- New Ford Fiesta due to be unveiled later in 2016
- What can the new car learn from our long-termer?
- Click here to read our in-depth Ford Fiesta review
Update 1: welcome
As long-termers go, I was pretty excited with the news of a Ford Fiesta Zetec S Black Edition joining the Parkers long-term fleet for three months. As a previous owner of a 1.0-litre Fiesta Zetec S, I knew what I was getting in for and couldn't wait to get reunited with one again.
As well as being fun to drive and cheap to run, it's fair to say the eye-catching paintwork has added to the appeal. Admittedly, when the Black Edition's paintwork was unveiled at launch, initial responses could best described as mixed.
But while some are still unsure sure about the red roof, the red detailing on the front grille is definitely a smart touch. The headlight units with integrated LED daytime-running lights finish off the look and now come as standard on most models thanks to a range update in 2015.
It's undoubtedly bold though and for once, we're struggling to use the word 'subtle' to describe a black car. There's no escaping inside either thanks to a set of matching bright red seats.
With a generous kit list, our Black Edition comes with an array of options including: climate control, cruise control, satellite navigation, automatic lights and wipers, dimming rear-view mirror, 14-inch spare wheel, rear tinted windows, rear parking sensors and autonomous braking.
This does push the price into Fiesta ST territory, but we'll delve into the merits of a Black Edition as time goes on. Luckily, the engine choice is simple with only one to choose from - a 1.0-litre 138bhp, three-cylinder petrol unit.
For now though, we'll just enjoy driving a good-looking warm hatch which should cost pennies to run.
Fuel Economy: 37.2mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer
Update 2: fun with SYNC
Nowadays, if anyone asked me what the two essential parts of interior kit are for any new car, I'd answer with “air-conditioning and a USB port”.
The thing is, our Black Edition has been having trouble with the basic functionality of one of these since day one: plugging in my iPod into the USB port usually results in the SYNC system freezing and having a meltdown.
Typically, five minutes into the journey the music cuts out and you’re left with no USB functionality whatsoever.
You can solve this by simply unplugging the USB cable and plugging it straight back in again to reconnect the iPod, but despite the Settings menus offering a "Master reset" option, this doesn’t appear to do anything to resolve the issue.
The third-generation iPod isn't the most up to date, but other users with iPhones running on the much fresher iOS 9.3 have still had problems.
Those who connect via Bluetooth have also found their contacts on their iPhone periodically losing all of their saved names, even after they've disconnected!
Reconnect by fuse
After owning an early example of a Fiesta ST in 2013 with an even more problematic system, I’ve had to reintroduce myself to the old method of resetting the system manually, via the fuse box - something which I thought was a thing of the past. We learned this practice through Ford owner forums:
- Open the glove box and pinch the sides at the rear to fully lower the door
- Locate the fuse box and identify Fuse 24 via the manual, which correlates to the SYNC module
- Remove the ten-amp fuse briefly (for 20 seconds or so), and reinsert before closing the glovebox
This loses your Bluetooth settings but it does appear to stabilise the software. Whether this is a permanent fix remains to be seen, but we suspect this particular foible is a one-off, considering the Fiesta ownership experience since 2013 has largely been trouble-free.
SYNC reliability has improved over the years and we can only deduce this is down to a bad software installation.
It's just a shame that for us in the UK, we don’t have the option to download future software updates onto a USB drive to install ourselves.
Mileage: 3,629 Fuel Economy: 38.5mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer
Update 3: on the beat
Our attention has turned to what lies beneath the bonnet of our long-termer, and it looks to be a case of “out with the old, in with the new.”
Look at the current Ford Fiesta range and the 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine replaces the old 1.4- and 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, with a choice of 100hp, 125hp and 140hp power outputs.
In 2015, nearly one in three Ford vehicles were sold in the UK with this engine, but can you honestly lose one cylinder and have a turbocharger to compensate for it?
It certainly appears so. Since its launch back in 2011, this tiny EcoBoost engine has consistently been in the news; winning awards globally and seeing off other three-cylinder engines from competing manufacturers. Winning the "Best engine under 1.0-litre” category for the fifth year in a row at the 2016 International Engine of the Year awards was just the icing on the cake.
Do we agree?
With a resounding yes. It’s a fantastic engine. With a wide spread of torque available, this small-capacity engine punches above its weight bringing a great level of flexibility through the gears. This prevents you from having to change down a gear (or two) all the time and the old days of hunting for second gear on inclines have become a distant memory.
In the Zetec S model, the old 1.6-litre petrol might have been more rewarding to rev higher up, but the 1.0-litre makes up for this with very little lag, consistent low-to-mid 40mpg and decent refinement.
