We may not be getting a new Fiesta ever again, but Ford's icon lives on as a cheap, fun used buy

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The Ford Fiesta has been laid to rest but it’s going out on a high. This final generation of the long and loved line is a peach: great to drive, refined and practical.

It’s also a really good buy as a used car, which is handy because that’s more or less your only way to get one now.

There’s plenty of choice in the Fiesta range – not just in the sheer numbers on sale but also in the breadth of the model range. Take the engine line-up. The petrols include a 1.1-litre with 69bhp and 84bhp and a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost in 94bhp, 99bhp, 123bhp and 138bhp states of tune.

There’s also a 1.5-litre diesel with 84bhp or 118bhp, which was withdrawn from sale in 2020. Later models incorporate mild-hybrid technology in 1.0 Ecoboost 125 and 155 versions.

You can even have your seventh-generation Fiesta as a raised-up SUV called the Active, or as an impressively agile 197bhp ST hot hatch.

Trim choices are equally all-encompassing. Entry-level Style models have air-con and electric front windows, while Zetec adds 16in alloy wheels and a heated windscreen. 

You also get an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with Zetec and above. Titanium brings cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and climate control, while B&O Titanium (there’s also a B&O Zetec) has an upgraded 10-speaker 675W sound system.

Titanium X gets the B&O sound system as standard along with heated front seats. ST-Line and ST-Line X gain sportier exterior and interior styling and firmer suspension. 

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ST-Line otherwise has the same equipment as Zetec, while ST-Line X is based on Titanium. Top-of-the-range Vignale has leather seats, a panoramic glass roof, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

But it’s the way it drives that sets the Fiesta apart. The 1.1 petrols and 1.5 diesels are pleasant enough but the 1.0 Ecoboost is the star. It’s punchy and refined and beguiling in any of its power outputs.

Few superminis are more enjoyable to chuck around on a twisty B-road, too. The steering is precise and well weighted, grip is plentiful and the car has good poise. To top it all off, the ride is beautifully judged, both in town and on motorways, even with the firmer ST-Line models.

Suspension noise is well suppressed too, giving the Fiesta a sense of solidity and big-car refinement.

Inside, the areas you touch frequently all feel fairly upmarket and the Fiesta uses soft-touch material on parts of its dashboard, although overall it doesn’t feel quite as solidly screwed together as the Seat Ibiza or Volkswagen Polo.

Still, it has plenty of room up front and a widely adjustable driving position. Two people of average height will be comfortable in the rear, but three in the back is more of an option for shorter journeys. Most models have a backrest that folds with a 60/40 split and the reasonably sized boot is relatively easy to access.

Which is the best Ford Fiesta?

Titanium: Two reasons for picking this trim. One, it comes with goodies such as ambient interior lighting, rear parking sensors, an automatically dimming rear-view mirror and a built-in sat-nav. And two, it’s good value.

1.0 100 Ecoboost: Our favourite is the three-cylinder 999cc engine, and of the four versions on offer we would go for the 99bhp version because it’s fast enough at motorway speeds and is also pretty economical.

We elected to test the Ford Fiesta in Active form, driven by Ford’s hybridised 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine and its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, to find out whether a dose of SUV DNA has had a positive influence on this popular small car.

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By John Evans


2 Ford Fiesta Active panning

Ford’s look for this facelifted Fiesta is the kind you’re likely to notice. Striking bumpers and radiator grille styling appear on all versions of the car; there are slimmer headlights with bracket-like LED running lights; and there’s a reprofiled bonnet for the car, as well as a slightly higher bonnet line. The keen of eye will also notice that the Ford oval badge on the front has been moved down from the ridge of the bonnet into the grille.

Greater visual differentiation between the various Fiesta derivatives is intended to broaden the car’s appeal. The sportier-looking bumpers and grilles of the ST-Line and Fiesta ST versions add boldness at one end of the model spectrum, while the Fiesta Active version goes in a different stylistic direction.

Among the Fiesta’s mid-life revisions, there’s a small hit of extra torque for the ST version, as well as a new Track driving mode, some new seats and new exterior colour combinations.

It gets a bluffer front end; the biggest and most upright grille in the range, with its vertical strakes tricking the eye to make it seem even bigger; vertically oriented lateral air intakes in the front bumper; and a plastic wheel arch, sill and bumper-lip extension encircling the bottom edge of the bodywork.

Plastic roof bars come as standard on an Active-trim car, while if you go for an Active X (like our test car), you get 18in alloy wheels, LED rear lights (to match the standard-fit LED headlamps), artificial leather seats (heated up front), carbonfibre-look cabin trim, a reversing camera and - for the first time on a Fiesta, and migrating down from the bigger Puma - a full set of digital instruments.

The Fiesta continues with Ford’s ‘B-car’ supermini platform, which it shares with the Puma, and is suspended by strut-type front suspension, a torsion beam rear axle, and steel coil springs.

