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  • Class-leading handling; compliant ride; progressive steering and brakes; funky interior; competitively priced; capped price servicing
  • Hard cabin plastics; tilt-adjust steering wheel only; flawed dual-clutch auto; base CL misses out on extra airbags

OUR RATING
8 / 10



Ford Fiesta Review
Ford Fiesta Review
Ford Fiesta Review
by Jez Spinks

Small Fords have been huge in Europe for decades, but only more recently have models such as the Ford Fiesta started to get close to their sales potential in Australia.

The Ford Fiesta is an old nameplate but locally still relatively fresh, having replaced the Festiva as the blue oval’s local city car offering in 2004.

The latest-generation Ford Fiesta was released in January 2010, with an update coming a year later after a switch of production from Europe to Thailand.

That move gave Ford Australia more room to manoeuvre on the Fiesta’s value equation, though two key disappoints that resulted were the loss of a reach-adjustable steering wheel (now tilt only) and soft-touch dash (now hard plastic).

The Fiesta, however, retains the funky interior – complete with mobile-phone-inspired dash controls – introduced with the new model in 2009.

It may not be as smart as the benchmark Volkswagen Polo’s cabin but it certainly has a greater sense of fun.

It also offers better protection after the Thailand update, with electronic vehicle stability control made standard across the range (previously optional on base CL and mid-spec LX models) and side curtain airbags were added (to front, side curtain/thorax and driver’s knee airbags) as standard for LX and range-topping Zetec models and as an option for the CL.

Ford Fiesta Review
Ford Fiesta Review
Ford Fiesta Review
Ford Fiesta Review

The latter means only the LX and Zetec models achieve maximum five-star independent crash ratings from NCAP.

All Ford Fiesta models are equipped with unique-to-class (check) voice control, for certain functions including Bluetooth.

The Ford Fiesta can be driven away from showrooms from just $16,990 if you opt for the CL hatchback, or $18,990 if you want the automatic gearbox (as most buyers do) or sedan variant that isn’t offered with a five-speed manual.

The middle-of-the-range LX – in either hatch or sedan body style – also starts at $18,990 for the manual, rises to $20,990 with auto, and introduces a turbo diesel option that costs from $21,490 and is linked with a five-speed manual.

For this review we tested the Ford Fiesta Zetec, which is the flagship until the arrival of the highly anticipated ST hot-hatch next year.

There’s a $20,990 petrol manual and $23,490 diesel manual in the Zetec offerings, but our model is the $22,990 petrol auto that combines a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with a ‘Powershift’ dual-clutch self-shifter.

As befitting a top-of-the-line model, the Zetec boasts more equipment.

All Fiestas are great to drive, but the Zetec also ups the sporty ante – both visually and technically.

Ford Fiesta Review

The Ford Fiesta Zetec gains bigger, sportier-looking 16-inch alloy wheels, a sports bodykit that adds elements such as rear roof spoiler to beef up a design that is already more masculine than some of its rivals, such as the Mazda2.

Inside there are sports seats designed to better grip the bodies of the driver and front passenger, which is ideal because the Zetec takes the Fiesta’s dynamic talents up a notch with a stiffer suspension set-up.

The ride remains remarkably compliant, just like other Fiestas without the sports suspension, yet brings an extra degree of sharpness and involvement.

And it makes it simply the best-handling city car you can buy for less than $25,000.

The Fiesta Zetec is an absolute treat on winding roads, offering plenty of tyre grip and deft balance. The steering is perfectly weighted and progressive, as are the brakes.

The chassis can clearly handle much more power than the 88kW produced by petrol Fiestas including the Zetec – and which the 1.6-litre turbo Ford Fiesta ST will no doubt prove – but there’s still no shortage of driving joy.

The engine is relatively torquey for a 1.6, even though peak torque of 151Nm doesn’t arrive until 4300rpm, but the Fiesta is better with a manual gearbox.

Ford’s Powershift dual-clutch transmission works quite well in models such as the Focus and Ford Mondeo, but in the Fiesta Zetec it’s just erratic.

The auto rarely settles on a given gear, while at other times it either holds onto a gear or changes up when least expected. Another slightly disappointing aspect is the lack of a pseudo-manual, tipshift mode that would allow drivers to better exploit the spirited nature of the Fiesta.

Instead, the alternative is to pick L(ow) if you want to keep revs high for better engine response on winding roads.

Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch auto, found in the comparably priced VW Polo 77TSI, is far superior in its intelligence and refinement even if it is still prone to some hesitancy in stop-start driving.

Dual-clutch systems also commonly help improve fuel efficiency, though the Fiesta is rated at 6.1 litres of regular unleaded per 100km regardless of transmission choice.

On the practicality front, the Fiesta hatch offers a 281-litre boot that’s larger than average for the city car category (but there’s no spare wheel; just a mobility kit).

If more boot space is needed, the sedan – available in CL and LX (above) trims only – offers 430 litres with deep and wide space, even if there are gooseneck hinges and the rear seats don’t fold completely flat.

Whichever body style is chosen, the Ford Fiesta is at the pointy end of the list when it comes to the best city cars on sale.


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Ford Fiesta Review
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Ford Fiesta Specs

ZETEC : WT : 1.6L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 6 SP AUTOMATIC - UNLEADED PETROL - 5D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
FORD
Model
FIESTA
Variant
ZETEC
Series
WT
Year
2012
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$11,660 - $13,250
Dealer Retail
$13,040 - $15,510
Dealer Trade
$9,300 - $10,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.6L
Max. Torque
151Nm @  4300rpm
Max. Power
89kW @  6300rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
79W/kg
Bore & Stroke
79x81.4mm
Compression Ratio
11
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.9
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
43Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1127
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1496mm
Length
3950mm
Width
1722mm
Ground Clearance
109mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:900  Unbrake:590
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.2
Front Rim Size
6.5x16
Rear Rim Size
6.5x16
Front Tyres
195/50 R16
Rear Tyres
195/50 R16
Wheel Base
2489
Front Track
1478
Rear Track
1465
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DRUM
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Lower control arm, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Control & Handling
Traction Control System
Driver
Trip Computer
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Front Floor
Country of Origin
Thailand