The Ford Fiesta is one of our top picks in the small car segment and we awarded it four stars in our segment Buyers Guide in 2013. As well as great styling, space and specification, one of the reasons the latest generation stood out for us was the superb 1-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Our initial praise was based on experiencing the award-winning engine when mated to a manual gearbox, so I was looking forward to seeing how it performed when allied to the Powershift twin-clutch automatic box. The competition in this segment is heating up, particularly with the recent arrival of the latest generation Volkswagen Polo. Where once it was simply about price, styling and the dealer network, today those factors are in addition to whether it has Bluetooth, audio streaming, remote controls on the steering wheel, climate control and LED lights.
Times have changed and we want more kit in our vehicle, even if it is entry level. It needs to look good and give us value for money, although the definition of value keeps moving when you consider having to pay R236,600 for this model. The Fiesta is a stylish vehicle and you do get a whole list of kit in the Trend model, although the Powershift box is not available in the top spec Titanium version.
The driving position is excellent and, being an auto, you can focus on the road while streaming your favourite tunes from your smartphone via Bluetooth. Despite the twin clutch setup, do not expect this to be a sporty machine with paddles behind the steering wheel. Instead you get the option to change gears manually using the gear stick. It’s a bit old school but, honestly, how many people use the paddles in a car equipped with them anyway? That is Ford’s argument here and I have to agree with them.
On the road the Fiesta showed a fair amount of get up and go courtesy of a massive torque band and a potent little turbocharger. It takes a few moments to wind up but once it does you can quickly fool fellow motorists into thinking you have something far more powerful under the hood. It is a good cruiser, which is what I spent most of my time doing as I sat in traffic wandering through the urban sprawl of Joburg. This day-to-day driving is what most of us are subjected to and due to my objection to the e-toll system, I do my utmost to stay off the motorways. This is where the major and, frankly surprising, downside came in.
Fuel consumption claims for the manual are 4.3l/100km but we managed a still respectable 6.6l in our test last year. The consumption claim for the Powershift version is only marginally more at 4.9l but when the car went back after its test the trip computer was showing an enormous 16.1l/100km. This figure was only achieved after I forced myself to travel on the motorways a bit to get it down from the 19.4l that it was showing after a few days driving around town.
Now we all know that automatic gearboxes make a vehicle slightly more thirsty and small capacity engines often have to work harder, especially at Joburg altiudes, but this was ridiculous. I got better consumption driving along the same routes in a McLaren MP4-12C! The Fiesta EcoBoost is a great, if expensive, package but if you want to downsize stick to the manual. You might have to flex your left arm a little more, but it will be for the gear stick and not to pull out your wallet every five minutes.
The Facts: 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Trend Automatic
Engine: 999cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 92kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 170Nm at 4500rpm
0-100km/h: 10.8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.9l/100km (Claimed)
Top speed: 180km/h
Price: R236 600