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Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS Review

I've now owned my Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS for over six months, and with well over 4000 miles (6500km) on the odometer, it's time to summarise my thoughts. Jeremy Clarkson beware.

Interior & Features

My car is the Titanium specification model, which comes with a lot of gadgets. Most of these work pretty well, and combine to make a small relatively cheap car feel really rather sophisticated.

Climate control (EATC as Ford call it) is capable of keeping the vehicle at an even temperature, although (for me) it is not simply a matter of setting it at the preferred temperature and ignoring it. Rather, it can require a couple of degrees of up/down adjustment depending on whether the outside temperature is higher or lower than the inside target temperature. Its fan speeds are well controlled. This is the first vehicle I've owned with climate control and I'm not sure that it offers much over manual air conditioning.

The automatic windscreen wipers work reasonably well at least 50% of the time, although like the EATC it's something I could live without. There are just too many occasions when I'm peering through a thickening blanket of rain drops, thinking "Why isn't the ****** thing wiping the windscreen?". Perhaps a gadget too far.

In contrast to the wipers, the automatic headlights work brilliantly. So well, that I have nothing else to add. The Titanium has "projector headlights". I'm not entirely sure what that means, but you can see where you're going in the dark which is the important thing. I assume the same is true of the lesser models in the range.

The electronic automatic dipping rear view mirror works well, although it does have a habit (I think) of slowly sagging over the course of a week or so, meaning that I have to tilt the mirror back up a bit on a regular basis. Not really a big deal.

The QuickClear windscreen clears the windscreen quickly, and I don't find the fine wires embedded in the glass to be noticeable, although in oblique light you do get the occasional glint. This is a gadget for the early morning winter commuter, which I am not.

Cruise Control does what you would expect it to do. The lack of a warning light indicating that it is enabled (engaged yes, enabled no) is rather odd, and the buttons are not particularly logical or well placed, but it works. I prefered the system on my previous Citroen, which also included a speed limiter (which I assume Ford could have added for virtually zero cost).

Ford SYNC, the Bluetooth & voice control system, works remarkably well. I have no problem getting it to select audio tracks from my USB stick, or phone people on my mobile. However, it would be nice if it could control the radio and air conditioning. It would be even better if it could read text messages - it can't, but this is Google's fault for not supporting the Bluetooth MAP profile in the more recent versions of Android. For once, having an "old" mobile would be an advantage. The Sony DAB audio system is typical Ford, and sounds great.

One glaring omission from the specifications for the Titanium (standard on the Titanium X) is electric rear windows. Also, the seriously dark rear privacy glass takes some getting used to. I suspect both of these choices were made because many people who buy this car will have small children, in which case both of these make more sense.

The interior is well screwed together, and the plastics are well chosen. The biggest failing of the interior is the lack of a flat load bed when the rear seats are folded. The seat backs fold forward, to about a 20° angle from the horizontal. However, the boot is an adequate size for a family of three, and there is plenty of room for a couple of rear passengers (three adults is a squeeze). All the seats are comfortable, but the front passenger seat lacks height adjustment.

The lack of rear parking sensors is not a problem. The visibility is OK, and the rear view mirror gives the impression that you are parked in the middle of the vehicle behind's bonnet, when in fact you have about half a metre to spare.

The Titanium comes with red ambient lighting - various bits of the interior glow dimly. Totally pointless, but looks great, although I would prefer a less aggressive colour.

The Engine

The engine is a 999cc turbocharged 3 cyclinder unit. During normal use it doesn't feel like a 3 cyclinder engine but under load it makes an unusual but not unpleasant buzzing, grumbling noise. There is a little turbo lag at low revs (1500rpm to 2000rpm), but it's really not an issue. The torque output is pretty flat, which basically means it doesn't make much difference if you thrash the thing. It would be nice if there was a sudden surge at 3500rpm or something to get you out of trouble, but there isn't.

The engine is geared quite highly, which took some getting used to, particularly in the first 1000 miles or so when the engine felt much less tractable. It didn't really start to loosen up until there was a couple of thousand miles on the clock.

One minor point of note. Unless the engine is warm, it makes a slightly rattley engine sound for the first second or so after starting. It sounds like something is a bit short of oil. My local Ford dealer compared my car with two others with the same engine, and they all made the same noise. As a result, I've stopped worrying about it (particularly since there's now a record of it on Ford's computer).

