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Ford Fiesta 3-door Titanium 1.4 Automatic

Click to view picture galleryTheres no getting away from
  the fact that the new Ford Fiesta
  is proving to be a fantastically
  successful range of three- and five-
  door hatchbacks. And now you
  can buy an automatic version

FORD'S NEW FIESTA continues to be the UK's best selling car by a long way. But even so, Ford don't want potential customers slipping through the sales net so the range has to offer every possible choice; whether it be petrol or diesel engines, 'eco' or sporty performance versions, three- and five-door body layouts and, of course, manual and automatic transmissions.

The introduction of a Durashift four-speed, torque converter automatic transmission (with a clutchless manual gearchange mode) completes the Fiesta line-up.

The new 'auto box is only available with the 1.4-litre 95bhp petrol engine but this unit is the core sales choice anyway. Unfortunately 'proper' automatic gearboxes do not come cheap — the Fiesta auto is 1,000 more expensive than the 1.4-litre manual model.

Fiesta automatic prices start from 13,795 on-the-road and there is the option of three- and five-door body styles with Style+, Zetec and Titanium trim levels. Around ten per cent of small car buyers choose an automatic model so in a full year Ford can expect to sell nearly 10,000 units of this additional new Fiesta.

The qualities of the new Fiestas are well known — great to drive, comfortable and refined — and it sets the standard for 'supermini' sized cars. The 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is lively enough and pretty fuel efficient and it now handles the automatic transmission pretty well. The acceleration is dulled somewhat — 0-62mph takes 13.9 seconds although I could quite happily live with that. Ford says the electronic throttle responses have been tuned and sharpened up to accommodate the 'auto 'box application and on the road the performance didn't appear lazy or lack-lustre, as you often find when small engines are coupled to an automatic transmission.

With our stop-start British motoring conditions, the desire to have a car with an automatic gearbox is getting stronger. It takes the wear-and-tear and stress out of driving, more so if you spend a long time behind the wheel. And given the shortage of space on our roads and the difficulties with parking, the automatic transmision with the compact Fiesta seems like an ideal motoring marriage.

Officially, the Fiesta auto should return 43.4mpg on average and my test car, a 3-door Titanium model, came up with a 36.2mpg figure for a combination of motorway, rural and town driving. For the record the CO2 emissions are 154g/km, which means a £150 annual road tax bill. While the new automatic option makes the Fiesta look expensive, it undoubtedly adds driving refinement to what is the best 'supermini' by far. — David Miles

Ford Fiesta 3-door Titanium 1.4 Automatic | 14,995
Maximum speed: 109mph | 0-62mph: 13.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 36.2mpg
Power: 95bhp | Torque: 94lb ft | CO2 154g/km | Insurance group 4