2007 Ford Fiesta 1.25 Style Climate 5 door (GB)

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Ford’s Fiesta has been the best-selling car in Britain for some years, and close to the top of the UK sales charts for almost all of its 30 year production life, so the car is a common sight on our roads and needs little in the way of introduction. Given the number of Ford models that are to be found in the UK rental fleets, certainly at Hertz UK, you might reasonable expect that someone who rents lots of cars, as I do, would have sampled the Fiesta on many occasions. Surprisingly, in my case, that’s not the reality. For sure I have had a couple of rentals which yielded the current model since its launch at the start of 2002, but that is it. Doyen of the Hertz fleet in this market sector for some time has been the Fiat Grande Punto, and whenever I’ve rented what Hertz call a Group B car in the last couple of years, it has been one of these which has been supplied. So with my latest rental, which was for a one-way from Bristol to London Heathrow, when the agent asked if I would mind taking a Fiesta, as they needed to get it to Heathrow so it could be taken out of the fleet, in the interests of trying something different, I readily agreed. It is no secret that the latest Grande Punto not only looks good, but is also fun from behind the wheel and surprisingly spacious for a small car, so I was particularly keen to see what the car that outsells it so comprehensively in the UK – but not across Europe as a while – had to offer. The car that Hertz handed over to me was a 1.25 Style model with the five door hatch body, so not quite the bottom of the range, but close to it.

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First impressions were not entirely positive. Take a good look inside and there are plenty of examples of cost-cutting which do little to impress even for this price point. With the seat adjusted for my proportions there is a huge gap between the seat cushion and the backrest, a problem that afflicted the first generation Focus, too, and which does little to improve overall comfort levels and that’s before you contemplate the rather nasty upholstery which whilst trying to liven things up with the jazzy patter in the seat centre is made out of very low rent material. Worse still came when opening the boot and seeing a floor mat which did not fit properly, with some of the sound deadener showing and as I would later find, when you folded down the rear seat backrest which left a flap sticking up at the point where the backrest should have been flush with the rest of the floor. And then there was the dash finished with a sort of purple-tinged blue plastic inlay which looked, well, odd. And perhaps the coup de grace, the layered rubber gear lever gaiter which reminded me of cars from the 1970s. Not a good start, for sure. Looking more closely at the interior, the dash does appear to be made from slightly softer touch materials than was the case, but it is never going to win prizes for anything quality related. It is at least quite easy to use. There are two large dials and two smaller ones for water temperature and fuel level positioned between them in the instrument cluster. There are a lot of markings in the speedo, making it look a bit fussy. The twin column stalks did not feel like quality items. Lights are operated by a rotary dial on the dash to the right of the wheel. The steering wheel is a plastic moulded item and in this spec has no buttons or switches on it. The centre of the dash has two air vents positioned up high, with the dash moulded around them. Beneath these you will find the audio unit which is reasonably high up so making it easier to reach for the various buttons on it. Lower down are three rotary dials for the air conditioning. And that’s it, so all very simple and straightforward.

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The seat proved as disappointing to sit in as I feared. There is ample adjustment – manual, of course – but it was that gap between the cushion and backrest that certainly did not help matters. The seat itself was rather shapeless and not that supportive, so whilst it was easy to get the relationship between the seat, steering wheel and pedals right, thanks to the range of adjustment of the seat and the column, I just was not that comfortable sitting there. Those in the back will fare a little better. Whilst every successive new model in this class grows another few inches, often to the benefit of rear seat space, and meaning that the Fiesta is now shorter than many of its recent rivals now, the rather upright styling does help so there is a reasonable amount of legroom unless the front seats are set well back. You sit quite upright, and there is plenty of headroom. There is minimal intrusion from the central tunnel and the console moulding does not extend very far back. That said, a middle seat occupant here would have to hope that the passengers on either side of them were not burly of build, as width of the car will make three across the seat a bit of a squeeze. There is no external release for the boot, so you will need either to use the button on the key fob or the one on the dash to the right of the wheel. The boot is large enough to take a couple of suitcases. The floor area is a regular shape, though the rear wheel arches do take something off the width. The floor is somewhat lower than the bottom of the tailgate. More space is created by pulling up the rear seat cushion and then dropping the asymmetrically split rear seat backrests down and the resulting load area is flat, apart from that sticking up boot mat. Inside the cabin there is a modest glovebox with an open slot above it, a lipped moulded area on the top of the dash, a cubby and single cupholder in front of the gearlever and modest bins on all four doors. There are pockets on the back of the front seats.

