New car review

Ford Fiesta ST-Line and Vignale review

A sporty-looking version of the best-selling Ford Fiesta is no surprise, but is the UK also ready for a luxury supermini?

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Design
8.0
Comfort
7.0
Driving experience
9.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
9.0

Summary

The Ford Fiesta remains the complete package and likely to remain top of the pops for some time yet.

Summary

The Ford Fiesta remains the complete package and likely to remain top of the pops for some time yet.
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The latest extensions to the Ford Fiesta range add sportier ST-Line and luxury Vignale trims to the existing Style, Zetec and Titanium lines.

Key features
Choice of sporty or luxury trim, three and five doors, diesel option

Our view
The new ST-Line and Vignale trim levels added to the Ford Fiesta range simply provide more choices on a model that remains just about the most complete package on the small car market, and worthy of its long-held best-seller status.

Similar cars
Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio

Full review

Introduction

There is not a lot that Ford can do wrong with regard to the Fiesta. Since its launch in 1976, the supermini has firmly established itself as the UK’s best-selling car.

Some 4.5 million Fiestas have found homes in the UK, while the latest, seventh-generation model has already sold 20,000 since its launch in July – each month it sits at the top of the UK top ten, a good couple of thousand units ahead of its nearest challengers.

We reviewed the Titanium trim version of the new Fiesta back in July, and we dubbed it a definite improvement over its predecessor, albeit no longer head and shoulders above the opposition.

That July launch was of the initial mainstream Style, Zetec and Titanium models. Now Ford seeks to ease out that gap on rivals by adding the ST-Line trim, evoking the look of the performance ST model but without the potency and inevitable compromises.

Also added for the first time is the upmarket Vignale grade. And these two models will not be the end of the Fiesta story. Coming next year are a crossover-styled model dubbed Active, and the full-house ST hot hatch.

Ford Fiesta ST-Line 2017 review by The Executivecondominium
Unlike many new superminis, the Ford Fiesta continues to be available in both three-door and five-door models.

Buying and owning a Ford Fiesta

So what do the new trim levels offer to encourage buyers to choose them over the Titanium specification, top of the range at launch and described by us back in July as ‘the sweet spot’ of the Fiesta range?

Whereas once superminis were seen as cars chosen mainly for their lower prices, today’s offerings conform to the modern trend of better things coming in smaller packages, as drivers downsize from larger cars of past times.

 
 

Ford sees more extensively equipped, upmarket lines taking the majority of Fiesta sales. Such models also, of course, earn the brand more money, so Ford wants to attract buyers up the range with ‘something for all.’ As a result, the ST-Line is pitched not as a step up from Titanium but an alternative, and priced the same.

ST-Line is aimed at customers that want a good selection of equipment but in a more sporty-looking package. So the car gets 17-inch alloy wheels with five twin spokes instead of the 16-inch 10-spoke versions of the Titanium. And these can be upgraded to 18-inch versions for £550.

Further exterior styling comes in the form of a large rear spoiler atop the tailgate and bespoke body styling, particularly the grille – Ford is using the mesh design to differentiate its various trims.

‘Sports tuned’ (in other words slightly stiffer) steering is included, as are some interior additions, but the cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and auto climate control of the Titanium is not part of the ST-Line specification. Neither are the various driver assistance aids such as traffic sign recognition, while any form of braking assistance and collision mitigation remains an option on both cars. Since our July test, however, the Fiesta has been crash-tested by Euro NCAP and gained a top five-star rating.

For those buyers who want the looks and all the equipment, many of the Titanium niceties the ST-Line loses are restored in the ‘ST-Line X’ model, costing an extra £400.

Then there is Vignale, the ‘ultimate luxury model’, offered on the Fiesta for the first time. Ford debuted the concept on the Mondeo in 2015, describing it as an ‘upscale product and ownership experience.’ The cars were intended to be the most luxurious of their range, their creators suggesting they were targeting the likes of Audi and BMW, and the ‘experience’ even extended to bespoke ‘Vignale Lounges’ in the flagship Ford dealers, where customers were supposed to be treated to more premium levels of service.

Since then, Vignale has expanded rapidly across the Ford line-up and possibly the original concept has been diluted as a result. It now arrives on the Fiesta, the major exterior evidence being bespoke alloy wheels and the signature grille mesh.

Equipment on the Vignale Fiesta is based on that of the former range-topping Titanium X, and is mostly composed of upmarket detailing with the only extra tech a rear-view camera with parking sensors. At a shade under £20,000, it’s hard to see what just two years ago was pitched as something special, as anything more than just another trim level.

Inside the Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta Vignale interior 2017 (The Executivecondominium)
Ford Fiesta Vignale is very well kitted out.

The interior of the Fiesta came in for the most praise in our July test – a revolution in design we called it, with far fewer buttons and an intuitive design based around an eight-inch touchscreen.

Unless you pay for the X model, the ST-Line shrinks that touchscreen back to 6.5 inches and removes the navigation, but you get everything else including DAB digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility – so you won’t miss the navigation as you can use a phone app.

The seats are mildly sports-like and the steering wheel has that stylish flat-bottom, while there are also sporty-look alloy pedals. Generally, however, the interior is not that different, and that’s not a bad thing because it all works very well indeed.

Vignale models of course gain some more significant additions, most notably the ‘black ruby’ leather on the seats and steering wheel, which are also all heated. Bespoke monogrammed floor mats front and rear and silver door threshold plates also feature, while the five-door version – yes you can buy a three-door even in Vignale – is the only Fiesta to be supplied with electric rear windows as standard.

Something that can’t be changed across trim levels is the interior space, one area where the Fiesta does fall behind rivals. The back seats in particular are quite cosy for anyone larger than the average child.

Driving the Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta ST-Line on the road 2017 (The Executivecondominium)
The Ford Fiesta is still the driving benchmark for superminis.

Both of the new trims are available with any of the complete Fiesta engine range apart from the entry-level petrol and diesel units. Petrol buyers have three versions of the much-awarded 1-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo petrol engine to choose from, with 100, 125 or 140hp.

For the mere 4% or so of buyers who insist on diesel, there is a 1.5-litre 120hp unit available. Six-speed manual gearboxes are the norm, while the 100hp petrol unit is available with an auto transmission as an option on ST-Line models, and as standard on the Vignale.

During the launch, on the superb roads of an admittedly rainy Snowdonia in North Wales, we focused on the 120hp petrol unit that is likely to take the majority of sales.

The Fiesta has long been regarded as the benchmark of on-the-road dynamics for small cars and this model does nothing to change that view. The car combines a free-revving, versatile and very smooth engine with an excellently sorted chassis. It’s good to travel in, the larger wheels and supposedly beefed-up suspension not having any ill-effect on ride comfort. When one wants to press on through a series of challenging bends, the car corners with precision and confidence.

Summary

The latest Ford Fiesta earned widespread positive reviews when launched earlier in 2017 and the new trim levels merely add some extra gloss and increase the choice for customers. While some might struggle to see the relevance of Vignale luxury in a small car, Ford clearly sees a market for it. Overall, despite the best efforts of rivals, the Fiesta remains the complete package and likely to remain top of the pops for some time yet.

Ford Fiesta Vignale review 2017 at The Executivecondominium
Fiesta remains the complete package

Design
8.0
Comfort
7.0
Driving experience
9.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
9.0

Summary

The Ford Fiesta remains the complete package and likely to remain top of the pops for some time yet.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Executivecondominium. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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