Performance & Economy

Firstly, let me make it completely clear that the official fuel consumption figures are a complete work of fiction. It is well publicised that such figures are "fiddled" by the manufacturers, but Ford must be the world's experts. Of course, what they do is completely within the rules, and one big advantage in this case is that the vehicle is exempt from road tax irrespective of the real world economy (although I feel like I'm deliberatly defrauding HM Treasury).

It's worth highlighting that economy and performance both improve significantly over the first few thousand miles - at least a couple of thousand in my case before the car felt run in.

The official combined figure is 65mpg. The best I have managed on a 20 mile run on an A-road at 40-60 mph, is 58mpg. This is exceptional though. Typical round town averages are low 40's, and my usual mix of a few short journeys and a few medium trips averages about 48mpg. An unhurried motorway run at 65-70 might get high forties to low fifties, depending on the load and wind direction. These figures are using gadget unleaded fuel, which is over 10p/litre more expensive than regular unleaded. [Update December 13 - ecomomy has dropped by 2-3mpg as winter sets in].

Am I disappointed? Not really. It's nowhere near the official figures but pretty good given the performance. I just wish the manufacturers would be a bit less duplicitous.

The start-stop system works, although whether it has any significant effect on fuel economy is another matter. It's a great way of making traffic lights change though! It's always an interesting challenge trying to work out why when it doesn't switch the engine off - too hot, too cold, air-conditioning working too hard, insufficient brake pressure - there's a long list of possibilities, and occasionally it's tempting to think there's something actually wrong with the car when it doesn't go quiet when you stop and put it out of gear.

On the road it's quiet enough, with very little wind or road noise intruding. You feel and hear bumps and bad road surfaces, but they never become a problem. The driving position is very adjustable; my only criticism being that if you're quite tall and sit a reasonable way back, you can catch your elbow/forearm on the between-the-seats central storage box when changing gear. The usefulness of the storage box outweighs this minor issue I think.

Now the interesting part, the "driver experience". There are lots of reviews of the Fiesta that will talk the technical stuff of which I know little; however, it is reasonable to say that the handling of this car is simply stunning. It maintains its composure at high speed around corners, both when you drive nice and smoothly, or when you throw it around like a lunatic. It is not unsettled by mid-corner bumps, and always seems to have plenty to spare. Despite this being a small, cheap non-performance hatchback, it really is quite difficult to push it to its limits.

To illustrate how good the handling is, there is a B-road road that runs roughly from Malvern to Bromyard (the B4220), which for the last 20 years has been my least favourite road in the area. It is a mix of fast open sections, sequences of tight bends, adverse cambers, blind brows and narrow bits. Throw in an occasional coating of agricultural mud, and it's generally not a pleasant experience. Until I bought the Fiesta that is. My previous three cars were either too large (Skoda Octavia), too large and too wallowy (Citroen C4 Picasso), or insufficiently powerful (Honda Jazz), and as a result progress along this road was always, by necessity, stately at best. With the Fiesta, it is more like a stage from a WRC event. A serious of fast squirts interspersed with corners which are crying out to be driven round slightly too fast. In short, it's a hoot. I reckon if I had to commute this road on a daily basis I would be involved in a serious accident within a month. The thing is, the Fiesta never feels like it's struggling. On one occasion I managed to get the traction control to cut in, but even then it felt perfectly safe (and I was going rather fast on a damp surface).

Surprisingly for such a fast and agile car (122mph according to Ford) it has rear drum brakes. The brakes are OK, but I can't help thinking the car would benefit from rear discs.

This is the most powerful of the current crop of Fiesta's not counting the ST models. 0-100km/h takes 9.4 seconds in theory. Certainly, it feels nippy around town, and you have to be quite light-footed to avoid being carried forward by a waft of turbocharged power when you change up. This engine has plenty of torque too - the same as the 1.6 diesel in fact. However, despite the figures, it doesn't feel quite fast enough. This is particularly evident when you're stuck behind someone doing 50mph on a fast A-road. It can be very frustrating, particularly when you know the chassis is capable of bowling along comfortably at the speed limit, which can encourage you to take risks. Having said that, it must be an awful lot worse in the 80PS model!

Summary

A great car. The best driver's car I've owned since my Honda CR-X about 20 years ago, and I can't wait to upgrade to an ST3 (which doesn't exist... more gadgets on the ST2 please, or a more powerful engine in the Titanium).

 

Update - April 2014

Since I wrote this article, an upgrade to Android (KitKat 4.4) means that my phone now plays happily with Ford Sync, and text messages can be read out when they arrive. Also, Ford seem to have answered my prayers and an ST3 model is now on sale. I'm definitely thinking of upgrading, although it will probably just be a vanilla ST model.

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