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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

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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  • Parker

    “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.”
    So why the review now?

    • FanBoi

      “mobile-phone-inspired dash controls” are so old fashion, the game have moved on to touch screens. Maybe iPhone inspired dash controls are more FUNKY nowadays!

  • filippo

    I would say the biggest disappointment from the switch to Thailand was the replacement of the great-looking 3-door with the awfully disproportioned sedan.

    • Paddo

      Agreed that sedan is pure ugly, looks like from the rear it has been squashed between two buses….

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Jez Spinks

    Hi Parker, when we haven’t covered a car with a review for an extended period of time, we like to revisit them in addition to covering off all the latest vehicle releases. We haven’t reviewed the Fiesta for about two years, but it remains one of the more popular cars in the city car segment so is a very relevant car. We believe this helps CarAdvice provide comprehensive coverage of the new car market. Rgs Jez Spinks

    • Parker

      Thanks for the reply, Jez. I was just curious, hope I didn’t sound douchey.

  • Awdawda

    this uesd to look fresh, but with the revised jazz, i don’t think this cuts it in anyway anymore. not even close.. that interior looks dated and dreadfully cheap

  • Ima_Hogg

    Why only stock photos?

    • Reckless1

      It’s not worth spending money on film.

      Even Digital film.

  • save it for the track

    Barina 290, Polo 280, Mazda2 250, Skoda fabia 315, Yaris 286 (and categorised in a past Caradvice review as too small), Rio 288, Hyundai i20 295. So. out of the seven just listed the Fiesta has a boot volume bigger than…..Two!!  Maybe I work averages differently. Seems to me it’s pretty much average. No doubt bigger than Mazda2 (smallest), and smaller than Fabia (largest). Is the boot space in the Fiesta more useable due to shape as compared to say a similarly sized (but previously criticised) Yaris?? Otherwise to say that the boot space is above average is clearly inaccurate. Whoops, almost forgot the ole Honda Jazz…337 litres. I believe most of the others listed also offer a spare tyre of some kind as well….

  • al

    The 2012 base model Ford Fiesta hatch has NO better fuel economy (actually worse in City) than a 1992 Ford Festiva Hatch with Carburettor……. Despite the better fuel technology, the 2012 Fiesta is 300kg heavier, therefore all the gain of fuel effieciency is lost again. Seems like car manufacturers (they must be owned by the same investors who also own the oil industry) don’t really want your car to use less fuel. They just add weight to it. 

    • Thrillhouse

      you can’t work out why a vehicle 20 years older has less weight than current
      model, I suggest you may need to repeat grade 4. I’ll let your mum know after
      recess little fella.

      • nick

        You are missing his point.  One that I happen to agree with to some extent.  Because, not only have safety technologies (what I assume you are eluding to), including chassis technologies, advanced markedly but so too has our ability to use technical weight saving materials (in everything from motors to chassis to interiors and wheels).  I think an important point is that manufacturers see the need to be constantly upsizing their models.  This, I believe, is the main factor in weight gains; and is certainly unnecessary!  Bringing us back to Al’s point… 

        • Mike

           I agree with Thrillhouse… Besides, i know which car i would rather be in a crash in anyday!!

    • Aaron

       Check your facts….. Look at the hwy figures and the clty figures
      The new fiesta has top fuel consumption and the figures are real

    • Phil

      A 1992 Ford Festiva comes with 44KW of power. This Fiesta comes with exactly double that – 88KW.

      Also the Fiesta we get in Australia comes with it’s biggest and thirstiest engine fitted as standard. In Europe this engine only comes in the top spec model with the standard models getting much smaller and more efficient engines.

    • David Hambleton

      I have a 2013 wt cl manual and I average more than 14.5 k/pl city on e10-95. 2inch magna flow probably helps.

  • William

    That’s right thrillhouse. ABS, EBD, Airbags, Traction control, more rigid structure to protect occupants etc, they all add weight!! But seems heavy as my peugeot GTi 180 with 6 airbags is only 1100 kg

  • Chris

    The Fiestering sales are tanking anyway, most people buy the Mazda 2 version now as it is better built and better value

    • Ggg

      anyone who buys a mazda 2, could NOT have driven a fiesta.

      fiesta is cool, and funky… 2 is cramped and horrible.

  • Roswell

    My Fiesta 2010 got problem with gearbox or engine. Do sometimes the car freezing if you try to start the car. Need to wait for about 5 minutes in order the car able to start and feel irritating  when you are in hurry. Kind a frustrated but overall the car is good just need to clock my time earlier. 

  • samson

    ugly ugly ugly little car

    • Robjh1

       Agree .. the WQ Fiesta was such a nice looking little car .. but this thing still looks just as horrible as the day they released it, in fact with those silly chrome bits they’ve added to the front grille the WT model probably looks even worse!

      Unfortunately most cars these days look ugly to me, seems to be a contest between the car companies as to which one can make the most hideous one.

  • Dennis

    good timing for this review, been looking at the fiesta lx and swift gl (both mid range) to replace my nearly 10 year old very reliable suzuki liana gs, can’t really decide, though leaning towards the suzuki because of my experience but fiesta’s got more bells and whistles, what do you think guys?

    • Robjh1

      Go the Suzuki Dennis, top quality cars … but of course, you already know that.

    • Rocket

      The Fiesta rides and soaks up the bumps better than a Swift and has a bit more room and would be my choice if I was in the market for a light car. 

    • gibz

      test drive a Honda jazz.  you will forget the others.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FFLU42DZJ4E23NZKHN3UXJU44Q Aazz

    I would take the Rio SLS over this any day. Those wheels look pathetic.

  • Sebastian, Style Messiah

    NQR sums this car up. With a bit more work the Fiesta could have been great.

