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Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi 90 Zetec

Click to view picture gallery“The all-new, supermini-sized
  hatchback Fiesta — Ford
s ‘smallest
  large car
promises much.
  After a first drive at its international
  launch in Italy, it
s fair to say that
  it delivers as much as it promises
...”

IT MAY HAVE THE SAME COMPACT FOOTPRINT but the all-new Fiesta, destined to be sold for the first time globally and to become Ford's best-selling model range is billed by Ford as its 'smallest large car'. Whilst having virtually the same footprint as the outgoing models, the new Fiesta has improved space, better specification, greater safety and really smart 'Kinetic' styling.

Not only will it meet the demands of a huge range of customers but it will be a serious proposition for the growing number of UK customers considering down-sizing. These people want the looks, the feel and the specification of a larger car but in a smaller package and at lower prices.

New Fiesta prices range from 8,695 up to 13,695 and a long list of extra cost options — not necessarily needed — will push the prices higher. Customers will also have to fork out an extra 300 for the Electronic Stability Programme, which should really be fitted as standard.

Forty different models in the all-new Fiesta range are about to make their debut in UK dealerships (October, 2008). These are made up of three- and five-door versions and there are four petrol and two diesel (revised and new) engine options. The petrol engines are expected main-selling 1.25-litre 59bhp and 81bhp units plus the 1.4 95bhp engine and the all-new 1.6-litre 118bhp. The TDCi diesel engines are 1.4-litre 67bhp and 1.6-litre 89bhp units. In addition, there are the three- and five-door 1.6-litre TDCi ECOnetic fuel and CO2 saving variants. Manual and automatic transmissions are also in the line-up but not all engines are offered with each specification.

While the Studio specification Fiesta has the headline-grabbing starter price of 8,695, it is expected that only two per cent of all-new Fiesta sales will be for this particular model. It is offered only in three-door body form with 1.25-litre petrol and 1.4-litre TDCi engine options but has body-coloured bumpers, Intelligent Protection System, reach and rake-adjustable steering and power mirrors as standard.

Style specification, from 9,295, adds body-coloured, powered and heated door mirrors, electric front windows and remote central locking. A bright headlamp finish completes its stylish exterior. The Style+, priced from 10,395, adds the comfort and convenience of air conditioning and a Quickclear windscreen. Anticipated to account for 50 per cent of all-new Fiesta sales, Style and Style+ offer a choice of engines including 1.25 and 1.4-litre Duratec petrol with various power outputs.

Zetec (from 10,995) and Titanium (from 12,095) have a 'premium' look and feel, with a chrome surround to the grille and side windows, front fog lamps, leather steering wheel and air conditioning. Zetec adds a traditional luxury feel with chrome, finished off with 15-inch alloy wheels and projector headlamps while Titanium brings a contemporary look to this equipment level with higher contrast materials, such as dark gloss surfaces and bright metal accents.

Both models offer a broad spectrum of engines, with Duratec petrols available in 1.25, 1.4 and 1.6-litre and Duratorq TDCi diesels in either 1.4 or 1.6-litre, with a choice of power outputs.

Zetec S, from 12,595, has subtle sports styling additions including five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels, projector headlamps, front fog lamps, sports spoiler and bumper skirts. This theme is continued on the inside with a leather steering wheel, unique sports gear knob and sports seats creating a focused driving environment. Standard equipment adds a trip computer, side airbags and air conditioning. The Zetec S also has the all-new 1.6-litre 118bhp Duratec Ti-VCT petrol engine, but will additionally be available with the 1.6-litre 89bhp TDCi turbodiesel engine.

ECOnetic versions are priced from 11,845 and use a 1.6-litre TDCi turbodiesel unit tuned for economy, lowered suspension and low rolling resistance tyres to achieve low emissions of 98g/km — making it exempt from the UK road fund duty.

Lighter in weight but stronger and with a stiffer body, the all-new Fiesta looks and feels a much improved car and you can bet it will be near, or at, the top of all the Car of the Year awards and competitions.

Whether in three- or five-door guise, the aerodynamic wedge-shape styling — enhanced by muscular and angular styling lines — makes the new Fiesta look larger than the outgoing version even though the overall length is more or less the same, at 3,958mm. It really is a very pleasing car to look at and quite distinctive. Better still, it looks expensive and upmarket. The three-door models look sportier but the five-door models are, in real life, more practical.

Inside, it looks and feels a more expensive product thanks to a nice combination of textures and materials. Ford is particularly proud of the new Fiesta's dramatic centre-stack control module that takes on the design of a mobile 'phone; once you have spent a few minutes to find your way around the system, all of the functions are quite logical. On the downside, the folding rear seats do not quite fold flat; the back of the rear seats are untrimmed metal (you would expect carpeting to match the boot); and there is no roof grab handle for the front passenger. However, the boot capacity is a reasonable 295 litres should you choose to specify your Fiesta with a puncture repair kit (with the no-cost option spare wheel it is 281 litres). Fold the rear seat, and you have 979 litres of cargo space.

The new, all-electric power-steering is perfectly weighted; it's precise, gives good feedback and is light at low speeds and gets usefully heavier the faster the car is driven. The suspension is first rate and has been redesigned to give a big-car capability of ironing out bumps, potholes and tarmac ripples. Grip is generally superb although there is some bodyroll in the tyre walls from the skinnier section tyres — the larger wheels and wider tyres of the more up-range models perform better.

During the international press launch test drive in Italy we had the chance to sample just two of the engines on offer. The all new 1.6-litre, 118bhp petrol unit and the 1.6-litre 89bhp TDCi diesel unit. To get our hands on the likely best-selling 1.25 81bhp petrol engine and others we will have to wait until the cars arrive in the UK.

In brief, the new 1.6-litre petrol engine is a willing and free-revving unit and, being low geared, generally very responsive and good to drive at low speeds in town traffic. Maximum torque is 112lb ft at 4,050rpm so it needs to be worked hard to get the best out of it on the open road. Under test, this engine returned 31.7mpg. Compared to this unit, I think the 1.25-litre petrol unit will feel a bit 'weedy'.

Pick of the two engines on this occasion, and I suspect overall, is the 1.6-litre 89bhp TDCi turbodiesel unit. Although the power output is less than the 1.6 petrol unit, the 150lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm makes it very flexible, responsive and overall a nicer model to drive — and it returned 51.6mpg during some fairly hard driving. According to the official figures, owners can expect as much as 67.3mpg. It would be my choice, as would the five-door body style, probably with the most popular Zetec specification.

Ford's new Fiesta proved hard to fault — there really wasn't anything to complain about. But on the 'plus' side there was a lot in its favour, including great looks, 'big car' feel and ride comfort, surefooted handling, a pleasure to drive, well-designed interior, excellent fuel economy, low CO2 emissions, cheap road tax, lower insurance costs and a good price. — David Miles

Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi 90 Zetec
| 13,095
Maximum speed: 109mph | 0-62mph: 11.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 51.6mpg | Power: 89bhp | Torque: 150lb ft
CO2 110g/km