The Active offers 18mm of additional ground clearance relative to the standard Fiesta (while the ST-Line version sits 6mm lower than standard, lower even than the ST, and can be dropped further still via a dealer-fit Ford Performance Eibach lowering kit). It is front-wheel drive only but offers extra driving modes (Slippery and Trail), with special traction and stability control software and powertrain calibrations.

Ford’s mild-hybrid makeover for its 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, meanwhile, comprises a belt-driven integrated starter-generator motor, which shuffles energy back and forth from an enlarged 48V lithium-ion battery and replaces the conventional starter motor. The system boosts torque and drivability, taking the onus off the engine to power the car in give-and-take traffic.

It also facilitates longer phases of engine-off running at low speeds, particularly when fitted in combination with the Getrag-developed seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s alleged to boost running economy by between 5% and 10%, depending on the kind of motoring you’re doing.


11 Ford Fiesta Active straight dash

The Fiesta has never been a car bought by people who seek a premium look and feel to the interior of their car and, even in a richer trim level, it isn’t so now. While rival superminis offer more expensive-looking materials, the Ford’s interior is showing its age, and both looks and feels quite plain and hard in places.

Ford’s attempt to modernise and lift the ambience of this new car extends to the 12.3in digital instrument panel of upper trim-level cars (which is certainly clear and bright, but doesn’t offer as much configurability of layout as other systems), but also includes faux carbonfibre trim (which looks unconvincing) and some blue accent trims around the air vents. It all smacks somewhat of clutching at straws to give a resoundingly ordinary driving environment some material lustre, and it doesn’t really work.

Ford’s automatic door-edge protectors still sound like a trapped seatbelt to me, even after so many occasions of hearing them – but they’re a great feature, especially when carrying kids in the back who are seldom careful enough when opening doors in tight spaces.

There isn’t much wrong with the Fiesta’s driving position, though. The front seats are a little flat and narrow (latterly only as supermini seats often tend to be), and although they don’t offer adjustable cushion angle or lumbar support (the latter is the greater annoyance on longer drives), they’re comfortable enough over average trips.

The car’s raised ride height won’t really manifest in a more convenient access height for the majority of drivers, though – at least, not any more than a regular supermini with a height-adjustable driver’s seat might.

In the second row, space is only average by supermini standards. If you’re taller than 6ft, you’ll likely struggle a little for space in the back, where the Active model offers nothing more than a standard Fiesta would, and head room is especially tight. Smaller adults and kids will be able to travel comfortably enough, of course, which is the typical requirement of cars in this class.

Boot space is again only average by class standards and it isn’t designed particularly cleverly. The Fiesta’s loading lip is quite big and potentially obstructive, and likewise the hinges for its back seats. The seat backs also decline to fold away close enough to fully flat to make for a really practical expanded storage area.

In the front, Ford fits its old-generation Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system. It offers factory navigation as standard and is fairly easy to use thanks to permanent button controls for a few regularly accessed menu screens. But it lacks the connectivity features of rival systems, and although it has wireless device charging as standard, you’ll need to connect your phone via a wire anyway if you want to use smartphone mirroring.

Elsewhere, the Fiesta has physical blower controls, chunky knobs for volume and radio tuning, and useful thumb consoles on its steering wheel spokes for radio station skipping. All in all, it’s an easy car to use, and interacting with its secondary systems needn’t distract you from driving it. But it doesn’t offer the last word in style, quality, sophistication or well-packaged practicality that you might find elsewhere in the supermini class - nor really anything like it.


1 Ford Fiesta Active front cornering

The Fiesta’s mild-hybridised Ecoboost engine is well mannered and it has particularly good part-throttle roll-on response and drivability of the kind that makes ordinary progress through traffic congestion and busy town centres easy. 

Ford’s claim that it’s capable of taking much of the strain away from the combustion engine under light loads seems well founded, and it’s under these lighter loads, unsurprisingly, when the car begins to deliver its best economical running.

We recorded 65dbA of cabin noise in the car at a 50mph cruise, and 68dbA at 70mph: a couple of decibels noisier at 50mph than the Hyundai i20 mild hybrid we tested in 2021, but an identical match for it at 70mph.

You may notice some fluffs and flaws in the Fiesta’s running routine at low speeds, but they’re not exactly bothersome. The hybrid system can sometimes switch just a little abruptly between regenerating energy on a trailing throttle and ‘boosting’ under power, as you tip in and out of the accelerator pedal’s travel, and can do so at a perceptible delay, too.

The system can also drag the clutch for a split second too long as you bring the car to a stop, as if to capture that last joule of kinetic energy - but, by doing so, it simply makes the car that little bit harder to stop smoothly.

Brake pedal progression at low speed can also feel slightly woolly and inconsistent. So, in one way and another, you can tell that this is fairly new powertrain technology and that Ford is still working the wrinkles out of it.

During faster driving, the two-pedal hybrid system does a pretty decent job, but it’s not the transmission you’d pick to enjoy the Fiesta at its enthusiastic best.

There’s decent outright performance on tap and our test car managed 0-60mph in 8.5sec and 30-70mph through the gears in 8.4sec – respectable figures for any mid-range supermini. But the gearbox does seem a check on the engine’s zestiness rather than a compliment to it.

