By Jonathan Crouch
Ford's Fiesta has always been affordable and great to drive. But state of the art? Ford reckoned it was that too in the improved post-2012 seventh generation form we look at here, especially when it came to the clever three cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine that many buyers chose. Beneath the smarter styling lay some clever user-friendly technology too - and cabin quality that made down-sizing into the car less of a chore. This was the way to right a best seller. So how does this car stack up as a secondhand buy?
Ford's Fiesta lineage goes all the way back to 1976 and in the decades since, it's remained the definitive face of the supermini sector, not only a best seller in its segment but also often the UK's best selling new car. The seventh generation model, launched in 2008, was one of the most successful yet, blending the entertaining handling for which this car has become renowned with sharp styling and clever packaging. As a result, it did its bit in restoring Ford's fortunes in Europe. By 2012 though, with all-new superminis like Peugeot's 208 and Renault's fourth generation Clio by now turning the heads of small car buyers, there was a danger it might struggle. Something Ford hoped to avert by launching the much improved MK7 model we're going to look at here.
This Fiesta was still a small car but by 2012, it was thinking big in almost every way, starting with styling designed to make more of a statement in the supermini segment. Under the bonnet of this facelifted MK7 model, Ford served up an impressively clean and frugal range of petrol and diesel units, highlighted by the three cylinder 1.0-litre Ecoboost unit already seen in the larger B-Max and Focus models, the world's cleverest conventional petrol powerplant of its period. Plus buyers got a more up-market cabin, safety technology that could brake the car automatically and call for help in an accident and even a clever MyKey device to give parents greater control over young drivers who might be using the car. In short, this, on paper at least, seemed to be a thoroughly well thought out piece of supermini design. It sold until the Summer of 2017 when an all-new eighth generation model was launched.
What You Get
If you go by the maxim that if something looks right, it is right, then you'll probably like the shape of this post-2012 improved seventh generation Fiesta. Like the original MK7 model, this revised version was offered in both three and five-door bodystyles and both are tidy pieces of styling, with a look dominated by a massive Aston Martin-like trapezoidal five-bar chrome front grille that's bracketed by a smarter set of laser-cut headlamps with LED daytime running lights. The bonnet also gained a more aggressive 'power dome' shape.
Inside, the twin-cowled instrument cluster and boldly jutting centre console with its winged mobile 'phone-inspired layout for the minor controls were carried over from the original MK7 model, but Ford did do a bit of tidying up, relocating the interior door handles and the switches for the electric windows and heated seats. Though a few areas of low rent plastic still remained, this was overall a much smarter cabin, with a high-gloss finish for the upper instrument panel that flows to the lower centre console and is replicated in the door panels. A satin-chrome detailing finish was also offered, along with Ford's signature Ice Blue lighting to illuminate dials, switches and displays. Plusher variants could be made to feel really quite smart with features like a full leather-rim steering wheel and the smart five inch central colour display that supported an integrated navigation system.
Ingenious storage areas abound throughout the cabin, including charging points for mobile 'phones and MP3 players. There's decent storage room too. A central arm-rest provides additional cubby space and the door pockets are large and practical. As a driver, it's also easy to get comfortable thanks to loads of seat travel, plenty of support for your back and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake.
If you're going to be using the back seats regularly, opt for the five-door version: in the three-door, the windows are small and set high up, so light isn't abundant. Either way though, you might be surprised at the space available: even a couple of six-footers should be reasonably happy here.
The rear end of this post-2012 model features huge redesigned light clusters that smear round onto the flanks of the car, freeing up space for a very wide hatch aperture, though there is quite a high loading lip. Lift the tailgate and you'll find that the boot features an adjustable floor to simplify loading and unloading tall and heavy items. As with the original MK7 model, there's 276-litres on offer with the seats up. Should you need more, a split-folding rear bench was supplied as standard even on the cheapest models but because the seat backs merely flop onto the seat bases, the total load area when everything's folded isn't completely flat. Still, the 960-litres offered in total should be sufficient for most owners.
What to Look For
We found lots of satisfied customers of this generation Fiesta but inevitably, our survey revealed quite a few issues too. Several owners complained of interior rattles - typically around the A-pillar trims, the dashboard, the passenger door trim and the boot. One owner found they were getting a cold draught from behind dash onto their knees. Another found the stereo turning itself on intermittently and the USB port not working properly. Other issues we came across included electric folding mirrors that made a shrieking noise, a fuel flap that was difficult to open, parking sensors that never worked properly, a boot that kept unlocking itself, fabric on the driver's seat squab that kept coming loose, a climate control system that kept resetting itself to 22 degrees and fuel economy that was always 8mpg below that indicated by trip computer.
What else? Well, there have been issues with clutch problems on 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol models; make sure the clutch isn't smelly, slipping or failing to bite smoothly and that you can change gear easily. There are also reports of reverse gear being occasionally very difficult to engage. Diesel models also have a history of suffering with injector issues which can be pricey to resolve. As usual with superminis, check for parking scuffs and kerbed alloy wheels. The alloy rims on some earlier models have been known to buckle easily, so check their condition carefully and look out for juddery steering and odd noises from the wheel arch areas on your test drive.
