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2013 Ford Fiesta Econetic Road Test

By raccars Published

RAC Cars drives the greenest version of Ford’s facelifted Fiesta range in the UK – and discovers Britain’s best-selling new car is a cracker

10 Second Verdict

Britain consistently buys more Ford Fiestas than any other car: given how superb it is across the board, it’s not hard to see why. The Econetic diesel version even backs this up with great fuel economy and punchy performance.

Price: £16,945 (Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi Econetic Titanium 5d RAC Cars test car)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel
Power: 95hp
Torque: 147lb ft
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
0-60mph: 11.7 seconds
Top speed: 112 mph
Fuel economy: 78.5 mpg
CO2: 87 g/km
Insurance group: 13

Three UK Ford Fiesta facts

  • The Fiesta was Britain’s best selling car in 2012 and is usually the country’s best-selling car month by month
  • Ford launched the Fiesta in the UK back in 1976
  • This Econetic model is the most fuel-efficient Fiesta ever sold

What is it?

Month after month, the Ford Fiesta tops the new car sales charts in Britain – by a clear margin of thousands of cars. Ford has been onto a winner since this pretty, stylish model of Fiesta was launched back in 2008 – but despite this, it hasn’t stood still.

A facelifted version of the Ford Fiesta has thus now launched in the UK. You can spot these cars from their big chrome grille, which bears more than a passing resemblance to an Aston Martin. Other changes to the pretty shape are more minor, but Ford has been harder at work below the surface.

It has made the engine range even greener, with the headline addition of its 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol engine. Equally significant, though, is the economy boost given to the diesel engine range. The 95hp 1.6-litre TDCi Econetic engine delivers amazing economy of 78.5mpg and emits just 87g/km CO2. You can now have such great fuel economy with almost any trim line too, rather than a specific ‘eco special’: RAC Cars chose to test the posh Titanium model.

Ford has also rectified an omission from the original Fiesta range: it has now made sat nav available as a low-cost option. Previously unavailable on the Fiesta, this was a stumbling block for ‘downsizing’ motorists who either had to compromise or shop elsewhere. No more (and further enhanced with the option of voice-controlled Ford SYNC). Indeed, if ever there were a car that made you glad to be driving a supermini, it’s the Fiesta…

Performance

Ford has worked hard to make the stop-start-equipped 1.6-litre TDCi engine smoother than ever. Apart from a bit of faint clatter at low revs, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would find this diesel engine objectionable. It is impressively hushed for a small car and fades into the background at speed.

It also delivers strong performance. Fitting relatively large turbocharged diesel engines into light, compact small cars is always a recipe for good pace and the Fiesta doesn’t disappoint. The turbo gives it big car pulling power and the car’s lack of weight means it accelerates strongly on the move.

The manual gearbox is also an absolute delight to use. Ford always makes great gearboxes and this slick, quality shift is no exception (the clutch is light and easy, too). A six-speed gearbox would be a more flexible companion to the engine but in practice the lack of one isn’t the hindrance you might expect.

Ride and handling

The Fiesta is the best supermini in its class to drive – period. No car manages to match its blend of handling finesse, ride quality, big car composure and general confidence; indeed, it’s not only one of the best small cars in this respect, it’s one of the finest mainstream cars on the road. Yes, it really is that good.

Ride quality is tautly composed and compliant across all surfaces, soaking up bumps with finesse without falling into the trap of proving over-soft over undulating roads. There’s a crisp calmness to how it rolls down the road that you normally associate with premium cars such as BMWs.

And it handles with similar class. It’s light on its feet, responsive to the well-weighted steering, gives the driver plenty of feel and proves both confidence-inspiring to the less experienced driver but also very rewarding to the enthusiast. It’s like a hot hatch, without the hot ride quality.

It’s the way it drives that really sets the Fiesta apart. It feels more special than any rival and will make anyone who gets into it feel good, no matter what their level of experience. It basically makes driving fun again – both when the roads are crowded but also when they open up again.

Inside story

The Fiesta’s pert interior is matched by an interior that is notably more modern and stylish than most in this sector of car. With cowled dials, a good-to-hold leather steering wheel, firm seats and, in the Titanium test car, plenty of aluminium-look detailing, it really looks the part. At night, cool blue lighting means it’s even more striking.

For all its sportiness on the road, the Fiesta remains a practical car to drive. Visibility is great all-round and most of the major controls are easy to use. The exception here is the fiendishly complex Sony radio of the Titanium test car. This looked good, sounded good but was a real head-scratcher to use – something not helped by Ford’s over-complicated navigation menus. The firm really needs to do something here.

The firm seats prove supportive up front and the driving position is faultless. It feels a little more compact than some cars in this sector – an effect reinforced by a cockpit-like feel to the dash design – but even tall adults should still find plenty of space. It’s reasonably roomy in the rear too, with good foot and kneeroom.

The boot is disappointing though. It isn’t as wide as many would hope, making it tricky to load up a pushchair without folding the seat backrests down. It’s also rather short and, while it’s deep, the high loading ledge can be awkward. A total capacity of 295 litres is reasonable but other superminis are better - both on paper and in practice.

Marketplace

UK buyers can’t get enough of the Ford Fiesta. It regularly sells thousands more than its closest rival, through offering something for everyone. Offered in both three-door and five-door guise, it comes with a range of engines including a more recent 182hp ST hot hatch version.

While prices for petrol models start at under £10,000, the diesels are more expensive. The Econetic engine tested by RAC Cars starts from £14,595 and our test Titanium five-door actually costs £16,945 on the road (do note, Zetec trim is stylish too, and costs a handy £1200 less…).

That’s big money but so significant are the fuel economy savings, it could actually work for some buyers who are seeking to downsize into a high-efficiency small car without compromising behind-the-wheel satisfaction – particularly if they buy on Ford’s popular Options PCP scheme.

For those who can’t stretch to the Econetic diesel motor tested here though, Ford does now offer a new 1.5-litre TDCi engine. This is priced just £500 more than the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol unit – and £1400 less than this bigger motor – yet still delivers sub-100g/km CO2 exhaust emissions.

Verdict

The Ford Fiesta fully deserves its UK best-seller status. It is a joy to drive, should be painless to run and, in Econetic guise tested by RAC Cars, is extremely fuel efficient but also without compromise. The Titanium test car was expensive, yes, but felt special enough to justify it – and cheaper versions are available for those who can’t stretch to it.

It’s not perfect. The boot could be better and the control logic for the in-dash display screen is baffling. But it’s otherwise hard to fault, with owner-pleasing surprises wherever you look – from the convenient ‘capless’ EasyFuel filler to the way the steering weight and accuracy gives you so much satisfaction on twisting roads.

The facelifted model simply stretches its sector leadership further. With yet more gains in fuel efficiency, the long-awaited option of sat nav and that Aston Martin style grille that adds so much showroom appeal, the Ford Fiesta seems set to continue its reign on the UK new car market. And rightly so.

Five rivals

Vauxhall Corsa – the supermini that chases the Fiesta in the sales chart
Volkswagen Polo – classy alternative but now in need of a facelift
Renault Clio – very pretty new five-door from a rejuvenated Renault
Peugeot 208 – Peugeot’s popular replacement to the disappointing 207
MINI hatch – British icon is still great, despite its price, age and space constraints

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