It's funky time for a Fiesta
The replacement of one of Ireland's biggest-selling cars has a lot to live up to, so how does the new Ford shape up
The year 2008 was when Barack Obama was proving 'yes he could', Apple was a smartphone newcomer and the global financial meltdown sparked the beginning of some turbulent years. It was also the year Ford launched its brand new and most successful Fiesta to date.
Built in 10 factories worldwide, it was the supermini that captured the very essence of the car industry's mantra of squeezing more from less and showcased refined diesels and low-emission petrol engines.
And it was the generation that produced one of the finest hot hatches in years, the 1.6 Turbo ST.
But much has changed since 2008 and the small car market is no longer defined by driving dynamics and price. Now, connectivity and customisation are key and the latest technology is surpassing the importance of engineering with each lifecycle.
The new Fiesta comes in five very distinct flavours, from the up-market Vignale, the sporty ST-Line, Titanium and Zetec, with an Active crossover version due here next April. ST-Line and Vignale arrive later in the year.
From a distance, the new Fiesta looks almost identical to the previous version but there are a few tweaks along the side panels and front and rear lights; the grille now identifies which version of car you are driving. The real changes are inside where harsh, cheap plastics have given way to a far more tasteful and high quality look and feel. There are also now far fewer buttons and switches and the streamlined dash is more intuitive, with all the main functions and dials clear and easy to understand.
The Fiesta is also crammed with enough technology to keep even the most avid tech fan entertained.
While bigger than the previous version, it is still far from the roomiest supermini but overall it feels spacious with comfortable and well supported seats. Boot space of 290 litres allows for a decent amount of luggage.
You can choose a three- or five-door model, and engines are a 1.1-litre non-turbo petrol in 70 and 85ps and a 1-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol offered with 100, 125 and 140ps and a
1.5 diesel in 85 and 120ps with a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes.
At the launch, we drove both the 140ps version of the 1-litre EcoBoost turbo engine and the 1.5 diesel with 120ps. Both feel refined and agile on the road car, and the diesel is impressively hushed but the 1.0 petrol with 140ps is the one to opt for.
It is really good fun, responsive and lively and reminds you why the Fiesta has long been the keen driver's choice but Irish buyers will be offered this version as a special order only as Ford reckons most Irish buyers will be for the 70ps version, with much of the rest choosing the 85ps version.
The new Ford Fiesta is billed as the most technologically advanced small car on sale, thanks to 15 hi-tech features ensuring a safe and smooth journey such as Pre-Collision Assist featuring pedestrian detection, meaning the driver is warned of people who are in or near the road ahead, automatic perpendicular parking, blindspot alert and auto high beam.
Launching next week, prices start at €16,550 for the Zetec three-door and from €17,150 for the five door.
The Fiesta's trump card has always been its driving dynamics and while this is not the deal breaker it once was, Ford's supermini is still one of the best around.
Some of its new rivals might be more refined, smarter looking or better equipped but few can match the Fiesta on the road. More than 40 years after its debut and more than 18 million sales later, the Fiesta is better than before. It seems Ford is set to seduce a whole new generation.