Good fun and reasonably civilised
Some fussy controls but easy to get comfortable
Curtain airbags come only as a cost option; good security features as standard though
A few cheap materials but generally solid and reliable
Limited space for rear passengers and not that versatile
Plenty of trim levels and options
The Ford Fiesta is great fun to drive: it changes direction quickly, and its excellent body control and grip mean you can really make the most of the responsive steering. It's not all about great handling, though; the Fiesta feels smoother than most rivals and the pedals and gearshift feel slick, too. It's a touch noisy in the cabin but that's the only real criticism here. Ford offers nine engines for the Fiesta but our favourite is the 1.0 petrol Ecoboost, which is smooth, swift and quiet. If you're set on a diesel, go for the 1.5-litre TDCi - it's not quite as economical as the 1.6-litre but it's less gruff and a lot cheaper to buy, which will offset the difference in fuel consumption. The super-sporty three-door Fiesta ST, which has a turbocharged 1.6 petrol engine, is very quick and incredibly agile, but you have to put up with an extremely firm ride.
Like the outside, the interior is modern and stylish, despite the below-par quality of some of the materials. The mobile phone-inspired dashboard works pretty well, too, although some of the on-screen menus could be easier to use. There's plenty of seat and steering-wheel adjustment and, though rear legroom is tighter than in some rivals, the Fiesta has a decent-sized boot. However, you have to heave your things over a large load lip and when you want to expand the load space the backrests merely flop onto the seat bases, creating a large sloping step. There's a wide range of trim levels to choose from. Zetec is our favourite: it gets the air-con and front electric windows of Edge cars plus sporty styling and alloys. All models have Isofix points on the outer rear seats, including top-tether points. Ford's MyKey technology is also standard and allows parents to set maximum speed and audio volume limits for different drivers. It also mutes audio sources until the seatbelts are fastened and stops driver aids and safety systems from being turned off.
Ford has a good record in reliability surveys and did pretty well for reliability in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey. All Fiestas come with stability control and five airbags, including a driver's knee bag, but it's disappointing that curtain airbags (which protect rear passengers too) are a £275 cost option. At least front passenger airbag deactivation is standard so you can fit a Group 0+ seat here. The car did well in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring the maximum five stars including 86% for child occupants. Deadlocks and a vehicle ID number make life difficult for thieves.
The Fiesta is easy on fuel, cheap to insure and big discounts are available from dealers. It doesn't have the best re-sale values but if you buy at the right price, you shouldn't lose too much cash some re-sale time.