Movie sequels are hardly ever as good as the original. Case in point: Happy Feet Two. While it was disappointing in many ways, it did feature the funkily infectious "Numma Numma" and a saying that's particularly apt to this article: "Sometimes, to move forward, you have to take a step back." And this is exactly what Ford has done with the Fiesta. Gone is the big, powerful 1.6, replaced by a slightly less big, slightly less powerful 1.5. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That's what we're here to find out.
There was nothing wrong with the previous Fiesta's front end, but Ford scrapped it anyway. The new front end has drawn comparisons to Aston Martin. Which is strange, as the grille isn't shaped like a hat. It's still uncommonly sharp and protruding for a front-wheel-drive car, especially as the rest of the exterior has been left alone. While the sedan gets new taillights that clean up the rear end a bit, the hatchback's rear end is identical to the old one's. This Sport variant gets larger 16-inch wheels and a subtle yet handsome bodykit. No stripes this time around, though.
While the interior is mostly the same, the new mirror-finish black plastic trim is a nice upgrade. The familiar Nokia-ish center console and info-screen remain, as does the sporty twin gauge cluster. The Sport variant's leather-and-fabric seats are cool to the touch and very supportive. Gone are the silly crank-type seat recliners, replaced by more conventional pull-levers. There's also more storage space in the center console than before. Unfortunately, rear-seat legroom and headroom are still tight compared to other full-size subcompacts. Compared with other new subcompacts like the Nissan Almera and the Toyota Vios, the Fiesta's 2,498mm wheelbase comes up a bit, er, short.
The new 1.5-liter mill is likewise short on power, compared to the old 1.6. Otherwise, it's smooth, offering more performance than the automatic Vios or Almera. The dual-clutch transmission is still a bit jerky around town, and loses the hyper-aggressive "L" mode in favor of a rocker switch that allows manual shifting in "S" mode. I still prefer "L" mode, as it's more responsive. Fuel economy does seem better than before, at 7.5-10km/L in the city and 15-18km/L on the highway. Eco-driving experiments suggest that over 20km/L is possible if you drive really, really, really slow.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Of course, the Fiesta might have other ideas. The Fiesta has always been a smashing good steer. Even better, the steering feels a bit firmer. The Sport variant gets uprated springs, and outright agility is second to none in this class. Despite the ironclad body control, firm shock absorbers keep the ride settled and comfortable over most surfaces, though it's still a bit busy compared with the regular Fiesta. Wind and road noises are well-controlled, and the Fiesta's tidy dimensions and backing-up sensors make it very easy to maneuver and park.
The Fiesta also comes with automatic climate control, voice control, Bluetooth, Microsoft Sync and a rocking sound system with good punch and clear sound. There's a new eco-driving setting for the center screen that shows you how well you've done, but it's not quite as useful or intuitive as an instant feedback display. Third-passenger shoulder belts and Isofix mounts seem to be the norm rather than the exception nowadays, but they're worth noting anyway. The Sport package comes with the aforementioned leather seats, bodykit and alloy wheels. Also exclusive to the Sport variant is that signature Chili Orange paint.
It's a bit disappointing that the Fiesta hasn't grown longer with this facelift, as the back seat suffers compared to the likes of the Vios and the Almera. Still, it's possibly the most refined car in the class. The new 1.5-liter engine isn't quite as powerful as the old 1.6, but the extra economy is most welcome. While not quite as convincing a family car as some of its competitors, the Fiesta is better to drive than ever--and is still the life of the party.
We wish, however, that one could get the Sport package with a manual. Maybe next year.
SPECS: Ford Fiesta Sport DCT
Engine: 1.5 liter Ti-VT gasoline
Transmission: dual-clutch automatic
Power: 112hp @ 6,300rpm
Torque: 140Nm @ 4,300rpm
Drive layout: FWD
Photos by Niky Tamayo