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Click to view picture gallery“Ford Fiesta: Keeping
  most of the people
  happy most of the time.
  So, if you need a
  compact car but still
  want some of life’s little
  luxuries — it could be
  the car for you, too!


THE FORD FIESTA RANGE of three- and five-door 'super-mini' hatchbacks is in its 30th year, but it continues to pull
UK customers.


Industry sales figures released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that the Fiesta is the best-selling retail (private buyer's) car. Almost one in five new cars sold so far this year is a 2006 Ford Fiesta, and the Fiesta range currently sits happily in third place in the UK's top ten sales league for sales of new cars, with 47,245 of them already with new owners.

All this is against the background of numerous all-new 'supermini' models coming onto the market — the Renault Clio, Peugeot 207 and Fiat Grande Punto to name just three.

At the end of last year, Ford carried out a major styling refreshment of the Fiesta range for 2006 — its 30th birthday year.

The original Fiesta first launched in 1976 was very much a functional hatchback with angular styling lines. Over thirty years, the styling evolved to a much more rounded appearance. And for 2006 we are now back with a combination of smooth lines interlaced with sharper angles.

Today's range covers a huge price differential starting at 8,395 and rising to 13,145, with heartland sales models around the 10,000 mark. Engine options are just as varied, ranging from 1.2-litre petrol
to 1.6-litre TDCi diesel units, so there is a Fiesta model to suit most people in the market for a small car.

The revised 2006 Fiesta is marginally larger inside — as it needs to
be, to compete against the new generation of bigger 'superminis'.
Ford have also added lots of big car extra refinement and equipment
to attract buyers to what is basically a model range waiting to be replaced in the next year or so.

Customers buying the very latest Fiesta not only get more passenger space but sharper exterior looks. Styling changes include new bumpers, grille, headlights and rear lamps along with thicker body side mouldings and a new range of bodywork colours.

The interior is of a far higher quality than ever before, with jazzy new seat coverings and a modern facia panel housing much smarter and easier to read instruments. The general upgrade to the Fiesta's specification for the majority of models includes rain sensing wipers,
air conditioning, on-board computer, electric windows, heated and electrically-adjusted door mirrors — and satellite navigation, too — for most models.

It may not be the most modern small car in its sector, but for the price most versions offer more specification as standard than the latest competition.

To refresh myself on what the long-serving Fiesta has to offer against the latest competition, Ford sent me a 1.6 TDCi 89bhp Ghia 5-door. Not the mainstream seller, at least so far as specification goes, but a five-door variant with a new-generation direct-injection diesel engine — a combination which will always have appeal. The Ghia level of specification is aimed firmly at customers who need a compact car
on the outside but on the inside still want a high level of luxury. The standard price is 13,145, but add on a few extras such as Bluetooth connection, metallic paint, privacy glass, rear parking sensors and Ford's Reflex Pack of additional airbags and the price shoots up to 14,435. And that is a bit much for a Fiesta.

The Ghia as standard comes with anti-lock braking, driver and front passenger airbags, remote control central door locking, perimeter alarm, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights, CD/radio system, 15-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights. It's a pretty complete package, but really no better than you can find on the similarly-priced versions of the new, larger and more modern Peugeot 207, for instance.

Having five doors makes you appreciate just how much more room the Fiesta now has over earlier generations, and the rear tailgate beats most of the competition by having wide access to the load area from the top to the bottom. With the split folding rear seats, the five-door Fiestas are very versatile and user-friendly vehicles.

The new 1.6-litre Ford Duratorq direct-injection high-pressure diesel engine with turbocharger is another plus point. With 89bhp of power and 151lb ft of torque available from only 1,750rpm, this Fiesta is very pleasant to drive. The engine is quiet; and it pulls like a train. It felt strong and powerful and yet remained very frugal, returning 53.1mpg on average throughout the week's road test. A five-speed manual transmission is used, with drive to the front wheels as usual.

Some of the customers for this particular Fiesta model will no doubt be company car users down-sizing to escape the Chancellor's cash cow assault against Jane and John Sitting-Duck, eg, the motorists! This model only attracts 16 per cent company car tax, and it falls into group B for exhaust emissions with a road fund licence of 85. Ford says the fuel costs over 12,000 miles would be in the region of 715.

As the latest sales figures prove, the Fiesta certainly isn't past its sell-by date. But for size and safety levels it is outplayed in its increasingly competitive market sector, being unable to match the higher NCAP rating achieved by newer competitive models. The Ghia version as tested is rather expensive but it is well-equipped, has a strong and economical engine, is good to drive and comes with a nice quality interior. Small wonder they just keep right on selling. — David Miles

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Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi Ghia 5-door
| 13,145
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-60mph: 11.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 53.1mpg | Power: 89
bhp | Torque: 151lb ft

------------------------------------------------------------------ Ford Fiesta Ghia