| Week at the Wheel | Ford Fiesta 1.4 automatic |
Inside & Out:
It's business as usual for the latest Fiesta. The only change for the 1.4 Zetec is the addition of a self-shifter, so there's still the same generous amount of space in the front, reasonable rear passenger room and a decent boot.
All-round visibility is excellent and the Fiesta's compact size makes it simple to park. Solid build quality and clear instruments and controls are also part of the mix, and the exterior still looks fresh as it approaches its second year the showroom.
Engine & Transmission:
The rest of the Fiesta might be up to the model's usual standards, but unfortunately the automatic gearbox undoes all of Ford's good work in an instant. Our test car's transmission was jerky and clunky off the line and even the most gentle of throttle inputs sends the car surging forward, which makes delicate parking shuffles trickier than they should be.
It's a shame, as the 1.4-litre petrol engine does a fine job. It's refined, it revs sweetly and the 95bhp available makes it zesty at all speeds. However, the gearbox has only four ratios so the engine has to work hard to bring the car up to speed, and becomes noisy as a result.
Ride & Handling:
Like every other model in the range, the Fiesta's balance of comfort and control is superb. It glides over broken roads and there's little that upsets it.
There's just the right amount of grip to make it safe and secure during normal driving. Press on and the tyres give up traction in a progressive fashion that allows keener drivers exploit every last degree of grip. The electrically assisted power steering is full of all the right signals and sensations and there's little in the way of wind or road noise.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
The Fiesta tips the financial scales at more than £15,000 in automatic guise - which is a £1,000 extra. At this end of the market, that's just too expensive. Yes, you get air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric front windows, a good stereo and twin front and side airbags, but ESP and an alarm should also be standard rather than languishing on the options list.
Of course, Ford is always up for a deal, so never buckle and pay the full list price - we came across an identical model from an internet broker for £11,400 - that's a saving of £4,045, which is much more like it.
Sadly, we found the claimed combined economy of 43.4mpg impossible to match in normal daily driving. This is exacerbated by the small 42-litre fuel tank, so be prepared for all too regular fuel stops.
As much as it pains us to dole out a poor score to the usually brilliant Fiesta, we have no choice in this case. The driving experience that delights us in the manual is undermined by the clumsy actions of the four-speed automatic transmission. Cost is another downside, as is the poor real world fuel economy. It's still a great car, but this Fiesta is spoiled by those significant flaws.