First drive: Ford Fiesta ST-Line
AOL Cars gets its hands on the latest iteration of the Ford Fiesta, in sporty-looking ST-Line trim. Can it live up to the high standards its predecessor set?
What is it?
The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in Britain, and has been for a long time. It's always distinguished itself from the pack by virtue of its excellent driving dynamics and effortless ownership experience. We've tested the latest model here in racy ST-Line trim, equipped with Ford's new 1.5-litre diesel engine.
The Fiesta underwent a serious facelift for this new, eighth-generation model. Though the overall look is very similar to the outgoing car, it's been refined – the car sits lower, with a wider grille, horizontally-oriented taillights and new LED daytime running lights.
Inside, the confusing stack of buttons is gone, replaced by a much cleaner dashboard with built-in touchscreen.
Our ST-Line car differentiates itself from the pack with sporty additions inside and out – it's styled to look like the full-fat ST hot hatchback, but with a more modest range of engines.
What's under the bonnet?
Despite the sporty styling, our car had a very sensible powertrain – a 1.5-litre diesel engine. It's available in 98bhp or 118bhp flavours – our car had the latter – and is the ideal choice for those conscious of running costs, returning a claimed 80.7mpg on the combined cycle.
It's remarkably refined for a small diesel, decently punchy and relaxed at a cruise. However, it feels at odds with the ST-Line's sporty styling.
If you prefer petrol, ST-Line cars are available with Ford's 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost unit in a choice of three power outputs: 99bhp, 123bhp or 138bhp. If you want an automatic gearbox, you're limited to the entry-level model, but every model is available with a six-speed manual. With a snappy throw and crisp action, it's definitely the gearbox we'd choose.
What's it like to drive?
The Fiesta has always been class-leading when it comes to handling, and this model is no different. Despite the modest engine, it's great fun to exploit the chassis on a twisty road. ST-Line cars gain stiffened suspension, which can feel a touch too firm on bumpy town streets, but once out on the open ride it strikes a great balance between ride and handling.
The electronic power-assisted steering isn't the most feelsome, but it's pinpoint sharp and makes it easy to place the car on the road.
How does it look?
The ST-Line has sporty styling additions to mark it out from other models in the range. A bold bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out grille and chunky roof spoiler all give a dynamic edge, while inside, body-hugging sports seats contribute to the overall cabin ambiance.
The Fiesta range as a whole is very similar to the outgoing model, but the makeover has done a good job of making it appear more premium. Horizontally-oriented taillights mean the car appears lower and wider, while there are smart LED daytime running lights round the front, too.
What's it like inside?
The cabin of the new Fiesta is worlds away from the car it replaces. Gone is the confusing centre console. Instead, there's a more conventional dashboard layout – but conventional is a good thing, as it's far easier to use.
Our car featured Ford's 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system – a 6.5-inch unit is standard – and the SYNC 3 operating system. In practice, it's not as slick as the one in the Volkswagen Polo, but with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can always plug your phone in to alleviate this.
There's enough room for four adults at a push, though the rear seats are cramped for taller passengers. If you're planning on carrying rear-seat occupants regularly, we'd also recommend opting for the five-door Fiesta.
What's the spec like?
ST-Line trim comes generously specced with LED daytime running lights, DAB radio, that 6.5-inch infotainment display and all the ST exterior goodies. Upgrade to ST-Line X and this adds LED taillights, power-folding door mirrors, rear privacy glass, cruise control, part-leather seats and automatic wipers.
Our car had the larger touchscreen, mated to an optional Bang and Olufsen sound system. Developed by B&O specially for the Fiesta, it sounds great and is well worth the premium. We're less convinced by the panoramic sunroof, which is expensive and impacts rear headroom.
The new Fiesta is a great car regardless of trim. The ST-Line packs could be really tempting for those who can't afford to run a full-fat ST. However, we're not totally sure the sensible and sedate diesel engine is the best match for sporty and youthful ST-Line trim. We'd be more tempted by this car were it equipped with one of the excellent EcoBoost petrols.
Facts and figures
Model tested: Ford Fiesta ST-Line X 1.5 TDCi
Engine: 1.5-litre TDCI diesel
Torque (Nm): 270
Max speed (mph): 121
0-60mph: 8.8 seconds
MPG: 80.7 combined
Emissions (g/km): 89