2018 Ford Fiesta ST-Line Review
Paul Horrell’s international 2018 Ford Fiesta ST-Line Review with performance, ride and handling, safety verdict, and score.
In a nutshell: Not yet officially confirmed for Oz, but this is a comprehensive European revamp for the Fiesta. It keeps the lightweight Ford competitive in what is, over there, a big and very competitive sector.
2018 Ford Fiesta ST-Line Euro-spec
PRICE Not yet supplied for Australian market
ENGINE 1.0L turbo petrol three-cylinder
POWER 103kW at 6000rpm
TORQUE 180Nm at 1500-5000rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
DIMENSIONS 4065mm (L), 1735mm (W EXC MIRRORS), 1941mm (W INC MRRORS), 1466mm (H)
TURNING CIRCLE 10.05m
TOWING WEIGHT 570kg (UNBRAKED), 1000kg (BRAKED)
KERB WEIGHT 1164kg
THIRST 4.5L/100km combined cycle
SMALL CAR SALES in Australia are sinking, and a cloud hangs over the future of the Fiesta here, if the Thai factory that supplies us stops making it. And while there’s been no official confirmation we’ll receive the new Fiesta, our mail suggests some maybe good Fiesta news is on the horizon.
Meanwhile in Europe the Fiesta has been a major success, so it’s been worth Ford’s while to do this substantial revamp – more substantial than it first looks actually.
Buyers loved the current car’s style and driving dynamics. But the design and connectivity of the dash fell seriously off the pace. Especially because many small-car buyers are young-ish. It also lacks many of the driver-assist features that buyers, and insurers, are getting keen on. So Ford fixed all that.
The well-loved exterior design hasn’t changed a whole lot. You could be thinking it didn’t change at all, but in fact every panel is new. The bonnet has fewer creases, and the sides rely more on curved sculpture. The tail has wide rather than upright lamp clusters. LEDs are available for the running lights and rear lights. The whole car is a bit longer, but only to improve bumper protection in low-speed impacts. So there’s hardly any more space.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine remains, but gets an extra gear in the manual box. The auto option switches from a dual-clutch to a torque converter, so should be smoother – we haven’t sampled it though. Meanwhile the old four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine has gone, replaced by a 1.1-litre nat-asp triple. It gets a five-speed. Also going to a three-cylinder, albeit with a mighty 147kW and 290Nm, will be the new ST version. The suspension and braking system use the same principles as before, but almost all the components are new.
What’s the interior of the Ford Fiesta like?
It looks good – far better than the old one, which had a confusion of buttons in the middle, toy-like climate controls and a giant slab of hard plastic ahead of the passenger. The small blue centre screen has given way to a big tablet.
Some of the plastics aren’t super quality, especially, annoyingly, the handles you have to grab to shut the door each time you get in. But the overall effect is competitive, with extra metallic-effect garnishes to jewel the controls and define the surfaces.
New for the Fiesta are front seats that are based on Focus items. They have a good range of movement now, including height adjustment that goes notably lower, so even big people in this small car can get a good driving position.
It’s far less happy in the rear. The Fiesta wasn’t a class leader in that department, and there has been hardly any improvement. With the glass roof fitted, rear headroom is a bit of a joke. There a pair of Isofix points, but any kid beyond toddler size, if they’re in a bulky child seat, will be kicking you in the small of the back.
The boot, under the parcel shelf, is just less than 300 litres. It’s class average, but another reason this is no family car unless you’re good at packing light.
The new Fiesta is the latest Ford to get the full Sync 3 screen-based comms system. And it’s good. The resolution, brightness and response of the touchscreen are very impressive for a small-car system, and the menus are sensibly ordered so you can do all important tasks easily. A row of hard buttons also short-cuts you to frequent tasks. And the climate controls aren’t on the screen but are real adjusters by circular twist-knobs and push-buttons.
The highest-spec of the Fiesta’s three systems has an eight-inch screen with navigation, while the next down has a 6.5-incher. Both can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto so you’ll have your phone’s navigation as a fallback. The final one is also a colour screen for the stereo and phone, and it physically docks your phone above, to use the phone screen for navigation.
The number of buttons on the steering wheel looks bewildering at first, but they’re pretty logical, falling into three groups. One lot does cruise control, another sees you through the trip computer and various car settings, and the third bunch is for the stereo and phone.
Some versions have a multi-speaker stereo with B&O branding. It’s a bit harsh in the treble, but enjoyably tight in the bass and presents a good stereo image.
What’s the Ford Fiesta like on the road?
The Fiesta was always strong here, and it has moved things on again, albeit perhaps not as fast as rivals. Still, right now it remains head of the pack.
The three-cylinder turbo engine might be small but it’s game as you like, hardly lagging and giving a solid spread of mid-rev push and a keen flight to the 6600rpm red-line. We tried the 103kW version, but there 74 and 82kW versions as well. They have similar torque outputs so you wouldn’t feel the disadvantage if you’re driving in high gears. But a driver who shifts down to get maximum acceleration would find better results from the 103kW unit. Shifting is fun, because the old five-speeder has been replaced by a very slick new six-speed box.
The steering is light and easy to use. The build-up of effort away from the straightahead is more natural than it was, so highway driving is stable. In corners, it’s a very precise system. You can really pile this car into a bend and the control and grip through the front tyres is brilliant.
The new Fiesta, either in its standard form or with the slightly sportier optional ST-Line suspension, basically keeps mild understeer all the time. If you lift off the throttle you can’t trim the cornering trajectory like you can in the current ST version. But then, this new model isn’t meant to be a flighty hot hatch but a friendly supermini. There will be a new ST version next year.
The ride is smoother than before. In fact with the base suspension it’s one of the plushest in the class. The ST-Line option is only a little more busy. Tyre and suspension noise are low by small-car standards so it’s a capable long-distance car as well as an urban scamp.
What about the Ford Fiesta’s safety features?
There isn’t an NCAP rating for the new car, and the old one hasn’t been tested since 2012, when the ratings weren’t so rigorous as they are now. Still, it got five stars. The bodyshell has been further strengthened in the new car, especially against side impacts. There are six airbags (front and side for the two people in the front, and curtain bags too) and two Isofix mounts.
Substantial effort has been piled into adding active safety features, but we haven’t given it our top rating because too many are optional. Surprisingly the city braking with pedestrian detection system isn’t standard. Many makers are putting it on all cars now, if only because it saves insurance premiums as well as boosting safety. Other notables on the menu are blind-spot warning with cross-traffic detection, driver drowsiness warning and lane keeping aid (that’s standard).
Driver assist tech includes adaptive cruise control, speed limiter, active park assist, rear-view camera, and traffic sign recognition.
So, what do we think about the Ford Fiesta?
As we said, it’s still not officially confirmed for Australia and despite a declining market for small cars we think that one like the Fiesta which offers strong active safety features and excellent connectivity could see it become a stand-out here. Our drive in Europe suggests the new Fiesta’s been properly engineered to be as comfortable on a long haul as it is around town.