What stands out?
Sharp steering and small dimensions make the European designed Ford Fiesta an easy city car. But it also handles highways with ease, and its ride comfort rivals cars a size bigger. The Fiesta Sport’s tiny but potent engine is ahead of the curve, while the ST offers lots of performance.
What might bug me?
Paying more for less: the three-cylinder Sport is more expensive than the four-cylinder Ambiente and Trend. (But it drives better.)
The three-door layout of the ST model means a huge stretch behind you to grab the seat-belt each time. Shorter people will find this even more difficult.
What body styles are there?
Five-door hatch – except for the Fiesta ST, which is a three-door hatch.
The Fiesta is front-wheel drive and is classified as a light car, lower priced.
What features do all Ford Fiestas have?
Bluetooth hands-free phone operation, and audio controls on a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, split-fold rear seat, power mirrors, a trip computer, remote central locking, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Hill launch assist, which controls the brake automatically when you need to start from rest on an uphill slope.
Electronic stability control, which can help the driver control the car in a skid. This is mandatory on all new cars.
Seven air-bags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; a side airbag for each front occupant that protects the upper body; a curtain airbag along each side to protect the heads of front and rear occupants; and an airbag in front of the driver’s knees.
Ambiente, Trend and Sport versions get a full-sized spare wheel. (The ST relies on a space-saver.)
Ford’s Emergency Assist, which uses your mobile phone to contact emergency services if the car is in a crash severe enough to trigger the air-bags. This subscription-based service is provided for the life of the car.
All Fiestas carry Ford’s three-year/100,000km warranty, and servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine offered only in the Fiesta Sport consumes least fuel in the official test, with just 4.9 litres per 100km for the manual (5.3 with the automatic).
In the real world, this engine is frugal but not quite that frugal. But it is entertaining.
In fact, it is more powerful and better to drive than the bigger engines in the less costly models. So the main reason not to choose it is to save on the purchase price.
The 1.5-litre, four cylinder petrol engine powering the Fiesta Ambiente and Trend models does the job but it doesn’t sparkle. And while it uses only 5.8 litres/100km on the official test, it drinks a fair bit more the real world, recording an average of 7.9 litres/100km in Wheels magazine testing. That put the Trend auto towards the tail of nine light cars compared in the March 2015 issue.
The jewel in the crown is the turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the ST variant. It has the muscle to overtake anything at highway speeds, and turns the Fiesta into a true hot hatch, albeit a tiny one.
The ST is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox, however. The others can be had as five-speed manuals or six-speed automatics.
(Power outputs and all other Fiesta specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least expensive version, the Ambiente, rolls on 15-inch steel wheels with plastic trim. Pay more for the Trend and you get lighter, better looking wheels made from an alloy of aluminium, and a set of foglights.
A further step up to the Sport brings the smaller but more sophisticated engine, and bigger, 16-inch alloy wheels. Other touches include partial leather trim, scuff plates in the door sills, clever ambient lighting in the cabin after dark, a better stereo and some chrome highlights around the windows.
An extra cost option pack available only for the Sport brings climate control (set-and-forget temperature control for the cabin), rain-sensing wipers, headlights that switch on automatically when it gets dark, a perimeter alarm and keyless start.
For disc brakes on each wheel, you need to pony up for the sportier ST model. That also gets you torque vectoring, where a computer sends more power to the wheel with most grip, for better cornering. Frankly, it’s the only model that needs this feature. There is a reversing camera, and satellite navigation. Other ST gear includes 17-inch wheels with wider and lower profile tyres, which improve grip and steering response, and sports front seats that really hold you tight. Puddle lights illuminate the ground you’re about to step onto as you leave the car.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
The ST does not ride as comfortably as the other Fiestas, partly because its lower profile tyres have less air between the rims and the road. Its three-door layout is a pain if you commonly use the rear seat. And insurance will generally be more expensive.
Like many manufacturers, Ford charges extra for metallic paint.
How comfortable is the Ford Fiesta?
Ford has tried to cram a lot of gear into the Fiesta’s small interior and it shows. It’s cluttered and messy to look at. That said, once you’re familiar with it, it works.
The Ambiente and Trend are less about fun and more about stretching your motoring dollar, but they’re easy to live with – and easy to park, thanks to compact dimensions. The only thing that might bother you is rear vision that is more restricted than on some similar cars, due to the rising rear window line. Shorter people will suffer most from this.
The Sport brings the fun back but you feel the bumps a bit more through its sports-tuned suspension.
Any Fiesta with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and simple to drive, even in stop-start traffic.
The Fiesta ST’s front seats look like they’ve been stolen from a race-car and can feel a bit firm at first, but they’re great for long distances and hold you snugly in place. The biggest problem is that the three-door layout means there’s a huge stretch over your shoulder to reach the seat-belt.
The ST can also feel a bit intimidating, thanks to its surging acceleration. The Sport – despite the name – is much tamer.
What about safety in a Fiesta?
Those seven air-bags, stability control and clever braking ensure that every Fiesta rates as Very Good.
The Fiesta ST with its four-wheel disc brakes gets a higher score but still falls within the Very Good category.
Only the Fiesta ST has a reversing camera: on the others it is not even an option. And no Fiesta offers automatic emergency braking.
(To see a list of the safety features on any model, select the car and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded every Fiesta model the maximum five stars for safety.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
Even the base-model Fiesta has something to offer the keener driver.
Sharp steering and great suspension elevate it way above many competitors.
The three-cylinder Sport model would have been classified as a hot hatch just a few years ago.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is simple and smooth to use, and can be shifted manually for more fun on the right road.
The Fiesta ST is a true performance car, regardless of its size. It has a big surge of power that will appeal to keen drivers, and the tenacious cornering to make the most of it.
How is life in the rear seats?
The Fiesta’s narrow back seat will certainly be full with two backsides perched on it.
Many will use it simply as extra luggage space.
The ST’s three-door layout means access to the rear seat is poor. If you frequently have more than one passenger, the five-door variants make more sense.
How is it for carrying stuff?
The short body of the Fiesta limits its capacity for carrying long objects.
But the rear seat folds 60/40 for when you need to transport bulky loads.
Where is the Ford Fiesta made?
The five-door variants of the Fiesta are built in Thailand. Australia’s free-trade agreement with that country helps keep the price down.
The ST is built in Germany as part of Ford’s RS high-performance program.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
The latest active safety features, such as automatic emergency braking – an option on the Mazda2, for example.
Perhaps a reversing camera (unless you choose the Fiesta ST).
The ability to view and control smartphone apps from a touchscreen display on the dashboard, via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This is standard on the smaller Holden Spark, for example.
The Fiesta doesn’t have the carrying capacity of some of its peers, with cars such as the Honda Jazz offering a more versatile interior layout.
Other cars that shape up to the Fiesta include the Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo.
Are there plans to update the Fiesta soon?
This model Fiesta was launched in Australia in late 2013. That said, the launch was itself of a facelift rather than a brand-new model. Some of the underlying technology is not in its first flush of youth.
About September 2016 the Fiesta ST (only) got some extra equipment, namely a reversing camera, satellite navigation, a 5.0-inch screen to view them on, and red brake calipers inside grey-metallic wheels.
An all-new Fiesta has gone on sale in Europe, powered by turbo-petrol engines and offering auto emergency braking. When, and indeed whether, it comes to Australia will depend on assessments by Ford.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
The ST is the standout model within the Fiesta line-up.
It remains a handy little city car but it also brings huge performance. You won’t grow out of it quickly.
If you don’t want that searing acceleration, the Sport comes into focus. It’s hugely entertaining, as well as being practical and sensible.