The Ford Fiesta 1.0 Zetec 80PS demonstrates that small can be beautiful. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Ford's latest Fiesta has proven a hit with those looking for a classy-looking car with low running costs. The 80PS 1.0-litre Zetec model is a very smart pick. No, it's not quick but it returns 65.7mpg, emits 99g/km of carbon dioxide and is aggressively priced. It's a vehicle that manages its compromises very intelligently.
No matter how many customer clinics, market surveys and demographics figures car manufacturers pore over, it's impossible to accurately predict quite where buyers will direct their hard-earned cash. You'd probably think Ford is one of the best judges of future buyer behaviour, and you'd be right; the Blue Oval beating its competition to the punch in a number of areas so many times it's remarkable, especially for a company of that size. Every once in a while, however, a bit of remedial action is required to plug a leak and the Ford Fiesta 1.0 Zetec 80PS is just such a stopper.
A bit of background first. Ford has been trying to pension off its 1.25-litre engine for quite some time now, but the problem it faces is that that unit's replacement, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost powerplant, has been priced a bit high. Despite only displacing a litre and being possessed of a trio of cylinders, this turbocharged engine is fairly expensive to build and asking buyers to pay another £1,000 at the budget end of the Fiesta range has met with some resistance. Step forward the cheaper 1.0-litre Zetec normally aspirated model with 80PS. Here's a simpler and cheaper powerplant that only tacks £500 onto the price of a car fitted with the older 1.25-litre unit. Is it enough?
Without a turbocharger to plump up the midrange torque, the 1.0-litre 80PS engine is a simpler and cheaper engine than the 100PS and 125PS Ecoboost litre units and that may well appeal to buyers who are a little wary of the reliability issues regarding small capacity turbo engines. It also means that it's not a particularly rapid machine and that may well be the chief sticking point for buyers. Would you pay another £500 over the price of a 1.25-litre Fiesta for a car that's slower, and which develops less power and torque? That seems quite an ask, although the 1.0-litre engine claws back a lot of credit with its improved economy and emissions. If you're not particularly interested in 0-62mph times or anything like that, this 1.0-litre powerplant may well be to your liking. It's certainly a lightweight unit and this improves the handling of the Fiesta considerably.
Not that there's a lot wrong with the way this Ford tackles a corner. The Fiesta was always one of the very best superminis to drive and though it's been increasingly challenged in recent years, this latest version adopts a mentality of 'if it ain't broke'. The current generation car features new chassis and suspension components to improve ride quality and refinement, as well as a further refined Electronic Power Assisted Steering system. The old Ka proved that you didn't need a whole lot of power to deliver a fun drive and this Fiesta only underscores that point.
Design and Build
Although that massive front grille might have a few people double taking and wondering whether an Aston Martin Cygnet is attempting an overtake. It's certainly distinctive, but it's not unattractive and works well with the Fiesta's shape. I'm trying to figure out how this huge maw works on a Ford where it looked so disastrous on a whole generation of Peugeots and haven't quite squared that one just yet. The interior is also much smarter than it used to be, although the centre stack of the dashboard is still a riot of buttons and minor switchgear that isn't always the most intuitive. Still, it looks quite ritzy and the introduction of better quality metallic finishes lifts it up-market a bit.
The rising beltline of the Fiesta in profile doesn't seem to bode well for the rear seat passengers in the three-door car, but the design still surprises with decent legroom and headroom that's manageable even for a six-footer. The windows are small and set high up, so light isn't abundant in the back but the shopping bags, coats and road atlases that owners will store there most of the time won't be overly worried. The five-door models fare better, with a bigger glass area creating a roomier feel.
Market and Model
You'll need a list price budget of around £13,500 for this car in Zetec trim. That buys you a manual three-door variant. Step up to a five-door and you'll need to throw another £600 at your dealer. Those prices are £500 more than the equivalent Zetec trim with the venerable old-tech 1.25-litre engine, so you've really got to be drawn to the more modern 1.0-litre unit's lower tax and fuel costs to pay that extra. It's worth it though, as you'd only need to cover 25,000 miles to make that money back in terms of better fuel economy.
The Zetec trim brings stability control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, fifteen-inch alloy wheels, a Quickclear windscreen, leather trim for the steering wheel and handbrake, a trip computer, a CD player with controls on the steering wheel, central locking and electric heated mirrors. The EasyFuel cap-less refuelling system is very slick. Unfortunately, Race Red is the only non-premium paint finish. If you want any other colour, you're looking at paying around £500 extra.
Cost of Ownership
With emissions of just 99g/km, the Fiesta 1.0-litre 80PS engine really asserts itself against older rival powerplants. Offering free road tax and with a combined fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg, it's hardly going to burn a big hole in your pocket. Several owners of 1.0-litre Ecoboost Fiestas have been rather disappointed by the real world economy of their engines, but it's likely that without a turbocharger, you'll be able to get closer to the published numbers in the 80PS car.
Even around town, Ford quotes a figure of 55.4mpg, helped by the standard fit Start/Stop system. Tempted by the even better economy of a diesel Fiesta? You'll need to bear in mind that you'd need to cover 75,000 miles in the car before the diesel's better economy paid for itself back versus the increased up-front purchase price.
The 1.0-litre 80PS engine certainly isn't the most exciting powerplant in the Ford Fiesta range, but it does a job and does it very well. It's designed as a cheap and economical engine for those that aren't particularly interested in straight line speed. If you want a Fiesta with super-low running costs, this is probably the best engine to choose. It more than makes a case for itself against a diesel thanks to its massively lower asking price and the simpler mechanicals will also be a draw for those who value reliability.
The price looks about right but watch out for that £500 sting if you want any colour other than red. If you need a genuinely capable low emission vehicle but don't want the cost and complexity of a hybrid, this Fiesta looks to be right-sized solution.