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What is the Ford Fiesta?
It’s virtually impossible not to have heard of the Ford Fiesta. The name has been gracing the tailgates of superminis for more than four decades, and it's been Britain’s bestselling car for years on end.
The original Fiesta went on sale in the UK in early 1977: it’s a small hatchback that competes head-on with the likes of the Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, SEAT Ibiza, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo among a range of alternatives. Now in its seventh generation, the Fiesta remains one of the best cars of its type, especially in rapid ST guise.
The Mk7 Ford Fiesta Hatchback is available as both a three- and five-door, which is quite unusual these days – most of its major rivals have dropped the three-door versions. That said, Ford only offers the three-door Fiesta in entry-level and sportier trim levels.
Additionally, Ford expanded its crossover range in 2018 with the Ford Fiesta Active. It looks like a regular five-door Fiesta, but with an elevated ride height and chunky black plastic mouldings giving it the look of an SUV. It’s a theme Ford is keen to develop as the Fiesta followed the short-lived Ka+ Active, but joined more recently by the Focus Active.
Ford has kept the basic engine range simple with three basic units of 1.1-litre Ti-VCT and 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrols – the latter in three different power outputs, as well as a 1.5-litre TDCi diesel. Topping the range is a 200hp 1.5-litre EcoBoost in the Fiesta ST.
As has been the case for decades, Ford offers the Fiesta in a wide variety of trim levels with highlights – ST aside – including the sporty looking ST-Line and the leather-trimmed Vignale. Most customers opted for the unpretentious Zetec specification until this was replaced by Trend in summer 2019. Plus, if you need a compact carry-all, Ford still offers a Fiesta Van. It may be short on outright space, but it remains great to drive.
It takes all that’s good about regular Fiestas and amplifies every facet. Not only is it bona fide sports car quick – a top speed of 144mph and a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds confirm that – it’s great fun to drive, with brilliantly engaging handling.
Ford has used the ST initials – they stand for Sports Technologies – for its fastest Fiestas since the Mk5. Hot hatchbacks had largely fallen out of favour, in part due to spirally insurance costs, during the Mk4’s lifecycle, so the Fiesta Zetec-S was the quickest version of the Mk4.
In Mk3 guise Ford offered the Fiesta XR2i plus the even quicker RS Turbo and RS 1800 – still the only Fiestas to have RS badging. Before that, the hottest Mk1 and Mk2 versions were badged Fiesta XR2, with carburetor-fed 1.6-litre engines and what would be considered today as modest performance.
Despite being on sale for almost a decade, the Mk6 Fiesta remained as one of the best-handling superminis throughout its production run. Consequently, it’s not a major surprise to discover that the Mk7 is a heavily re-engineered version of its predecessor, explaining why it’s so similar in shape and size. This also explains how Ford continues to offer a three-door version.
It’s not a simple reskin, though. Every aspect of what lurks beneath the bodywork has been honed and improved, making the Mk7 more fuel efficient and better to drive.
Yes, yes and yes. The Fiesta continues to offer a remarkable combination of roadholding, driver engagement and comfort that rivals seem unable or unwilling to compete directly against. Even if you choose a low-spec Fiesta, it remains a delight to drive, but the whole package gets better the more power it has, so the 200hp at your disposal in the ST helps make it a sure-fire hit.
Given that so many people buy Fiestas on finance these days, its competitive list prices are almost an irrelevance, but when the Mk7 was launched in 2017, Ford scored an own goal by pitching its PCP and PCH costs higher than those of its key rivals. In the intervening time, they’ve dropped significantly, enabling the Fiesta to be considered the default choice among its peers.
See how drivers of the seventh-generation Ford Fiesta rate their cars with our comprehensive owners’ reviews.
Ford Fiesta Model History
Sixth-generation Ford Fiesta (2008-17)
So different was the Mk6 Fiesta in terms of styling compared with its predecessor that Ford reportedly considered changing its name to Verve. Three- and five-door versions of the Mk6 Ford Fiesta Hatchback were available from launch with a wide array of petrol and diesel engines from 1.0- to 1.6-litres.
Less well-received were the Fiesta-based Ford B-Max MPV, complete with sliding rear doors, and the top-heavy-looking Ford EcoSport SUV, a car that’s had a lot of revisions to try to make it less mediocre.
A mid-life facelift arrived in 2012 when the grille was repositioned higher up the front bumper and, on many models, garnished with chrome-look details.
That same year also marked the arrival of the Ford Fiesta ST, immediately cementing its reputation as the best small hot hatch money could buy.
Find out what drivers of the sixth-generation Fiesta think of their cars with our owners’ reviews and browse dozens of used Ford Fiestas for sale.
Fifth-generation Ford Fiesta (2002-08)
For the Mk5 Fiesta, Ford introduced an altogether different way of thinking for what was an all-new model.
