Driven: 2020 Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend

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Driven: 2020 Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend

Together with the Volkswagen Polo, the Ford Fiesta has dominated the B-segment in South Africa. Things have changed, though, for SA’s favourite hatchbacks. The rise of the compact SUV/crossover continues to pinch sales from the once-popular segment, while rivals from France, Japan, and Korea continue to launch some fairly serious competition.

Can the Fiesta still duke it out in this crowded segment? Certainly not on styling alone. It’s not an ugly car by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s rather handsome. But when parked next to the striking Citroën C3 and upcoming Peugeot 208, it does look rather demure. Our test unit, a 1.5 TDCi Trend, is offered with neat 16-inch alloy wheels as standard. The base-spec model makes do without the Titanium’s LED day-light running lamps, chrome grille and electrically folding mirrors.

Those who desire the toys of the Titanium will have to forgo diesel power - the Blue Oval only offers the TDCi powertrain in Trend trim, with a manual gearbox as the only transmission option. It may not have all the luxury trimmings, but it’s still impressively equipped. Ford has included a number of goodies, including air-conditioning, all-round electric windows, electric exterior mirrors, a trip computer and an infotainment system. Controlled via an eight-inch touchscreen, it is rich with features such as MP3/USB, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto capabilities. All the expected safety features are present.

Passenger space is on par with rival offerings, but knee room can be rather tight in the back, particularly for larger adults. Boot space is decent, offering up a usable 303 litres of luggage space. Folding the rear bench down increases packing space further, to a commodious 984 litres.

Behind the wheel, the Fiesta feels more engaging to drive than its immediate rivals. The steering is crisp and direct, providing plenty of feedback through cornering. On a mountain pass, it darts to and fro with enthusiasm and immediacy - something lacking in many cars these days. This dynamism is aided by the well-chosen suspension, which keeps the Fiesta planted and secure. It truly is a joy to drive.

In town, where it will spend most of its time, the Fiesta is unbelievably frugal. The manufacturer claims a thirst of just 3.3 L/100 km. Often, these figures are difficult to match or come close to. However, we can attest to the Fiesta TDCi’s economy. It has a modest thirst, allowing us to obtain an average of just 4.1 L/100 km over our test period.

To keep it in the torque band, the five-speed gearbox needs plenty of stirring. Attempt to change up too early and the little Fiesta gets bogged down rather easily. It’s got just enough power (63 kW and 175 Nm of torque) but it can struggle if not driven with precision. At speed, the Fiesta copes admirably. Sitting at the national limit, the diesel powertrain is nicely hushed and refined. There’s very little wind or tyre noise to complain about, either.

The Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend is a rather unique little car. It’s the only B-segment hatchback in SA that offers a diesel derivative, offers tremendous fuel efficiency and is rather well-equipped. Granted, a Citroën C3 will offer more bang for your buck in terms of equipment, but the Fiesta offers a bigger dealer network, stronger resale value and superior driving dynamics. The Polo offers more cachet and that elusive VW upmarket appeal, but like the C3, doesn’t offer diesel power. The price of the Fiesta TDCi is rather tricky to justify, though. At R357 000, it’s just R5 500 cheaper than a petrol-powered Fiesta Titanium - which is faster, better-equipped and nearly as economical. The TDCi is a fine little hatch, but you’ve really got to love diesel to choose it over the aforementioned 1.0T Ecoboost Titanium.

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