8 months with a Renault Clio

Top Car's Wayne Batty says goodbye to his Renault Clio. It’s not a soppy farewell but the little 'automatique' did its maker proud.

Kia's trendy family pick

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post experiences the upcoming Cerato.

New Ford Fiesta tested

2009-01-23 08:09
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Ford
Engine 1600 petrol
Power 88 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque 149 Nm @ 4 250 r/min
Transmission 5-speed
Zero To Hundred 9.9 seconds
Top Speed 193 km/h
Fuel Tank 45 litres
Fuel Consumption 5.9 litres/100km (avg)
Weight 1 500 kg (GVM)
Boot Size 284 litres
Steering Electric Power Steering
Airbags Dual Front
Tyres 16" alloy
Service Intervals 20 000km
Service Plan 4yr /60 000 km
Warranty 4yr /120 000 km
Price R179 130 (Jan 2009)
Rivals VW Polo, Honda Jazz, Mazda2

Wilmer Muller

What it's about

In 2006 Ford gave us a sneak peek of what to expect from its new Fiesta with the striking Verve concept. It gave us high hopes for the next mini hatchback, since Verve was not only a fresh breeze for small car lovers, but it was also a seductive prototype… And it gave an important indication of Ford’s vision for the future.

However, the Verve wasn’t one of those concepts that looked as though it had landed here from another universe. In fact, it looked as if it was ready to hit showrooms and turn the small car segment upside down.

And when Ford finally unveiled the new Fiesta last year, it was a relief that it still very much resembled the Verve.

What is more is that the Fiesta fanfare isn’t just about design, but also about a car that is backed by the right technical and engineering credentials too.

Worldwide, the latest Fiesta is being hailed as a competent small hatchback upping the ante in its segment. It seems as though Ford definitely got the recipe right for a small car with its latest Fiesta.

It is sexier, more refined, safer and much more fun to drive than its predecessor (and most other cars in its field). Not that the old Fiesta was bad, it's just that newcomer is so much better and a more polished car.

Although bigger, it also shares its underpinnings with the highly-acclaimed Mazda2, credentials that do much to boost the Fiesta’s overall appeal.

After we flirted with the Fiesta on its local launch, we were quite impressed. And when Ford booked a five-door 1.6 Titanium (which is the range-topper) with us there was much excitement in the Wheels24 offices ahead of the car's arrival.

Therefore there was quite a lot of pressure on the Fiesta to impress and, in all honesty, it didn’t disappoint.

On the inside

The Fiesta’s radical design language is also prominent on the inside with a futuristic dashboard populated with dozens of buttons and other applications.

But it is all nicely designed with solid finishes and soft touch plastics – although the silver-finished centre console does look cheap. Overall, the Fiesta feels well-screwed together and standard features are impressive.

The Fiesta’s gimmicks should appeal to the young and trendy. It comes with luxury features usually found on more expensive wheels - for example in Titanium guise, the Fiesta gets a Bluetooth phone kit, voice control, USB connection (for iPods and the like) and halogen projector headlights.

The iPod connection is a useful feature and you can manage your songs/playlists via the satellite controls on the steering wheel. But it did bother us that you have to connect it not only to the USB port but also have a cable that connects it to the auxiliary socket - meaning you have two cables, which could strangle your poor handbrake.

The Fiesta has acceptable interior space and accommodates four adults with ease, but tall rear passengers should be aware that the low roofline compromises head room.

In terms of versatility Ford fails to deliver clever packaging solutions such as that offered by the Honda Jazz, although the latter is marketed more aggressively as a mini-MPV. Some more boot space and a more versatile rear-seat setup (it doesn’t fold flat) would have been welcome.

How does it drive?

Nothing about the Fiesta resembles an afterthought. It is as if every aspect of the car was crucial in its conception. Yes, the Fiesta’s design is a strong quality but the Ford people also wanted to build a good car – and they succeeded.

As mentioned, the Fiesta shares its basic architecture with the Mazda2 but the Blue Oval product isn’t just some genetic clone. In fact, the two cars feel different on the road as Ford tuned the chassis to make it even more fun than the Mazda.

The Fiesta is also 40kg lighter than its predecessor – which is quite an accomplishment as the newcomer even features added safety equipment and extra sound-proofing.

The new 88kW 1.6-litre petrol engine is a flexible, smooth number and its 149Nm of torque peaks at 4 250 r/min. Although the 0-100km/h sprint isn’t shattering any records at 9.9 seconds, the Fiesta is swift and nimble. Nevertheless, this punchy unit provides quite a fun drive.

With city driving the Fiesta is pure joy as it is nippy and responsive while also being an easy car to manoeuvre in tight spots. Thanks to its electronic power steering, steering feels "real", is light and accurate.

An electronic anti-stall device, which senses when the driver is about to pull away and preps the car for a smoother take off, will help take the edge off for those nervous drivers in town.

Furthermore its smooth five-speed manual transmission, with well-spaced ratios, is quite pleasant and adds to the car’s overall drivability.

Its engine is refined and willing, and at higher speeds on the open road it doesn’t struggle at all. The Fiesta feels quick and has no issues at all extracting its power.

The rewarding drive is boosted by the Fiesta’s excellent chassis, while suspension is rigid and compliant.

The fact that the latest Fiesta is lighter and 10% stiffer than before, together with its low centre of gravity and a good suspension set-up, results in one of the most rewarding driving experiences in its class.


The new Ford Fiesta is hot property.

It’s hard not to be impressed, and as a small car it deserves red carpet treatment. Even if you are one of those that needs to scale down to a smaller car, the Fiesta won’t disappoint you as it doesn’t feel cheap nor second rate. 

Fiesta is a package that offers dynamic excellence and eye-catching styling… Ford has gotten it right.


Inside Wheels24

Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in SA

Want to experience what it's like to be behind the wheel of a 419kW sports car? Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in our interactive Snapchat video filmed in SA.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.