Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Petrol-only line-up, with mild-hybrid boost
  • Four engines, multiple power outputs
  • No fully-electric versions on the cards

Petrol engines

There are four main engine options to choose from here – all petrols. There’s a mix of standard petrols and mild-hybrids, ranging between 75 and 155hp, with the 200hp Fiesta ST being covered by its own review.

The 1.1-litre 75hp comes with a five-speed manual, and at 105Nm produces half the torque of the 125hp. It’s a simpler, older design of engine and at 14.5 seconds to 62mph, offers performance from an earlier generation as well.

Every other version comes with a six-speed manual, as well as Sport or Eco drive modes to adjust the throttle response. It’s an admirable effort that feels solid, with excellent lever placement in the cabin helping no end. ST-Line versions are even more encouraging to drive with a shorter, stubby gearlever slotting into gears nicely.

The majority of the line-up uses a three-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine. It’s muscular, quiet and smooth to rev out. The entry-level 95hp (170Nm) version provides adequate power to shift the Fiesta along, but won’t set your pulse racing. In reality it’s not that much slower than the 125hp (or earlier 140hp) engines, but feels a little restrained. The 125hp EcoBoost is a great middle ground, offering more sprightly performance and 62mph in 9.4 seconds, without the associated costs. The real advantage however is the way it pulls from low revs, with 210Nm torque, so you don’t need to shift down gears so often.

While it struggles in the larger Puma SUV, this picks up momentum nicely in this little hatchback – it’s best sampled above 30mph from third gear as you build up to the national speed limit, as you appreciate the mid-range muscle from the turbocharged engine. We think the 155hp engine is the best of the bunch, and as well it should be given it’s the second most expensive, but in-gear pace for both of the mild-hybrid models is really quite impressive.

Ford Fiesta automatic

If you want an automatic gearbox there’s currently only one choice – perhaps reflecting the fact Ford reckons only 8% of Fiestas will be so equipped. In 2020, a seven-speed, quick-shifting double-clutch automatic was fitted to the 125hp engine and replaced the previous, six-speed torque-converter automatic found on the 100hp version.

Don’t worry too much about the difference – the upshot is that it takes a little less longer to shift gears than it used to, even if the response from the diminutive steering wheel-mounted shift paddles might not be as immediate as you’d hope. For the most part though, it’s a reasonably smooth gearbox and only becomes a little jerky if you want to accelerate very quickly.

Although quick off the line and faster than before, this drivetrain can feel like it runs out of puff sooner than the manual, so it’s probably best to pick the latter if you prioritise performance over convenience.

Diesel engines

In previous years Ford offered the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel in 85hp or 120hp form. It’s a strong unit well suited to long distance driving, but outclassed by the EcoBoost petrol for refinement. If you want a diesel, you’ll need to look at nearly-new or used Ford Fiestas.

Handling

  • As good, if not better, than ever
  • Still a benchmark for ride and handling mix
  • Easy to park and turn in small spaces

Here’s an interesting fact about the Fiesta’s handling: Ford’s engineers have dialled back the resistance of the steering by around 20%. On the face of it you’d think Ford’s approach might feel overly light, but instead there’s a wonderfully immediate and predictable response. Driving the Fiesta across fast B-roads can be done with confidence because you can tell exactly what it’s going to do.

The amount of grip is higher than ever, but it’s the way it soaks up lumps and bumps in the road that really stands out. In fairness the seventh-generation Fiesta was particularly good at this too, but jumping out of rival cars it’s very noticeable indeed. Ford’s technicians have done lots of work on the brakes, too, with a sharper initial bite and far shorter stopping distances. This doesn’t translate to a ‘grabby’ pedal feel, though – like the rest of the car’s handling, it feels very well resolved and harmonious.

Choose a Fiesta ST-Line and you get a different experience. More responsive steering and a 10mm ride height drop that keeps bodyroll in check. Despite that, and standard 17-inch wheels, the ride remains supple and avoids the harshness some manufacturers consider ‘sporty’.