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Whilst the interior of the Fiesta failed to impress me that much, I was optimistic that redemption would come from behind the wheel, This is, after all, a Parry-Jones era Ford, and I recalled that the previous examples I had driven had been OK. The 1.25 engine was hailed as one of the best in class when it appeared, replaced the little-loved 67 bhp 1.3 litre pushrod Endura engine which sat at the bottom of the range when this generation of Fiesta first launched. In 2003, it was seen as a massive improvement. But that was then, and standards have moved on. The 1.25 litre engine of the test car generates 75 bhp at 5200 rpm which is pretty much what you get from any of the Fiesta’s rivals as well. It comes coupled to a five speed manual gearbox. The engine in this car did little to endear itself to me, either. It seemed rather less willing than I had remembered, seemingly very unhappy if you revved it beyond 4000 rpm and it got louder and louder as you worked it harder. There’s not much danger you would go much faster than the 70 mph motorway speed limit as the noise levels would simply be more than you could bear for very long. Whilst road and wind noise were suppressed, the intrusion from the engine negated the fact that these did not intrude much. The gearchange was bit clunky but basically positive, and to get the best out of the car, you will need to use the gears a lot. If you do, then in the cut and thrust of urban motoring, the Fiesta will acquit itself decently enough, but out on the open road, this car feels like it really could do with more power. And that was one up. Put four adults in and I am sure it would struggle somewhat. All was not lost, though, as the steering and handling were good. The wheel itself might not be that nice to hold, but the steering setup itself is a joy with a precision and a level of feel that is probably unmatched in the class. Not only that but it is light enough so that manoeuvering the car around town was a doddle, making the car easy to drive. The Fiesta positively relishes the twisty roads, with a poise that will put something of a smile on the driver’s face. There is plenty of grip, not much roll and just a sensation that you could probably do it all again that bit faster. Sitting on its standard 14″ wheels, the Fiesta rides nicely, too with a suppleness that is well judged. ABS brakes are at best an option even on top spec cars, but even so, the brakes in this car were good, with a decent level of feel to the pedal. There is a pull-up handbrake between the seats. Visibility is generally good, with a good field of view from the mirrors and the relatively vertical rear end means that there is little behind you from what you can see when you look over your shoulder.

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It is impossible to describe all the various Fiesta models in a single paragraph. There are three and five door bodies available and a range of petrol and diesel engines and a choice of 5 speed manual or the Durashift automatic transmission. Petrol cars come with 75 bhp 1.25 ltire, 78 bhp 1.4 or 100 bhp 1.6 litre engines, and there are 1.4 (67 bhp) and 1.6 (88 bhp) diesels, as well as the special ST which has a 2 litre unit derived from that used in the Mondeo. The 1.25 litre petrol has proved to be most popular unit over the time it has been on sale. As if that does not give enough variants, there have been a number of different names used for the available trim versions during the life of this Fiesta. Currently the start point is the Studio. Like most entry level cars, this one is rather spartan and there are probably just too many features which you would miss for this to be the Fiesta of choice. It does have central locking and power steering and a couple of airbags, but not a lot more than that. the Style, which was the spec of the test car, comes above this, taking the place of the former LX version. Added features here are a height adjuster for the driver’s seat, an adjustable steering column, electric front windows, remote central locking and a CD player on the audio unit, as well as a split folding rear seat, and if you go for the Style Climate, you get air conditioning. Above this you get to the Zetec. which gives you front fog lights and alloy wheels. The Zetec S is a more sporting model and has slightly lowered suspension and sports seats as well as an alarm and standard air conditioning. Most luxurious model in the permanent range is the Ghia and the sporting range-topper is the 2.0 litre 150 bhp ST, available only in the three door body and riding on 17″ wheels. There have been numerous limited edition models with a number added during 2007 with a small price premium and list of otherwise optional features that was a multiple of the price yo would pay for the options. These have included the Silver which combines the three door body with body-coloured power/heated door mirrors, body colour side mouldings, door and tailgate handles, leather steering wheel with aluminium trim, silver gear knob and 15″ nine-spoke alloy wheels and was available with the 1.25-litre, 1.4-litre petrol or 1.4-litre TDCi engines. Also new in 2007 was the Zetec Climate which gained body-coloured power/heated door mirrors, body colour side mouldings, door and tailgate handles, silver dashboard bezel, leather steering wheel with aluminium trim and a chrome front grille, and the option of a Sport Pack comprising 16-inch seven-spoke sport alloy wheels and privacy glass. The Technology Pack consists of automatic-headlights and wipers, power-fold door mirrors, stereo/radio remote controls and a second remote key. This is available on Fiesta Zetec Climate, Zetec S and ST models, priced at £200. Chequered Flag limited edition of 400 from March 2007 was based on the 100PS Zetec S 1.616v in unique radian yellow paintwork, chequered flag roof decal, air-con, leather seats, MP3 connection.

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Overall, I have to admit to being disappointed by this Fiesta. For sure it is easy to drive, decently practical and will prove cheap to own, all factors which help to explain its popularity. But the engine of this version rather spoiled the otherwise impressive driving dynamics and the generally cheap feel to the interior is not something you will notice so readily in many of the cars rivals. It is a measure of how quickly standards are improving in this sector of the market that what would have been near or at the top of the class at launch in 2002 now falls somewhat short. It is an open secret that an all new Fiesta is not that far away and it is a reasonable assumption that the new Fiesta is likely to address the shortcoming exposed here. Until that car arrives, though, if the rental car agent offers the choice of a Grande Punto or a Fiesta, I would unhesitatingly take the Fiat.

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