  • SamR

    The Ford Fiesta would be a mistake to buy instead of a Mazda 2

    The Ford long term will cost you a fortune in brake pads, timing belts and a myriad of things Euro cars are famous for costing a bundle one. The Fiesta is primarily an economy car, high running costs and poor reliability are unforgivable in this segment.

    • Gibz

      Have you driven a 2???


      girls buy them because they like the look of it, ive spoken to so many girls who own number twos (mazda 2s) who never even drove anything else. all they wanted was a m2

      cramped rice bubble with a terrible interior, retarded glove box design… its got a good engine and handles ok, shame about the rest of the car, the back hatch area is so tiny you cant even get groceries in there.


      • Lox

        Agreed. The 2 looks feminine. It feels tiny inside as well.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/OVLCMHEQGIX3WHITRXWFEUD2LE Kyle

      No way~! 
      I bought myself the Fiesta at 2010 and bought my wife the Mazda 2 at 2011, The Fiesta is definitely better, but the M2 is not bad either, for its price they r both outstanding. 

      I’ll tell u what’s bad in the same range, the Holden Barina is bloody horrible, I’d recommend Hyundai Getz than Barina.  

    • David Hambleton

      I don’t know where you got that from. My 2013 WT manual Is fantastic on fuel and that is with E10 95. Brakes i’m not sure about because I’ve only done 11,500 ks. They go like the clappers with a 2inch magna flow and the timing belt is supposed to be rated at 150,000 ks although I wouldn’t trust it. Better than a Barina at 60,000ks but anything is better than a Barina. No, I think Ford has gone the wrong way by downsizing the WZ to a 1.5 litre. The difference in the fuel consumption is negligible but the drop in power is worse. I’ve had no trouble with the build quality of the Thai model but I still wouldn’t touch one of their autos.

  • MisterZed

    Er, the Fiesta was launched in January 2009, not 2010.

  • Gibz

    The fiesta is a great car, however the honda jazz OWNS it.

    maybe not on equipment, but on space and practicality, ford couldnt even put carpet on the back of the 80s style fold up back seat, its got easily scratched painted metal on the seat backs.. POVO!!

    the 1.3 jazz will also perform every bit as good as the 1.5 in the fiesta, and with my heavy foot returns 5.5L per 100 kays ( half city half highway )

    ive owned two jazzes, now have an 09, and can say, id rather my old 02 jazz to a new mazda 2.

    want a small car thats just so easy to live with every day???

    jazz is unbeatable

    • David Hambleton

      Mine’s got carpet on the back seats of the 2013 WT. Maybe they changed. I can get better than 6.1 l/100ks city cycle on E10 95 under ideal driving conditions. Put a decent exhaust on them and the improvement is unbelievable. Also, they are now E20 compatible.

  • SS-V

    Wow!! I haven’t seen those little louvred plastic things at the base of the gearstick since my dad had a Datsun 260C back in the 70’s!!

    • David Hambleton

      I had a 180B back in the 70s.

  • A-Train

    i own a fiesta zetec diesel

    i love it

  • http://www.ford.com.au/ Ted Jonas

    More and more people are opting for the convenience of driving a small car. Not only is it often more economical in terms of fuel consumption, it’s also easier to find parking!

  • Randypascua

    ford fiesta zetec not bad..5 star rating..

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OVLCMHEQGIX3WHITRXWFEUD2LE Kyle

    How about the Econetic model? There is $16k CL, $18k LX, $20k Zetec and $22k Econetic, it’s turbo diesel engine use only 3.6L/ 100km… 
    Can we see a professional review on that? 

  • Julzcool74

    My fiesta is awesome. My mum has a mazda 2, my neighbour has a hyundai, my cousin has the suzuki and they all drove my car when I got it and they like it better. It has awesome fuel economy, and handles better than all the small cars I drove, except for the corolla…..which had a price tag to match.  I drive on a gravel road everyday, you can’t do this in a suzuki….rattle, rattle, slip, clunk.

  • Julz

    Extra airbags in small cars are not advisable for people with small children, if you get them your kids cannot sit in the front until their heads and necks are way above the line of the airbag….could be until their 13 for some. There have been some horrific injuries for small children, even death because of sitting the from with side and curtain, airbags etc. I was glad to have the option of not having so many airbags.

  • Jackson

    I brought one for my partner (brand new), nothing but continuous faults with the dealer doing nothing.
    Avoid this car if you can. Moving to Thiland was clearly a mistake on the build quality side for consumers. At least dealers are making a descent profit.

    • David Hambleton

      I’ve had absolutely no problem with mine and it’s 15months old. Is yours an auto or a manual?

  • Kc Lewis06

    I have a 2012 Fiesta, brand new and I wish I’d bought either the Jazz or Kia Rio.. It has nothing special, I have the LX model and it should at best be the base model! 

    I get 9.5l per 100k’s, 30 lt fuel tank means I have to fill up several times a fortnight (pay cycle) which is just annoying and I have nothing positive to say about this car! 

    • David Hambleton

      How do you drive it? I get better than 42 mpg out of mine city cycle on E10-95.[WT 2013 manual]. The only difference between the CL and the LX is rear pwr windows, cruise control, and a horrible looking set of alloys. even the Z-TEC and the WZ still have rear drums. Try getting a 10 year old car with the features you get in base models now.

Ford Fiesta Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$11,880 - $13,500
Dealer Retail
$13,320 - $15,840
Dealer Trade
$9,400 - $10,800
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
151Nm @  4300rpm
Max. Power
89kW @  6300rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:900  Unbrake:590
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
195/50 R16
Rear Tyres
195/50 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
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
Trip Computer
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Front Floor
Country of Origin