A spin of roulette in the sporty Ford Fiesta Black
With colours to match card suits, is it worth a gamble?
Vulture at the Wheel A car is either a head or a heart purchase. If you look at numbers and depreciation, you buy a BMW. Emotion and passion, on the other hand, stereotypically leads to an Alfa Romeo. The new Fiesta Red and Black editions try to be both. It comes it the two colours favoured by roulette, so we took it for a spin.
The car we tested was black, and while the model is known as the Red and Black edition that’s ungainly and involves twice as much typing. So, from now on, I’ll call it the Fiesta Black and you can assume that the same goes for the #ff0000 version.
It’s a Fiesta, so a good sensible hatchback, but it’s sporty. It has boy racer looks but it’s not the 1.6 litre 180 bhp ST, the flagship sporty model. What it does have is the three cylinder – hence the garish graphics on the review car – one litre 138 bhp turbocharged engine. That makes it quick (ish) and economical.
It also means it has the highest output per cubic centimetre of any car in current production. That delivers a 0-62mph figure of 9.0 seconds and top speed of 125mph while emitting 104g/km of CO2 and managing a urban cycle of 63mpg. This black car is so green you only pay £20 a year in car tax.
It’s an exceptionally clever engine but doesn’t quite have the exuberance of the Fiat Twin Air. The EcoBoost feels a little more grown up which is not necessarily A Good Thing. Particularly in this application where you feel you should be wearing a baseball hat backwards to drive it.
The two-tone colour scheme inside and out defines the car with a contrasting ring around the grille and wing mirrors. The Fiesta is a fundamentally attractive car, although the grille is too Aston Martin.
I regularly glimpse a Fiesta and think “Cygnet”. It’s really rather smart and the attractive 16” wheels complement it well. It’s not just the roof spoiler which tells everyone that this is a sporty car.
It’s more boy than racer, far from being a stripped back track warrior, it has keyless go – like the Tesla, you just need to press the start button on the fob in your pocket. And it has automatic stop start: pull to a halt and disengage the gearbox and the engine stops.
This is all done in the name of fuel economy and every bit as annoying as when you go for a coffee and find your laptop has gone to sleep. Compared to other auto-stop cars, the Fiesta is particularly aggressive and kills the power with little delay after pulling to a halt. It's a £200 option, so would need to save a lot on petrol-guzzling to justify itself.
Fortunately, there is a small black button on the control panel to disengage this. And a little green light flashes up to let you know that you have switched the thing off.
Ford was far from modest with the stickers on the press car
Connectivity is good. Bluetooth sync works reasonably painlessly and there are sockets to plug in and charge devices with USB and audio.
The dashboard has choc-a-block buttons
What dominates the interior is the centre console. It has more buttons than a Cadbury’s factory and they are scattered in all sort of places.
The user interface is amazingly confusing. To enter names into the sat-nav you have to cursor left and right. I kept using the (mechanically really rather nice) rotary dial which would have been far quicker but that is reserved for volume.
There is no logic in the button positioning. Smack in the middle with all the information and entertainment systems is a padlock button, which locks the doors.
There are soft keys, like a 2001 Nokia Series 30 phone. The (small) screen has legends which refer to unlabelled keys but these are right at the bottom of the panel with a vast row of buttons muddled in between.
Mechanically, this is necessary because you can’t be expected to lean forward too close to the display to do the jobs necessary. There are no dedicated “back” or “home” buttons. It’s all a cognitive nightmare.
Now, this doesn’t matter too much in a car you might buy, but this is a standard Ford dashboard and it’s going to be impossible to sell into the hire car market.
To top the UI issues off, the mix of fonts looks like the programme from a school fête produced in the early days of Desktop Publishing. The whole approach is discordant.
The seats hold you well
Which is a shame because the user interface that really matters – the one between your backside and the road – is really rather good.
As I drove around a sweeping bend, I had a sensation trigger like a smell from a childhood memory. The Ford Fiesta Black has shades of Peugeot 205 GTI one of the greatest hot hatches of all time. The steering isn’t quite as immediate, the over-assisted electric power steering sees to that but it’s still an entertaining little car to hustle.
Keep the revs up and it will sing along a windy road, in part thanks to the suspension having been lowered and stiffened when compared to the middle-of-the-road Fiestas. The attractive seats hold you well and a sporty suspension gives you a good feel for what is going on underneath you.
Speed humps are a bit jiggly but there would be absolutely nothing wrong with using this as a daily driver.
The 138bhp EcoBoost is remarkable
The star however is the engine, Ford is so proud of the 1.00 EcoBoost that the demonstrator has a sticker showing what’s under the bonnet. Perhaps it’s a shame that the interesting sounds, the off-beat thrum and turbo whine are overly-cosseted with sound-proofing and a neighbour-friendly exhaust, but then the dramatics are left to the top-of-the-range Fiesta ST.
Despite the electronics regularly putting it to sleep, the EcoBoost wakes instantly and you don’t dread “Califorinan stops”. While motoring you’ll want to keep it on-boost all the time, cue the left foot braking, and it would be good if it had a sixth gear to keep the rev ranges that bit closer, but with a pointy front end it’s an entertaining thing to buzz about in.
Not too much space in the back, but it's OK
Then you realise it’s a Fiesta, so all the practical things are there. Just about enough space in the back for kids on long journeys – providing they have the requisite tablets – or adults for medium to short ones. There is a decent enough boot and the rear seats fold down.
The fuel economy is amazing at a rated 62.8mpg and 104g/km of CO2. There is a green tinge to this black car.
The Reg Verdict
So does it succeed in being a “head and heart” car? Well, ish. I worry about it being too expensive for the target youth market. Not just the £16,495 that it costs, which can be haggled, but the insurance group of 18. It may be well down on the hotter ST’s 30, but it will still be prohibitive for anyone without a significant no-claims bonus. Still, it may well be that those who aspire to an ST will go red or black for the very same reason. And for those people at least, it very much is the heart car you buy with your head. ®
Price: Fiesta Black £16,495 (red sibling £15,995) More info: Fiesta Black