New Fiesta boosts its street cred
The fact that Ford chose to launch its updated Fiesta in Rome’s famed Cinecittà film studios can be, I suppose, interpreted in a number of ways.
Smack dab in the middle of towering sets replicating ancient Rome, there is an obvious comparison between the rise, fall and rise of the Roman empire and the current trough in which the European car industry find itself, and Ford especially so.
Is there a parallel between factory closures, billion-dollar losses and layoffs and the sound of the barbarians gathering at the gates? Perhaps. Or perhaps Ford was simply looking for a bit of reflected glamour by wheeling the Fiesta across the cobbles on which Charlton Heston, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Anita Ekberg once strode.
Glamour is something you would have to say the Fiesta has in spades. When this current generation was first launched, it was a very good-looking car, but this update has only strengthened that hand. It’s entirely new from the windscreen forwards, and with that jutting shark’s mouth grille, which owes no small debt to former Ford subsidiary Aston Martin, you would have to admit that it’s striking, if not perhaps classically Italianate.
Inside, much effort has gone into improving cabin quality, and the results are palpably good. Before, you would have had to place the Fiesta just behind the likes of the Volkswagen Polo in the interior quality stakes. Now it’s neck-and-neck.
Glancing briefly into the plain beige vinyl cabin of an original 1977 Fiesta that Ford had brought along to the launch underlined the incredible levels of high-tech equipment you can now specify. From the mobile phone and media player-linking Sync system that recently debuted on the new B-Max mini MPV to a new function called MyKey, which allows nervous parents to limit the speed, audio volume and other functions of the car when their teenage offspring have borrowed it, the Fiesta can now be specified to levels that would have seemed ludicrous when the original was launched. A self-braking city safety system, a function that automatically phones the emergency services in the event of an accident and niceties such as a reversing camera and an automated parking system are now all available, for a price.
Indeed, you’d have to ask if Ford is backing the wrong horse, investing in high-tech gizmos at a time when most buyers are looking more closely at the bottom line and rivals like Dacia are arriving with arrestingly low-balled prices. I asked; Ford said no. All its research points to customers wanting more and more technology in the car.
It’s the technology under the bonnet that makes the updated Fiesta more interesting, though, as at last it has received the engine that could almost have been specifically designed for it. Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine has already found happy homes in the Focus and B-Max, but the Fiesta is surely the car best suited to the lightweight, frugal, free-revving little unit.
For the first time, you’ll be able to buy an EcoBoost unit that doesn’t use a turbocharger, and the new 65bhp and 80bhp versions of the engine will eventually replace the ageing 1.25-litre Yamaha-developed unit at the base of the Fiesta range. Punchier 100bhp and 125bhp versions, with a turbo, will be rarer by far in Irish dealerships but, sadly, that’s all that Ford made available for us to drive on this event.