It sounds good too, although with modern cars heavily dressed with sound deadening nowadays, we do wish the thrummy off-beat engine noise was a bit louder in the cabin.
And what about the competition?
As it currently stands, downsizing to small-capacity turbocharged engines seem to be a worthy exercise. For the rest of the Parkers team, the 130hp 1.2-litre Puretech found in Peugeots and Citroens is the Ford’s closest rival, receiving high praise with even a couple rooting for that as their particular favourite.
Kia’s 120hp 1.0-litre offering appears to be more joyous to rev, while the 115hp 1.0-litre Vauxhall Corsa feels even more muscular.
Audi’s 115hp engine in the A1 appears to divide opinion, but the team uniformly agree it feels underwhelming in the larger A3. The Skoda Octavia however manages to be the only larger-bodied car which mates well with a small-capacity engine.
After sampling the 136hp 1.5-litre version in a BMW 118i recently, it was quite disappointing to discover a premium product suffered from comparatively high vibration levels upon start-up (think old-fashioned diesel-judder).
Three is the magic number
With the combined level of performance and fuel efficiency we’ve had in our Fiesta so far, we’re struggling to see why you’d have a diesel unless you covered high miles. This all-round package is going to be a difficult one to beat.
Mileage: 4,208 Fuel economy: 41.2mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer
Update 4: from fun to hysterical
We’ve turned up the heat with our long-termer recently. With a flagship Fiesta ST200 landing at the Parkers office, it’s safe to say there’s been a queue forming to get those keys. Our Black Edition is proving a fun little car already, so the proposition of being able to draw a wider smile on our faces has just been too tempting.
How does it stack up though?
Look from the outside and there doesn’t appear to be much differentiation between the two – the side skirts and rear spoiler appear to be the same, but the ST200’s rear bumper and wheels look more expensive. To some, our Black Edition’s front bumper looks even more aggressive than the ST200’s, with its pronounced front chin spoiler.
Climb aboard the ST200 and you instantly notice the fabulously-bolstered Recaro seats. The side supports effectively give you a big welcoming hug, letting you know you’re not in a typical Fiesta. The Black Edition’s seats feel relatively flat in comparison, but the adjustable lumbar support offers a more flexible degree of comfort for the driver.
Besides the special ST200 plaque, silver stitching on the seatbelts and different coloured instrument dials though, there’s very little difference in the interior for the money.
Push the starter button and everything from the engine to the exhaust is louder. Set off down the road and the steering, engine and brakes immediately feel sharper. Prod the accelerator pedal and instead of a surge of acceleration found in the Black Edition, you get an addictive, muscular shove into the seat.
"Right, so this is where the extra money goes..."
Start to push on, and the firm suspension equates to minimal bodyroll and a great sense of agility through the bends. Put simply, the ST200 simply feeds to the senses more, whether it’s visually, aurally or physically, and you soon find yourself not just smiling as you would in the Black Edition, but hysterically laughing to yourself.
Is it all good news?
Not necessarily. Hopping back into the Black Edition revealed how talented the basic Fiesta underpinnings are. The softer and more forgiving setup of our long-termer has still got plenty to appreciate about it, while thumping around on the ST200’s firmer suspension may prove wearisome after a while. Especially on a long journey when you want to relax.
The Black Edition proves capable enough to be an effective weapon down a back road too and would be quite difficult to keep up with; the ST200 is undoubtedly quicker but the performance gap you see on paper (0-62mph drops from 9.0 seconds to 6.7seconds) isn’t quite so large in reality.
The immediate sense of urgency in the ST200 to attack a country road is the biggest difference here, but the compliance and fluidity of the Black Edition provides a greater sense of daily usability.
Here’s the elephant in the room. Our Black Edition with all our added options costs £18,645 - which is already steep enough for a supermini in my mind – while the ST200 costs £22,745 which is frankly mind-boggling. I’m not sure if I’d be laughing so hard behind the wheel again having paid that amount.
The ST200 might be hysterical to drive, but so is its price. Its long-term appeal might just be its ace card, bearing in mind this limited run model wears exclusive wheels, grey paint finish and comes with unique gearing. Keeping a standard ST200 could be a sound long-term investment if you can stomach the pricetag.
Fuel economy: 44.4.mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer
Update 5: throwing toys out of the pram
It’s been an eventful week with our long-term Black Edition. Troublesome iPod issues aside, the Fiesta has been providing trouble-free motoring up until now but it’s decided to throw a few toys out the pram in one go. Maybe it’s a sign of attention-seeking after the presence of that ST200…
First of all, the automatic wipers and lights malfunctioned, flagging up a message on the centre dash on every start-up. They continued to work manually, but just not of their own accord.
