1) It's not all-new but it's new where it matters
Ford took the existing platform and the best of the engines, sure. But you’ll see that the engineers and designers have had a serious go at fixing what needed fixing (cabin, mostly), and even what didn’t (chassis). The range is wider. And you can spec it with a bounty of big-car features. The way Ford tells it, because the old Fiesta was the number-one-selling small car in Europe, and people still like the design and love the dynamics, then it’s “earned the right to evolve” rather than needing a total reinvention.
2) It looks more grown-up
At first look, the design has been simplified: a couple of bonnet creases have gone, and the big arches above the wheels. The headlamp outline is calmer. But actually there’s a lot going on in the surfaces. A strongly convex section in the doors causes an extra reflected line that runs downward from roughly the front of the front door (depends on the light) toward the top of the rear wheel. It contrasts with the upward-moving crease that runs through the door handles, making an arrowhead shape along the side of the car.
To achieve this, the doors have pretty deep pressings. To make them open without fouling each other, new hinges had to be designed. The lights and jewelry have had some love. Most versions get LED outlines for the headlamp and tail clusters.
It’s not just the old glasshouse. The base of the A-post has gone backward a bit, to lengthen the hood. The rear glass ‘uptick’ is more pronounced. And there’s more high-strength steel in the pillars, for crash safety.
3) The cabin design is transformed
If you’ve driven a Fiesta lately you’ll have been shocked by its gritty blue dot matrix screen and mosaic of buttons. Now, finally, Ford is consigning that to the museum. It’s all about the touchscreen now. They say it wipes 20 buttons off the dash, though they’ve sensibly kept as hard keys a few useful shortcuts and climate controls. The systems can do iOS and Android phone mirroring as well as running apps including Spotify and AccuWeather.
Top-enders, including anything with built-in navigation, rock an 8-inch tablet. Even the mainstream ones have a 6.5-incher in the same housing. In Ford language these use the Sync 3 operating system, as per Ford’s big cars. It’s connected, for traffic and apps, via your phone’s data plan, rather than having its own embedded data SIM.
Base Fiestas versions have a 4.2-inch color screen plus a dock to mount and charge phones.
4) You'll probably be sitting comfortably
The front seats are based on Focus items, and they slide back further now, and adjust for height. The steering column goes up-down-in-out so the driving position should suit just about anyone. In the back there’s slightly more knee room, found by re-jigging the rear seat back.
5) Engines improve again after a year
Only a year after launch, in 2018 the EcoBoost engines get a cylinder-deactivation system. This should make them more economical in real driving.
6) Chassis: Was good, now better
Ford says the existing Fiesta chassis made it the most fun small car. Maybe, though if they want the new one to be ‘premium’ it’ll have to take on the Mini.
So it’s getting some new parts. At the front there’s a stiffer subframe for better precision. They’ve gone through the steering to reduce friction—Ford has always been good at this. There are split top-mount bushes, soft longitudinally for refinement and hard laterally for steering precision. There’s a new rear torsion beam too, related to the Fiesta ST200. Despite all this stiffening, the engineers claim a ride that’s quieter and less harsh.
7) Hoop and anchor
Wheels start at 16-inch and rise, on the ST-Line and Vignale (pictured), to 18-inch ones. So the engineers tell us to expect more grip, especially because the front track is 30mm wider to make space for those big wheels. Any Fiesta with 100hp and above gets disc rear brakes where drums did the job before. The result, Ford claims, is better feel than before and stopping distance from 100kph similar to a last-gen 911.
8) Big sky
A panoramic glass roof is on the options list for the first time in a Fiesta. The panes are almost the full width of the roof, and the front one slides back over the rear.
9) Big sounds
An optional B&O sound system uses 10 speakers. Among them are a front center mid-range cone, and a sub in the trunk. It’s all driven by 675 watts of amplification. Digital signal processing gives you surround sound options, and aims to give a good stereo image to everyone in the car.
10) Big-car driver tech
Spec all the assistance systems and a Fiesta images its surroundings via two cameras, three radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors. The collision-mitigation system uses radar and cameras to ‘see’ ahead for 130 meters, and can even detect pedestrians at night by the light of the headlamps.
The self-parking system doesn’t just steer the car and tell you when to brake, as others do. It will brake itself if you don’t. Ford found that many people, using this device for the first time, are so bowled over by the experience they’re too paralyzed to hit the pedal, and bash the adjacent vehicle.
For reversing out of spaces, the Fiesta is the only small car to have cross traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and blind spot alert should keep you out of other cars’ way at a cruise.
The speed limit sign warning can spot and memorize the different speed limits on different lanes of an expressway, as displayed on gantries. Then if you change lane, it’ll change the indication to tell you the speed in your new lane.
11) A new Fiesta ST is coming
Ford refuses to announce this officially. But we quietly asked Roelant de Waard, Ford of Europe’s sales and marketing boss and a true petrolhead. He pointed out the ST is the best-selling small hot-hatch in Europe. "We’d be crazy to walk away from that."
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.