Ford’s Fiesta has been a sales success ever since the company first launched it back in the ‘70s. In South Africa, the sixth incarnation went on to become South African Car of the Year in 1998.

Since then, Fiesta has constantly featured in the top 20 of our best-selling cars, with models like the current ST doing much to bring back hot hatch fanaticism in the B segment. After spending two days behind the wheel of the latest generation Fiesta, I don’t believe it would be presumptuous to say that Ford again has a winner on its hand.

New Fiesta is Ford’s first new global car – probably since the Model T. As Hal Feder, President and CEO of Ford SA, underlined, Ford products sold in the USA traditionally differ dramatically from those sold in Europe. They’re styled differently and packaged differently, and each is significantly more expensive to build.

By creating a global car, economies of scale kick into action due to platform sharing and less parts bins. Fiesta is therefore a very important car for Ford, as it’s the first Ford to be sold across the globe in a single design. Whether you live in Cape Town, California or Cologne, there is only one Fiesta.

It’s being introduced with a choice of three engines: a 1.4-litre petrol, 1.6-petrol and 1.6-litre turbo diesel. The updated 1.4-litre petrol motor has a maximum output of 71kW at 5 750rpm and a maximum torque output of 125Nm at 4 500rpm. As with all the Fiesta models fuel consumption is frugal with a combined cycle consumption of 5.9 litres/100kms.

The new Fiesta also sees the introduction of a 1.6-litre Duratec Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) petrol engine to the range. The new motor produces 88kW at 6 000rpm and has a torque peak of 149Nm at 4 250rpm. Despite its feisty character, the 1.6-litre petrol engine obtains a combined cycle fuel consumption measuring in at 5.9 litres/100km.

The state-of-the-art common-rail Duratorq TDCi engine features new technologies, enhanced fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and improved performance. The diesel motor serves up 66kW at 4 000rpm and has a torque peak of 200Nm at just 1 500rpm. The average fuel consumption on the combined cycle is just 4.2 litres/100km.

The new Fiesta will be offered in a choice of either 5-door or 3-door body styles with three specification levels on offer. Despite being the entry level model, the Ambiente offers an extensive array of features including a radio/CD with six speakers, air conditioning, power steering, front-operated power windows, steering wheel audio controls, tinted windows, rear fog lamps and a headlamp delay feature.

The exterior styling features include colour-coded bumpers and a rear spoiler, self colour doors and lift gate handles as well as 15” steel wheels. Safety is also of the highest standard with dual airbags, a driver belt reminder, ABS with EBD and a centre high mounted stop lamp providing peace of mind.

The Trend series takes inspiration from designer clothing to emphasise a contemporary feel. In addition to the features already found on the Ambiente model, the Trend series boasts features such as heated power mirrors with integrated indicators, remote central locking with two flip keys, illuminated double locking, rear electric windows and a Bluetooth vehicle interface with voice control. Body colour door handles, front and rear mud flaps and 15” alloy wheels further enhance the exterior appearance.

The top of the range Titanium model employs high contrast finishes for a sleek, technical appearance, inspired by premium technology brands.

Aesthetic lighting, map reading lamp and trip computer further enhance the dynamic appeal of the Titanium series, as do the exterior styling cues that include chrome accents, 16” alloy wheels, halogen projector headlamps, front fog lamps with chrome bezel and a partial body kit that includes a bumper grille and rear spoiler.

A sport body kit with 16” alloy wheels, an ICE (In Car Entertainment) audio and Bluetooth system with voice control and a USB jack further enhance the dynamic appeal of the Titanium series. In three door body style the Titanium model benefits from the addition of a full body kit.

The first derivative I had the pleasure of driving was the 1.6 TDCI in 5-door Ambiente specification. On our drive from Cape Town International Airport to Worcester, via the Du Toitskloof Pass, the new TDCI impressed with its comfortable ride on uneven roads and sharp handling through the twisty corners.

The greater torque provides significant grunt on the open road and even more so on the uphills, giving one great confidence in pushing it to its limits. The highly irritating speed warning, set to 130km/h in this model, constantly bleeped while we navigated the gorgeous pass, repeatedly in an attempt to test its handling capabilities. (Thankfully the electronics can be adjusted to deactivate that ridiculous function).

After a quick pit stop on the way to Ceres we swapped cars, the second leg of the trip taking place in the 1.6 petrol model, this time in 5-door Trend specification. While interior and exterior design remains mostly the same, it’s under the bonnet that the changes become apparent, the additional power making up for the lesser torque availability of a petrol engine.

After a good night’s rest in the Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street (the former Metropole), the last leg of our journey took us on a rollercoaster-like ride up and down Cape Town’s surrounding mountains, ending at Cape Town International Airport via Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Constantia and Muizenberg. Our ride for this segment was the 1.4 petrol, magnificently gorgeous in 3-door Titanium specification.

Both 3-door derivatives come only in top-of-the-line Titanium spec, most visibly differentiated by the bigger alloy wheels, chrome detailing on the sides, bigger and more aggressive front grille and sporty spoiler at the rear. Considering that production Fiesta differs only slightly from the Verve concept it’s based on, it comes as no surprise that Fiesta’s design looks much more cohesive in 3-door guise.

After spending so much time in the two 1.6’s, I was surprised at how insignificant the difference in power is: while driving in city traffic, the 1.4 amazed with its nippy responses to changing traffic flow. On the open road and on slight inclines the power deficiency becomes more apparent though.

All in all though, you won’t go wrong in either derivative. If it was my money, though, a 1.6 Titanium would be my first choice. While I fully trust the research Ford has done before finalising the models that would be available, I think there is room for a 3-door 1.6 TDCI…

There are six model derivatives of the new Fiesta over the Ambiente, Trend and Titanium specifications, as well as 6 colours to choose from. Pricing starts at R136 990 for the 1.4 5-door Ambiente and tops out at R168 990 for the 1.6 5-door Titanium. This includes a 4 years/ 120 000km warranty, 4 yr/ 60 000km service plan and 3 years/ unlimited km’s roadside assistance.

Pricing is very competitive compared to rivals such as the VW Polo and Toyota Yaris T3, with the only real competition – in my opinion, anyway – coming from its Mazda2 sibling, the current SA and World Car of the Year. (Pricing on the Mazda2 starts at R133 280 for the 1.3 Active and tops out at R169 510 for the 1.5 Individual.)

Taking a global approach doesn’t always work well when it comes to cars, but with the new Fiesta, Ford has managed to create a car that should appeal to European and American tastes alike.

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