The air-conditioning decided to stop working too which, of all times to do so over the course of the year, could not have occurred at a worse time – it's not what you want while stuck in traffic in 25-degree heat!
So we booked it in to TC Harrison Ford in Peterborough for a diagnosis. While it was there, we decided to have the SYNC system investigated too.
During its overnight stay, certain wiring looms fitted behind the dash and along the A-pillar inside the cabin were replaced and the air-conditioning was recharged. An updated version of the SYNC software was installed too, in an attempt to solve the iPod issue. All the work was carried out at no cost under warranty.
Happily, our Fiesta is now back to normal. In the process of refitting the cabin after its wire transplant, the dashboard feels better built than before too; it's eliminated a vibrating buzz that used to reside deep within the dash.
Mileage: 5,659 Fuel economy: 41.2mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer
Update 6: how on earth will the new Fiesta top this?
It’s hard to believe the new seventh-generation Ford Fiesta will land this winter. Ford is only a few weeks away from revealing its new supermini, throwing our end-of-line special edition into sharp relief.
The omens are good for the newcomer. Our Black Edition is a fine drive – it handles, steers and rides with a rare delicacy seldom found at this cheap and cheerful sector of the marketplace.
And our tiny, downsized 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is a real highlight; it provides a fine balance between eager thrust and a zippy willingness to rev with impressively low CO2 emissions (104g/km) and a claimed 62.8mpg average economy (we’re averaging nearer 40 though).
Only a cruddy interior lets it down. That Motorola-inspired dashboard with its explosion-in-a-button-factory vibe is about the only thing that grates. I’m sure the new 2017 Fiesta will answer that with planned improvements to connectivity, cabin materials and Ford’s latest Sync voice-activation technology.
In the meantime, Parkers’ long-term test Fiesta has reminded me why British car buyers have such good taste. After all, it’s been the UK’s bestselling car for seven years on the trot. Bodes well for the Mk7 Fiesta, I’d wager.
Mileage: 5,903 Fuel Economy: 44.1mpg
By Tim Pollard, Digital Editor-in-Chief
Update 7: farewell
It’s time to bid farewell to our long-term Fiesta after four months and 4,000 miles.
Time flies when you’re having fun and it has felt like our time with the Black Edition has been cut somewhat short.
Fun to drive, but economy could be better
Apart from the brake pedal not being as sharp as we’re used to on Fords, what makes our Fiesta memorable is the way it drives. The flexible 1.0-litre engine and sharp handling mean you don’t have to drive at high speeds in order to enjoy it, which helps keep fuel costs down.
That said, our long-term Mazda 2 with its larger 1.5-litre engine proved that downsizing engines and fitting turbochargers hasn’t necessarily maximised fuel efficiency. Our average 42mpg is good for a 140hp car, but it trails behind the Mazda’s overall average of 50mpg – despite the larger engine.
They both share the same £20 annual road tax bill too, at time of publication.
While the Fiesta’s rivals have moved on technologically with touchscreens and complex menu systems, our long-termer is a great example of a car that functions well with just the basics: you can just hop in the car, turn the key and simply drive off. There are no driving modes to configure or endless menus to scroll through that might otherwise distract while driving.
Despite this, the trip computer and central infotainment screen are woefully small by today’s standards, and typing destinations into the sat-nav via the Ford’s keypad buttons does bring back memories of texting on a Nokia 3310.
Is the Black edition the Fiesta to pick?
While some of us love the exterior colour scheme of our Black Edition, there are some who’d simply choose a regular ST-Line (or Zetec S before June 2016), in a brighter metallic paint finish.
The additional extras over a standard ST-Line are purely cosmetic, meaning you won’t be missing out on any luxuries, and it allows you to option a five-door too.
At the time of writing, our Black edition has been fitted with over £1,500-worth of options. The most expensive one is the sat-nav, which we'd forgo, using either a smartphone or separate aftermarket device instead.
The spare wheel and active city stop would be worth considering for safety but the cruise control, privacy glass, climate control, rear parking sensors and automatic windscreen wipers and headlights are nice to have but not essential.
When this generation of Fiesta will be replaced, it will have been on sale for just over eight years. It's one of those cars that has aged well and if you ask around the Parkers office, we hope that Ford simply updates that old-fashioned cabin and leaves the rest of the package alone. Oh, and fit some bigger wipers up front please to clear a larger surface area of the windscreen.
That said, this is still a prime example of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it".
Mileage: 6,554 Fuel Economy: 38.7mpg
By Lawrence Cheung, Web Producer