It’s Fiesta Time

The new Fiesta is a great car. But what version should you choose?

I have now driven two very different Fiestas and I can tell you this: the new Fiesta is a very, very good car. Very good.

I was always a fan of the last generation model, certainly the best driver’s car in its segment. The ST, in particular, was amazing. It was the only supermini that made me look at my Abarth 500 and go ‘you look good, but you could be a little better to drive’.

Anyway, the new generation is out now and while the looks are a small evolution from the last one – nothing wrong with that, it always looked good – there is a lot of new stuff, especially when it comes to the chassis tuning and suspension set-up.

There is more interior space, a less cluttered dashboard and a 4.2-inch TFT touchscreen instrument panel (8-inch optional). The overall feel of the car is completely different, with a clear emphasis on quality and acoustic isolation. It feels a lot more refined, even with a diesel engine up front. Safety-wise, Ford has bolstered the B-pillars for better side-impact protection, added a new pedestrian detection system that works even in the dark and introduced a fatigue-alert technology to help prevent you falling asleep at the wheel.

All in all, even the basic Fiesta seems a big step up from its predecessor. But we in Portugal rarely buy entry-level models. We like our cars a bit posher. Happy to say I drove the two best versions available then.

The first one was a 1.5 diesel, 85-horse power ST-Line. The other engines available in the ST-Line are 1.0 Ecoboost petrol units, with 100, 125 or 140 horse power. The ST-Line is the sportiest spec you can choose until the real ST comes along. It has a lower ride height, specific bumpers, skirts and wheels, and ST detailing in the inside to make it feel that bit sportier.

The diesel engine is a bit lacking in power, which becomes abundantly clear the first time you throw the Fiesta around a corner with a little less care. The chassis copes so well you wish you had more grunt to be able to provoke it the next time. Which you don’t. Still, get used to what you have and the Fiesta is a fun little car. It corners flat, feeds you all the information you need and even has some steering feel, an element soon to be gone from the car industry.

All the while, the ST-Line still offers surprising levels of comfort and refinement, be it over cobbled streets or kilometre after kilometre of highways. And get this: this version comes with Pilot Sport 4 tyres, something you are more likely to find in a Porsche or an AMG Mercedes than in an 85-horse power Ford.

With the current discounts offered by Ford, the ST-Line starts at just under €16,000 for the 100hp 1.0 petrol engine and just over €19,000 for the only diesel available. My choice would be the most powerful Ecoboost, a 140-horse power gem capable of extracting something more of that incredible chassis.

So on to the Vignale. Ah – Vignale, what a great name. Carrozzeria Alfredo Vignale was founded in Turin in 1948 and quickly became one of the most important Italian coachbuilders. Prestigious work kept coming their way from Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia or Alfa Romeo. Vignale had two decades of highly-talented craftsmen building magnificent cars. Still, in 1969 it was sold to Alfredo de Tomaso, who had a big passion for cars but little understanding of how to make a business profitable.

He sold Vignale to the Ford Motor Company in 1973 and it seemed like that was to be the end of Mr. Vignale’s name in the industry. Happily, Ford never let the name die completely and today it is used on the company’s most luxurious versions of its European models. The Fiesta is the latest one to receive the Vignale treatment.

There is a new grille, a standard panoramic sunroof and must-have 18-inch optional wheels, but a lot of what makes the Vignale great is on the details. Quilted leather seats, heated at the front, a leather steering wheel, also heated, leather dashboard and leather door cards. It’s a whole lot of leather for such a small car, but an approach that makes the Fiesta feel a cut above, well, everybody, in the segment.

The 8-inch touchscreen is also standard and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat-nav. The cherry on top of all this goodness is a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system.

Unlike the ST-Line, the Vignale is all about a smooth ride. Comfort above all. It doesn’t corner as flat and it doesn’t feel as engaging, but, boy, does it feel refined. Like twice the price refined at times, especially when the road surface gets rougher. It really is amazing how the same car can have two strikingly different personalities.

Also unlike the ST-Line, you can have the Vignale with a 1.5 diesel engine with 120 horse power, which is a better way to explore that superb chassis.

The Fiesta is, fundamentally, a very good car any way you look at it. I don’t even care if you go ST-Line or Vignale. They are both excellent choices. I would go ST-Line for I like the sportier side, but I would love to see a lot of Vignales on the road.

By Guilherme Marques