When we went to the launch of the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic back in January, we were suitably impressed with what Ford had managed to squeeze out of the Fiesta, although a little less impressed by the price. With emissions at a road tax busting 98g/km, and a headline economy of over 76mpg, it promised very economical motoring.
But how good would it actually be to live with? We all know that headline fuel consumptions can be misleading, but was this new ‘Eco’ Fiesta really all that economical? We’d had numerous emails and comments after that first drive, all saying basically the same thing: Yes, it headlines at 76mpg, but what will it do in the real world? So we thought we ought to find out.
Ford were happy to play ball, and gave us a Fiesta ECOnetic for 10 days so we could get a real feel for what it’s like to live with and, more importantly, to discover just how economical it is. And we decided we needed to see what it’s like from more than one perspective, so we let four of our team loose on the ECOnetic with simple instructions – Do what you do on a normal day, and don’t try to play at ‘Eco’ driver. Unfair? Probably. But the results were quite interesting.
Ford Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test / Review – John’s Drive
I have to admit, I still find it fun to have new cars to play with – even ‘Eco’ cars. There are worse ways to earn a crust. It’s not exactly onerous and, for a lifelong petrol-head, it is rather pleasant to go for a drive with the handy excuse that ‘I’m Working’.
Over the years I’ve owned more than my share of Fiestas. Not for my use, I have to admit, but when you factor in wives, partners and children, it must be approaching double digits. So I’m pre-disposed to see the Fiesta as a sensible run-around. A ‘shopping’ car. A car my children can be safe in and which is reliable. And over time, even with the boxy, pocket-sized Fiesta Mk I, this has been pretty much my experience.
But I’m not a small guy, so I always felt a little claustrophobic in the Fiesta. That improved in the last Fiesta, but the latest version of Ford’s best-selling car is surprisingly roomy. Lots of head room and enough elbow room not to make my front seat passenger think I’m getting over familiar when I change gear! It feels a much bigger car than it is – particularly in the front. But even with me in the driving seat (at 6’3″) there is still room for an adult behind – at a pinch.
It’s also pretty good to drive, something we’ve come to expect from all modern Fords. Ford has dropped the suspension on the ECOnetic by 20mm and fitted skinny, low rolling resistance tyres to help economy. Which should have made the suspension unbearably hard and the roadholding somewhat worse than the stock Fiesta. But actually, it hasn’t. Yes, the ride is harder, but it’s not unacceptable. And those skinny tyres, although prone to squealing a bit if pushed, don’t seem to have harmed the handling at all (although they did generate some odd noises on certain road surfaces at speed).
Remarkably, the ECOnetic isn’t slow either. True you’re not going to win the traffic light Grand Prix against anything tasty, but if you ignore the irritating green arrow ordering you to change up the ECOnetic is lively, nimble and quick. Even at speeds a little north of the national speed limit, it feels sure-footed and responsive – not at all like an ‘Eco’ car. And despite the firmer suspension the ECOnetic was remarkably rattle and squeak-free – no groaning panels; no unexpected crashing noises; no flexing of trim. This is a well bolted together car.
But although the interior is a decent size, it does feel a bit low-rent. Some of the plastics are distinctly hard and scratchy, and the car shouts ‘basic’. But basic in 2009 is nothing like basic was even a few years ago. You get a reasonable sound system and CD, ipod connectivity, electric front windows and electric/heated mirrors. And if you’ve not been in a new car in the last few years the ECOnetic won’t feel at all basic. It is light and airy, if a little difficult for long reversing manoeuvres with a poor blind spot on the C pillar. But the seat trim needs a bit of re-thinking. The seats look like they’ve got Halfords ‘Sport’ seat covers circa 1975 on them!
So it’s a good car, this Ford Fiesta ECOnetic. But I do think Ford has missed a trick. Why have an ‘ECOnetic’ Fiesta as a separate model? Why not offer an ECOnetic version of the Fiesta right across the model range instead? Then you could have comfort or funkiness or toys or whatever your thing is without being lumbered with ‘Old-Man’ seat trim and low-rent plastics.
I know a lot of the ‘Green’ brigade think you need to wear a hair shirt to prove you care about the environment, but not everyone who wants to save the planet thinks the same. What about the Yummie-Mummies? What about the kids – who think more about the environment than us old geezers? They want funky and cool and all the things the better equipped Fiestas can offer.
Great car, and Ford have done a good job by offering a car with serious green cred that isn’t boring to drive or look at. But they’d do better making ‘ECOnetic’ an option, not a model.
Go to Section:
Part 1 – Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test Introduction & John’s Test Drive
Part 2 – Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test – Vince’s Test Drive
Part 3 – Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test – Claire’s Test Drive
Part 4 – Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test – Carla’s Test Drive
Part 5 – Fiesta ECOnetic Road Test / Review – Cars UK Conclusion & Quick Tech Specs