Driving the 2017 Ford Fiesta: what I learned after 300 km

New Ford Fiesta brings together both the party and the hangover

Ford's Fiesta supermini has been around since 1976, but it only knew success from 2008 onwards. The previous generation stood out in many ways. Among them were the crisp looks, nimble chassis and energetic 1-liter EcoBoost engine.

Ford says in building the new generation, they looked at cost cutting but ended up investing more. We were also told that the premium-like Vignale trim arrived as the B premium niche expanded from 3% in 2009 to 8% in 2017.

Trim-wise, six levels - called personalities - define the new Fiesta. Already available are Trend, Titanium, ST Line and Vignale. To follow next year: Active (the crossover-ish look) and ST (the sporty one).

Last but not least, Ford is making a selling point out of the tech infusion the 2017 Fiesta went through. Compared to the previous model, the new one upgrades the features list to 15, instead of three.

So here's the good and the bad I learned about Ford's new Fiesta supermini.

Driving

With big shoes to fill, the new Fiesta retains a fraction of its predecessor's composure on the road. But as Ford tuned the architecture with fun in mind, other aspects received some toning down.

I drove the turbo'ed, three-cylinder, 1-liter EcoBoost mill making 74 kW (100 hp). You can have it with either a new six-speed auto or a torque-converter automatic gearbox. The latter replaces the troublesome Powershift dual-clutch transmission Ford has dropped for good.

First of all, the new Fiesta is heavier than the car it replaces. Luckily, this doesn't put a dent in its love for asphalt and bendy roads. What does, though, is the gummy manual gearbox, with long gears but precise movement. On the plus side, the front and rear tracks are wider, hence the extra stability, grip and confidence in corners.

The engine's sweet spot is somewhere in the 3,000-3,500 rpm region, so you can reach 55 km/h (35 mph) in second gear with no fuss. With the manual, I got a fuel consumption average of 6.7 l/100 km, while the automatic "favored" 8.6 l/100 km.

I remember the old Fiesta being a blast to drive thanks to the short-geared manual. Well, not the case anymore, as the manual 2017 Fiesta feels tailored for the highway and not the city.

If you plan to leave the city rarely to never, go for the automatic. Also less snappy than the Powershift, it does the job up to a point. So to squeeze the engine's juice in a short time interval, you'll have to learn its laggy ways.

But that only happens under the pressure of your right foot, and gear changes fall on the smooth side. In short, it's a decent alternative to the dual-clutch Powershift transmission.

As for suspension, Ford got it right with the tune-up, so the new Fiesta delivers both comfort and a steady stance. Sure, tighter bends call for body roll which will not fail to creep up. But that happens in small doses. Hint: go for the 16-inch wheels and not higher - 17-inch ones tend to unsettle the car and your bottom on bumpy roads.

Accuracy is the only attribute I can give to the electrically-assisted steering. Otherwise, it lacks the feedback and the stiffness that makes driving fun on B-roads. On the flip side, it will get you out of a crammed parking lot in no time.

Inside

There's a German visual flavor in the cabin, especially if you look at the center console and dash as a whole. 

Other than that, the previous Fiesta called for an interior refresh, which came with the new one. It looks younger and does very well to complement the tech infusion I'll discuss later on.

Quality-wise, the upper section looks and feels good - you get piano black inserts and nice materials. That's not the case with the lower area, the one you don't usually look at that much. 

Here, the materials - namely plastics - are scratchy and rougher than I would have expected. Yet many carmakers use these tactics when building interiors, so they've become norm.

Also, assembly quality suffers a little. When I say that, I'm referring to some ornaments - like the ones around the air vents. These weren't well-glued to the dash, and the lower center console was a bit shaky.

The front seats are comfy enough, but lateral support is on the short side. What's more, three passengers are a crowd for the rear seat, so only two can travel in comfort.

Even with two passengers, there's not enough head room in the back. This means your head will touch or bang the roof - depending on how tall you are. Otherwise, leg, knee and hip room save the day and help you sit in a relaxing posture.

Also, the available cubby holes and pockets will host your smartphone, wallet and so on with ease.

Technology

SYNC 3 and a new tablet-style infotainment display provide a gust of fresh air inside the new Ford Fiesta.

The crisp graphics and lag-free menu browsing earned serious points during the drive. I pinched, touched and swiped for as long as I could, and there were no glitches. Graphics are easy on the eye too.

Moreover, the 8-inch screen sits on top of the center console, and not in the lower area, under air vents or buttons.

The instrument cluster is also changed. It's better looking now (as in not old) yet not too flashy, but it shows all the relevant info in a no-nonsense fashion.

There's also a new B&O sound system - aka Bang & Olufsen - that puts the icing on the infotainment cake. Safety-wise, you get all the assist features one can think of - from lane keeping to blind spot monitoring and forward collision assist. Although they intervene on time, the visual and audio warnings are non-intrusive.

In a nutshell, the new Fiesta shows more maturity compared to the model it replaces. And although it loses some of its crisp driving ways - fret not, the fun factor isn't gone - manages to compensate on the tech side.

 

Even more, though not yet segment-leading, the interior is also a step up. Throw the frugal EcoBoost into the equation plus the auto gearbox, and city driving could actually turn into a breeze.

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