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Friday, December 9, 2022

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost MHEV ST-Line Vignale 2022 UK review

What is it?

The phrase ‘Britain’s best-selling car’ is regularly found in a sentence containing reference to the Ford Fiesta. But no more. Last year, it didn’t even make the top 10 and was outsold even in Blue Oval showrooms by the Ford Puma.

The semiconductor shortage was behind the drop in sales, as Ford diverted more of the chips it had into more profitable models like the Puma, which competes in the same class. Yet rather than let the Fiesta’s long reign as Britain’s number one be followed by a period back in the ranks, it has made a series of changes to the car as part of this mid-life facelift to bring it back up the sales charts when the chips are no longer down.

The changes aren’t the biggest, admittedly. Remember: the Fiesta enters this facelift from a position of strength as one of the best-driving superminis that remains a compelling ownership proposition.

What’s it like?

Those changes, then. Visually, the biggest changes are at the front, where there’s a new design for the bonnet, headlights and grille, to where the Ford badge is relocated. There are new colour and wheel designs as well as a shuffle of the trim levels.

However, there are no mechanical changes to the chassis (which is not a bad thing at all, given how sweet the Fiesta is to drive) and the engine line-up remains unchanged.

It starts with a 99bhp version of Ford’s ubiquitous 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, which higher up the range gets belt-integrated starter-generator mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology to be offered in 123bhp or 153bhp outputs, the latter tested here.

The familiarity of that engine and chassis mean, unsurprisingly, it’s more of the same from the Fiesta on the dynamic front. The handling is simply a joy at any speed; this is a car that can raise a smile no matter how mundane the corner or manoeuvre required.

As before, none of this involving handling is at the expense of ride comfort or quality. The car transmits to the driver exactly what the road surface is doing while absorbing and isolating from bumps with a sophistication a car in this class really has no right to.

It’s all backed up with an engine that remains one of the most characterful on the market. The 1.0-litre triple is vocal but sounds enthusiastic, rather than unrefined, and delivers excellent performance levels, particularly above 2000rpm when the turbocharger kicks in.

The MHEV technology stores energy lost under deceleration and then uses it under acceleration to use less fuel, and the result is real-world economy of 50mpg, even when the car is delivered with enthusiasm.

The front wheels are driven through a slick six-speed manual gearbox.

The facelift in the interior centres around the addition of a 12.3in digital screen for the instrument display. It’s a welcome upgrade over the old dials, although it alone doesn’t lift the Fiesta above the criticism the interior of this generation has always had for being on the dark-and-drab side. It remains just that, although it’s comfortable, if a little cramped, and access to the boot is let down by a very high lip.

Should I buy one?

A winning formula hasn’t been altered in this round of changes for the Fiesta. Rivals may offer more space, more technology and a richer cabin, yet none of them can match the driving pleasure offered by the Fiesta.

It remains one of the best pound-for-pound driving experiences in any class, yet those pleasures can also be found much lower down the range than the £24,440 before options (and £28,315 after!) price of our test car. A simple 99bhp version of the Ecoboost engine in ST-Line trim should do the trick.

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