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Ford Fiesta gets with the times

20.07.2017

There’s no doubt that the Fiesta is one of the most important models for Ford globally. The outgoing model has been with us for almost a decade and in that time, has most certainly racked up the sales and critical praise that the brand would have wanted.

Now though, a new version has been unveiled, so I travelled to sunny Spain to drive the seventh generation model which the brand claims is now more upmarket.

Grown-up looks

From an exterior design perspective, the Fiesta has certainly matured. Up front we see narrow, aggressively styled lights more akin to the current Focus, while the bumper and grille design depends on which specification you've opted for, however the shape of the large gaping grille remains a Fiesta design element throughout the range.

In side profile, it cuts a typical B-segment silhouette with two lines running upward towards the rear of the car, one starting on the lower section of the A-pillar and the other towards the top of the A-pillar.

At the rear there are new oblong tail lamps and an overall design that looks very similar to the B-Max and Kuga on first glance. The car is still unmistakably a Fiesta in its appearance, only more attractive and premium, which should please current and prospective Fiesta owners.

Interior goods

The interior is perhaps where the new model makes up the most ground on its predecessor. The quality of many of the plastics as well as the general fit and finish is a big step forward, although the odd surface still feels cheap, especially near the door handles .

The interior also does without all of the rather confusing centre console buttons for a more clean and simplistic look. The instrument cluster looks improved too, with a larger display and improved dials which makes drive information more legible.

There are three infotainment systems available on the new car, a more basic 4.2-inch unit, the mid-range 6.5-inch version and the top-of-the-range eight-inch version which I fiddled with at launch. The system uses the Ford Sync 3 software and provides a lovely bright, high resolution user experience, although in terms of functionality, I'm still not convinced by Sync systems in general.

In terms of space, the front seats provide a comfortable environment, however, in the rear quarters, things get a bit more cramped. If you’re over 1.8 metres tall, knee and head room does appear limited but is acceptable. Boot space is improved with 290-litres of volume available.

Models and engines

At launch, I had an opportunity to drive several variants including the top-spec Vignale and ST-line models which are unlikely to reach local shores. Other models in the range include the familiar Titanium specification, with the Trend likely becoming the new base model within the range.

In terms of engine derivatives, for local Fiesta introduction sometime in the second quarter of 2018, expect a 1.5-litre turbodiesel as well as the familiar 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol to reach South Africa.

There will likely be two low-output 73kW 1.0-litre models with the option of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, while the high-output 92kW Titanium 1.0-litre and 62kW 1.5-litre turbodiesel will be available with a six-speed manual initially. Due to the fact that the model is only coming to local shores in just under a year's time, indicative pricing was not available.

I spent most of the launch driving a 1.0-litre which is now mated to a six-speed manual. The engine is still a gem and although not always the most frugal (I averaged 7.1-litres/100km), it does offer good overtaking torque and ensures that the car never feels underpowered.

Assistance technologies

The latest model comes fitted with a raft of optional safety items such as Active Park Assist, Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System and Lane Keeping Alert to name a few. There's no word yet as to exactly which of these technologies will make their way to local Fiesta models, but expect a few to debut when the car arrives.

Driving Fiesta

The previous generation Fiesta was a great car for many reasons, one of which was the fact that it was fun to drive. Despite the fact that the new model is more refined, it still feels compact and easy to have fun with. It retains that quintessential Fiesta attribute that combines fun with a reasonable amount of practicality.

Where I noted a large improvement over the previous Fiesta, was ride quality and refinement inside the cabin at speed. Towards the national freeway speed limit, there is some noticeable wind noise from the large mirrors, but other than that, the ride quality and refinement is highly commendable for a car in the B-segment.

Verdict

The latest Fiesta was a much needed product for the brand. The seventh generation is an evolution of style, but also an improved product in terms of refinement, technology and interior quality. When it arrives in South Africa in 2018, it will have a war on its hands, but it comes into battle with the right weapons.

Article written by Sean Nurse
20.07.2017
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