke, and so on).
The point is, both ends of the spectrum have forced the traditional mid-range babies to smarten up on features and refinement, since that segment is down some 0.5 per cent year-to-date.
It hasn’t helped that there have been no new volume mainstream players since the Toyota Yaris received its redesign two years ago – though that cycle will renew itself soon with the next-generation Honda Jazz arriving in the middle of 2014.
In the meantime the facelifted Fiesta – the WZ – ought to keep punters interested.
Still out of Thailand unless it’s the stonking new ST flagship from Germany, the latest Ford baby brings an Aston Martin-esque nosecone of questionable aesthetics to proceedings, as well as revised tail-lights, a mildly massaged interior, new SYNC media/audio connectivity, and a minor increase in standard equipment.
Note, however, that our low-cost sourced Fiesta hasn’t regained the full gamut of goodies that the Euro-spec models enjoy – namely, the telescopic steering column and soft-touch dashboard that the original WS from Germany offered for two years from late 2008.
The inexplicable shift from the lusty 1.6-litre Ti-VCT four-cylinder to the less powerful and only marginally more economical 1.5-litre unit results in a disappointing performance drop.
Now, while initial acceleration is quite spirited in either the (somewhat notchier than we remember) five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch Powershift transmission, there isn’t the spirited mid-range poke available to more instantly propel the Fiesta through a fast overtaking manoeuvre.
More downshifts are necessary to maintain momentum in hillier terrain, and high-speed cruising isn’t quite as effortless as we recall in the earlier vehicle.
Nevertheless, there’s plenty to appreciate in the WZ.
For starters, the new engine seems quieter and smoother than before in isolation it actually feels quick enough for most situations, especially in urban commuting.
The electric power steering, too, is a fine piece of engineering, providing a happy balance between effort and reaction, with class-leading feel and feedback. Tight around town yet composed slicing through a fast wide corner, the Ford truly is the light-car driver’s car of choice.
A supple yet controlled ride further underlines the Fiesta’s dynamic superiority, with the latest version bringing almost Volkswagen Polo levels of refinement.
Finally, whether we’re talking about the base Ambiente or mid-range Trend, the cabin ambience and presentation isn’t too far off the Volkswagen’s, and a significant step up from the related Mazda2.
Ford now fits its SYNC handsfree media and audio technology as standard, as well as cruise control, power windows all round, and seven airbags, so the cheapest Fiesta in particular represents something of a value buy.
In the final wash-up, then, the smallest Ford available in Australia improves on its high-flying predecessor in a number of areas – most notably refinement, features, connectivity, and convenience.
Furthermore, with its slick shifts, the Fiesta’s ‘automatic’ transmission is one of the better manual alternatives in its class.
We’re not convinced that the move to a smaller engine in the two lowest grades assessed here is the best one, but only when compared directly with the previous WS or WT does the WZ feel a little lacklustre in performance.
Otherwise, most buyers will find the balance between driveability and civility unparalleled at the price.
With the upcoming Sport’s 1.0-litre three-pot turbo EcoBoost, dramatic new ST pocket rocket, and closely related EcoSport light SUV waiting in the wings, it appears Ford has all of its B-segment options covered convincingly.
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