Taller and more practical, the five-door Ford Fiesta Hatchback arrived in spring 2002, with the sportier three-door featuring a lower roofline and a more sloping rear window following in the autumn.
Although they remained the only Fiesta-badged versions on sale, their underpinnings also served as the basis for the Ford Fusion, a halfway house between an MPV and an SUV. It proved to be a missed opportunity, being neither one thing nor other, not helped by looking very similar to the five-door Fiesta, too, but it was available until 2012.
A familiar range of small-capacity petrol and diesel engines powered the Fiesta, but topping the range from 2004 was the first Fiesta ST, propelled by a 150hp 2.0-litre engine.
Revisions arrived towards the end of 2005 with a minor facelift introducing circular elements to the head and tail lights, as well as a revamped interior.
Fourth-generation Ford Fiesta (1995-02)
Rather than starting with a clean sheet of paper, the Mk4 Fiesta that appeared in 1995 was a heavily re-engineered version of the Mk3, which had appeared six years earlier.
Although the rounded styling inside and out was very different, the proportions, interior space and many of the windows were exactly the same as the 1989 vintage. Still, it didn’t stop it from being a popular choice.
Central to the three- and five-door Ford Fiesta Hatchback’s appeal was that it was very engaging to drive – a trait that had been successfully introduced with the Mk1 Mondeo in 1993. Although older 1.3-litre petrols and 1.8-litre diesels were carried over, there was much interest in the Zetec range of 16-valve engines, particularly in zesty 1.25-litre guise.
Between 1995 and 1999, high-spec Ghia and Ghia X Fiestas were notable for having a clear plastic surround for the oval grille, giving the impression – from a distance, at least – that it and the headlamps were a single entity. It was a feature Ford had tried on a number of North American cars, but it wasn’t well-liked in Europe.
The 1999 Fiesta facelift kept much of the car as it was, except for a new nose with a Focus-style headlamp and grille.
Less popular then – and even less well-known now – was the 1996-2000 Mazda 121. No more than a rebadged Fiesta with a different grille design, sales continued until stocks ran dry, but European markets also received the version that corresponded with the Fiesta facelift.
Third-generation Ford Fiesta (1989-96)
At last! An all-new Fiesta with, for the first time, a pair of rear doors. Ford finally gave in and engineered its supermini to offer something many of its rivals had done for well over a decade with a five-door version of its popular small hatch.
On sale from spring 1989 in three- and five-door Ford Fiesta Hatchback form, the Mk3’s styling was rather conservative given how radical the Sierra and Granada ranges had been that debuted in the years before it.
The diverse range was first crowned by the Fiesta XR2i with its distinctive bright blue bumper inserts, and topped again in 1990 by the RS Turbo with green detailing. Both gave way to 16-valve engine replacements within a couple of years, the latter becoming the RS 1800 in the process. Before the end of its lifecyle, they were all dropped in favour of the lukewarm Si, designed to circumvent ever-increasing insurance premiums for hot hatches.
Other engines in the range were largely carried over from other models in Ford’s range, starting with an underwhelming 1.0-litre petrol up to a 1.8-litre diesel – think slow, but frugal.
A mild facelift in 1992 introduced improved seats and interior trims, but the only external cues that differed were revised wheels and clear instead of amber front indicator lenses.
Although the Mk4 arrived in 1995, the third-generation model continued to be sold alongside it for a year as the Ford Fiesta Classic – irony notwithstanding – until it was replaced 12 months later by the original Ford Ka.
Second-generation Ford Fiesta (1983-89)
The Mk2 Fiesta was essentially the same car as the original, but with an aerodynamic front-end and rounded tailgate to bring it more into line with the brand’s other models.
Even a new, high-level dashboard couldn’t disguise the fact that the second-generation Fiesta was little more than a facelift.
Numerous special editions helped maintain interest in the ageing car, while there was a degree of plushness with Ghia models and a purposeful air to the Fiesta XR2, complete with front spotlamps.
First-generation Ford Fiesta (1977-83)
Ford was somewhat late to the supermini party in the late-1970s when the Mk1 Fiesta appeared. As an all-new model, which was expected to be called Bravo until shortly before it was launched, it slotted below the Mk2 Escort in Ford's range, but in many instances it was slightly more expensive than the two-door versions of its bigger brother.
Three doors only, the Fiesta reached the UK in spring 1977, following its European debut the year before. Ford initially pitched it as an economy car, but it wasn’t too long before Ghia and sporty S trim levels appeared to bolster its appeal.
For many, the pinnacle of the range was the Fiesta XR2 introduced for 1981, with circular headlamps in place of the regular ones, a smattering of black exterior trim and the option of the famous pepperpot alloy wheels. Its 0-60mph time of 9.3 seconds seems unremarkable today.