As for interior issues, well the cabin plastics mark easily, so check them carefully; this could be grounds for a small price reduction. Lift the floor mats in search of damp; there have been reports of water leaks resulting in damp front footwells which could in turn lead to mould. Some owners have reported issues with the stereo system and the ventilation set-up, so check these out thoroughly before you buy. As usual, check that the service book is fully stamped up to date. Some ex-fleet models may have missed out on garage visits.
(approx based on a 2013 Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost - Ex Vat) An air filter costs around £12-£13 and an oil filter costs around £6. Brake pads sit in the £13 to £18 bracket for a set. Brake discs can be as affordable as around £28, though we found pricier branded items costing around £55 or even in the £65 to £92 bracket. Wiper blades cost in the £5 to £13 bracket. Try not to damage the rear lamp cluster; a replacement unit costs in the £45-£70 bracket. A timing belt costs in the £15 to £32 bracket, while a water pump costs in the £70 to £82 bracket. A radiator can be had for around £86.
On the Road
Variations on the Fiesta theme may come and go but before driving any version of Ford's definitive supermini, there's one thing you almost always know for certain: that it'll be a great steer. There's a deftness to the way this car responds, an agility to the way it nips around the bends that no other small car can quite match. Since most buyers in this segment don't want to corner on their door handles, you could dismiss this attribute as 'nice to have but largely irrelevant' were it not for the fact that superb ride quality is part of this Ford's dynamic repertoire.
Though other small cars cosset you from bumps more effectively, the penalty is a vagueness when it comes to body control. This one lets you know the bumps are there but even on the most tarnished tarmac, lets very few of them into the cabin, skipping across the poorest surfaces with grip and composure through the tightest corners, all the while offering unrivalled driver feedback that's complete but not intrusive. The many drivers in this country who've never owned anything but a Fiesta probably think that all small cars drive like this. Take it from us: nothing could be further from the truth. Not even the introduction of electrically assisted power steering on this improved seventh generation model managed to spoil Ford's mastery of small car dynamics. Yes, the helm could use a dash more feedback but the main thing is that it's smooth and beautifully weighted.
Engine-wise, Ford served up a mixed bag. Old-tech 60 and 82PS versions of the old 1.25-litre petrol unit are best avoided unless you're on a budget: the lower powered version struggles to sixty in around 17s and can't even break 95mph. Get beyond these though and things are far more state-of-the-art with the heart of the range based around an award winning three cylinder 1.0-litre unit offered in a trio of different guises. Most affordable is a normally aspirated 80PS 1.0 Ti-VCT unit, but it's rather slow and doesn't cost much less than the version of this 1.0-litre engine we'd really point you towards - the 100PS turbocharged EcoBoost unit. This engine is also offered with 125PS, but only in the pricier trim levels. The 100PS variant is all you really need, spiriting you to sixty in 11.2s to the accompaniment of a buzzy but not unpleasant three cylinder thrum that talks the torque when it comes to pulling power good enough to see you accelerate away in third gear from almost walking place. Ford describes the combination of this engine with the Fiesta chassis as the best pairing since Lennon and McCartney. It's hard to disagree.
There are other petrol options in this Fiesta line-up - but they're minority interest 1.6-litre options. An older 105PS unit that was only offered with the Powershift twin-clutch automatic transmission was mainly there for older buyers. At the other extreme, a 180PS 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo powerplant was installed in the hot hatch ST shopping rocket model.
That only leaves the options on offer for diesel drivers, people who tend to be in the minority when it comes to the purchase of a supermini. Most affordable is the 75PS 1.5-litre TDCi unit we first saw in Ford's Fiesta-based B-MAX supermini-MPV, a powerplant we'd think very carefully before choosing over the very nearly as frugal 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol model. If you must have a diesel, there is, we think, more of an argument to be made for the 95PS 1.6-litre TDCi unit.
Ultimately though, it's hard to go too far wrong with any of the newer Fiesta powerplants, all of which reek of clever, thoughtful design. We particularly like the 'Stall Prevention' feature, designed to help in low speed manoeuvres by altering the engine's ignition profile and preventing that embarrassing stalling moment when there's a queue of traffic behind you. You can't even fill up with the wrong fuel thanks to the misfuel protection device that also does away with the need for a fuel filler cap.
The Ford Fiesta has always been a vehicle the British public has warmed to but the truth is that before the seventh generation model first arrived in 2008, supermini buyers chose a Fiesta either because it was great to drive or because they'd been offered a deal too good to turn down: there wasn't really another reason to buy one. This MK7 model changed all that - and this facelifted post-2012 version took things a step further still, smarter to look at, smarter to sit in, smarter to operate and, perhaps most importantly, smarter under the bonnet.
Is it also a smarter choice for used buyers looking for a supermini from this era? Many will think so. This may not be the largest or the plushest car in the sector but on just about every other main criteria, it's either up there or class-leading. There's an unpretentious quality to it and a focus on providing the things that really matter to small car buyers - the fun handling and affordable asking price Ford has long delivered to them in this segment but also the low running costs, strong safety provision and low emissions they now need too. And it's all been done with a polish and self belief that we've never previously seen from a Fiesta. In short, this is, more than ever, a small car that used car supermini buyers simply can't ignore.