Part of the problem is one of control. You can adapt the shifting calibration of the auto ’box via the car’s driving modes, but there’s no way to select or hold a particular ratio as the driver – only an ‘L’ setting, as an alternative to ‘D’, which holds onto the lower ratios.

However you configure it, the gearbox seems just a little hesitant and reluctant to kick down even when you put in quite a big throttle input. It just feels like it’s tuned for economical running whatever the selected drive mode - and given how keen this engine feels when partnered to a manual gearbox, that does seem a shame.


3 Ford Fiesta Active rear cornering

There is little to offend about the Fiesta Active’s ride and handling, and plenty that you might like were you to judge the car in total isolation, as most drivers will.

There is decent response from the car’s steering and there are moderately high grip levels and dependable enough body control. Driving it is no chore. But it does seem like a car that has compromised a notable chunk of its long-established dynamic selling point or, to put it another way, like a modern Ford that’s forgotten what it’s for: to be driven.

The car has slightly lighter steering than we’re used to from a Fiesta, and is that little bit less keen to bite into a bend or to dart around a roundabout than the regular hatchback might be.

It’s still relatively grippy and incisive by wider supermini class standards, but there’s a softness to its body control at higher speeds and that telltale moment’s pause of lost energy about its handling responses that regularly remind you that it’s not quite the most entertaining supermini at its very best.

Having noted all that, there is still enough outright grip, body control and agility here to make this car a pleasant small car to drive most of the time, and over most surfaces. But there’s also an impact on ride comfort brought about by the standard-fit 18in rims of the Active X specification of our test car, which do tend to fuss, clunk and thump a little over sharper inputs and broken edges.

The greater wheel travel of the Active model, which might lead you to expect a more comfortable on-road ride, doesn’t deliver greater rolling comfort in actuality, when there is clearly poorer rebound control than the Fiesta usually has over bigger inputs, and a little more skitter and fiddle from the axles over smaller inputs generally.


1 Ford Fiesta Active front cornering

The Fiesta Ecoboost mild hybrid is a reasonably economical small car but won’t deliver the sort of running economy you might see from some rivals.

The likes of the Toyota Yaris full hybrid and the Hyundai i20 mild hybrid both surpassed 60mpg on our habitual 70mph road test touring economy test, and even as a more ordinary petrol model, the Skoda Fabia approached the same threshold.

So while it’s respectable, the Fiesta Active’s 52.7mpg touring test return is nothing to write home about in 2022. Our testing suggests that your daily economy return could be quite close to the same figure, with the car proving quite frugal in urban settings - although not quite in the same league as a full-hybrid rival.

The car’s residual value forecasts are average at best, with CAP expecting our Fiesta Active test car to retain only 45% of its original value after three years and 36,000 miles.

In this respect, the Fiesta Active suffers a little from the ‘Fiesta’ part of its model nomenclature - because, crossover-inspired or not, the market thinks it knows what a Fiesta is, and what to expect of it. Those average residual values are likely to make monthly finance deals quite averagely priced for the supermini segment.

Ford Fiesta reliability

Diesel filter: The 1.5-litre diesel engine is fitted with a diesel particulate filter, which can clog up if the car is used mostly for short journeys.

Recall issues: Recalls have been issued for potential problems relating to: the steering column on some 2019 Fiestas; the bolts on the rear seatbelt retractors of a small number of 2019 cars; the brake servo on some 2017 examples.

Reliability: In the most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, the Fiesta finished 28th out of 28 cars in the small car class. The fault rate was relatively high, at 31%, and many of the wide-ranging issues reported were serious. These put a third of the afflicted cars out of action for more than a week, and 30% of them couldn’t be driven.

On the bright side, 90% of the work was completed for free and none of the bills exceeded £300.


23 Ford Fiesta Active static

The Ford Fiesta has been one of Autocar’s most recommended new cars of the past two decades and in just the right trim and model format would remain one of our default supermini picks for interested drivers, but, as this road test shows, it’s not a car of the practicality, perceived quality or all-round versatility to wear a crossover-style makeover particularly well.

A bigger, more materially sophisticated and more grown-up-feeling rival might more easily be transformed into a car to tempt somebody not to trade their traditional supermini in for a compact crossover like a Volkswagen T-Cross or Peugeot 2008; and perhaps it’s the Fiesta’s main problem that it now isn’t short on more practical, more expensively finished competition within the traditional supermini segment, such as the Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio and others.

But the Fiesta just doesn’t quite have the space, the versatility or the perceived quality to be so upwardly mobile and all the advantages it should have - fizzing performance, handling dynamism and driver engagement - have been dulled here rather than developed.

The Fiesta Active is, no doubt, a car that Ford needs to make right now but, perfectly decent as it may be, it’s not the Fiesta we’d recommend most people buy, because the regular hatchback version - perhaps an Ecoboost 125 manual in ST-Line trim - would be damned near as practical and convenient, and every bit as much fun as a Fiesta ought to be.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.