I am very skeptical when it comes to the entertainment scene. Until recently – that is – when Ford SA invited me to one of the Idols SA live shows for an experience out of this world.
While the show was whoo-shem fabulous, its the car that stole the show for me.
Economy cars have been on cruise control for quite some time now. Traditionally, this hasn’t been the segment for frills or fun, and nine times out of 10 performance has taken a back seat to practicality. Until recently, this was the case with American cars and is one of the major reasons manufacturers like Toyota and Honda managed to garner such a large foothold of the market with cars like the Civic and Corolla back then. But the times they are a changing, and manufacturers that have historically struggled in this space (namely Chevrolet and Ford) want a piece of the practical-car pie, and they’re gunning for it.
Enter the fun-loving 2016 Ford Fiesta. Now in its sixth year. Truthfully, it couldn’t have come a better time. With petrol prices continuously in flux and South African buyers looking to jump into more fuel efficient and economical cars, the compact and subcompact segment has really started to flourish – and not just with cheaper choices that will appeal to your wallet, but ones people actually wanted to drive.
First Impressions Count
Let’s get this out of the way right now: The Ford Fiesta is one hot little hatch. There, we said it. Not only does it exhibit more than a hint of European styling appeal, but it’s not restricted to the old world any longer. At its face, the Fiesta sports a confident front fascia along with sharpened headlamps and sculpted wheel arches. Ford’s signature gaping grille found on many of its newer models makes an appearance too – albeit in smaller form. At the side, the Fiesta looks sleek, almost elegant. The arching roofline tapers out towards the rear where it is met by the Fiesta’s climbing taillights and dipping hatch.
It certainly is eccentric, loud and obnoxious; and it’s a good-looking car that you won’t be embarrassed to be seen in. And really, how many econo-boxes can you truthfully you say that about?
Fortunately, the party continues to the Fiesta’s interior. Here it seems Ford was more focused on creating an edgy and vibrant cabin with heavy emphasis on the practicality of everyday driving. While we can’t complain about material quality employed inside (we liked the fun and sleek metallic brushwork finishes), we’re not so thrilled with the placement of the Fiesta’s steering wheel and console controls. Rather than go for a simpler, more effective scheme, the console’s “butterfly” layout and rigid knobs are a chore at best, and much too distracting at worst.
For its part though, the Fiesta’s interior is welcoming enough. It might not be the roomiest, but we never truly felt like we were riding in an economy car. The layout might be questionable, but to Ford’s credit they have designed a rather upbeat cabin.
Traveling techies will be happy to learn that the Fiesta sports a rather robust amount of cabin tech for a vehicle of its stature. Our Titanium review model, which sits right on top of their range, came equipped with smart key-less entry, cruise control, upgraded 80-watt six-speaker sound system, SYNC® with Bluetooth & Voice Control and a CD player with USB audio input and small monochrome LCD display atop the dash’s summit. Rather conveniently, Ford lets you mix and match various features found on some higher trims.
More than anything else, where we derived the most joy during our time with the Fiesta was with its excellent handling. From nimble to sprightly, dynamic to energetic, throw whatever descriptor you like and the Fiesta manages to encompass it. In addition to its design, this is where the Fiesta manages to reveal its European roots the most, exhibiting the type of capable handling, road characteristics, and tightly-tuned suspension we rarely see (or get) on these shores.
Without a doubt the 2016 Ford Fiesta is a pleasure to drive, and offers one of the most rewarding drive experiences in its class and beyond. It might be priced a little excessively; our review unit came in at R240 000 including destination, and it’s 1.0-liter may be a little too lackadaisical for our tastes, but we’re hard-pressed to think of another vehicle in this segment that has yet to illicit such joy while on the road.
If this doesn’t do it for you, see the 7th generation model!