The Ford Fiesta gets a useful dose of electrification in EcoBoost mHEV mild hybrid form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the revised model.
Electrification is everywhere in the market at present but there's not much evidence of that in the supermini segment. Not at prices the average person can afford anyway. If your budget can shoulder premium pricing, Toyota will sell you a full-Hybrid Yaris, Renault will now do the same with their Clio and Peugeot and Vauxhall have full-electric versions of their 208 and Corsa models. But not everyone can stretch to cars like these. Ford says it can offer a more sensible solution and this is it, the Fiesta EcoBoost Hybrid. This model adds mild hybrid tech to the company's usual 1.0-litre EcoBoost three cylinder petrol engine to create a small but significant improvement in efficiency. And, at the same time, a perkier feel through the gears. All at very little increase in price over conventional levels. Sounds promising. Especially when all of this is combined with the useful packages of design changes which have created the revised version of this seventh generation Fiesta.
Simplicity's the keynote here, so the 1.0-litre three cylinder EcoBoost petrol powerplant this car features is essentially the same one Ford's been offering since 2011, more recently enhanced with cylinder deactivation tech which cuts down on cylinder use at low-to-medium throttle speeds. In mHEV mild hybrid form though, this unit gets a lower compression ratio and a larger turbo. And it's been embellished by a beefed-up starter/generator driven by a belt at the front of the engine that stores the energy harvested when you brake or decelerate in a tiny 48-volt lithium-ion battery secreted at the back of the car. Which provides a bit of extra zip when you accelerate (Ford says up to 50Nm of extra torque) and delivers a little electric boost from low revs to 'torque-fill' while you're waiting for the turbo to spool up. So that little momentary hesitation you sometimes get with small little turbo engines when pulling off from roundabouts and away from junctions is dealt with too. Few potential Fiesta customers will have the ordinary version of this engine to benchmark against on their test drive but those already familiar with it would perhaps notice that in this form, this unit pulls more easily from almost any speed with fewer gear changes needed, which makes it feel like a much larger-capacity powerplant. We've already noticed when trying this unit in the Puma crossover that there's a pleasingly fizzy, thrummy soundtrack under full throttle: you certainly wouldn't think the little EcoBoost lump beneath the bonnet ahead of you had just three cylinders and a litreage capacity not much different to that of a good bottle of Burgundy. Most Fiesta EcoBoost Hybrid buyers will probably choose the 125PS version of this engine which gets to 62mph in 9.4s en route to 126mph. There's also a perkier 155PS version of this same unit which improves those figures to 8.9s and 136mph.
Design and Build
Apart from the badgework, there are no real visual changes to distinguish this mild hybrid Fiesta variant apart from its conventional range stablemates. But you might well note the changes made to this improved version of the seventh generation design. As before, it's offered in both three and five-door bodystyles, plus an 'Active' crossover variant, and all derivatives are tidy pieces of styling. The bonnet's been revised, the nose of the car raised and the brand badge moved into the grille, which is flanked by restyled LED headlamps. As before, the sportier 'ST-Line' models get a more aggressive front bumper and feature a gloss black honeycomb mesh grille. The Fiesta Active is marked out by vertical grille bars, plastic body cladding and silver trim accents. At the rear with all variants, the tail lamps are darker and Ford now offers a contrasting matte and gloss black diffuser finish. Inside, Ford has added a 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument display screen, which complements the usual 8-inch SYNC 3 centre infotainment screen. It incorporates 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring - and can include a 575-watt B&O stereo and a rear view camera too. Storage for personal belongings is delivered with a 20% larger glovebox and a 1-litre media bin in the centre console. Rear seat passengers aren't as cramped in the back of a Fiesta as they used to be; changes made in 2020 added 16mm more knee room, supported by slim-back seats that offer decent side-to-side support. This Fiesta's tailgate is wide for easy access to the 311-litre boot. If you're able to flatten the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest, you'll find that the revealed cargo floor ends up with quite a step in it, but the total capacity figure looks reasonable by segment standards - 1,093-litres.
Market and Model
Think in terms of a price point starting from around £18,500 for the Fiesta EcoBoost 125PS mHEV; that's with base 'Trend'-spec trim. 'Titanium', 'Active' and 'ST-Line' trim levels are also available (with plusher 'Vignale' versions of each) and with these, you also have the option of a perkier 155PS version of this engine. Prices range right up to around £24,000. Avoid base trim and with the 125PS unit, you'll be offered the £1,500 option of Ford's 7-speed PowerShift auto transmission too. We'd be tempted by the crossover-style 'Active' model with its slightly raised ride height, SUV styling cues and 'slippery' road drive modes. Key additions added to the options list of this revised Fiesta design include Matrix headlights, which block individual light rays to avoid blinding oncoming cars when high-beam is enabled. These headlamps can also adapt to bad weather and surrounding traffic. Safety-wise, an extra addition is 'Wrong Way Alert', which stops you turning into a road where you'll be driving against the traffic. As usual on a Fiesta, you'll be offered some up-scale equipment options, examples including an openable panoramic glass roof. There's sophisticated safety too, including a Pedestrian Detection system that can even prevent collisions at night. And 'Active Park Assist' with brake interventions to prevent low-speed collisions when parking hands-free. As for standard equipment, even base models get features like air conditioning, Bluetooth, an 'Emergency Assistance' system and a 6-speaker stereo.
Cost of Ownership
We've explained how the mHEV system works in our 'Driving Experience' section but we'll further add here that the belt-driven integrated starter/generator is also able to aid the powerplant's stop/start system in urban traffic, restarting the engine in approximately 300 milliseconds - about the same as the blink of an eye. And the 'BISG' also enables the Fiesta EcoBoost Hybrid's Auto Start-Stop technology to operate in a wider range of scenarios for even greater fuel savings, including when coasting to a stop below 10mph - and even when the vehicle is in gear with the clutch pedal depressed. Thanks to all of this, the subsequent reduction in the amount of work required from the petrol engine results, says Ford, in a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 9%. So what does that equate to in terms of stats? Well, let's base this around the Fiesta EcoBoost Hybrid variant most will choose, the 125PS mHEV 1.0-litre EcoBoost Hybrid manual gearbox variant. This returns up to 56.5mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and up to 113g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. For the 155PS version of this unit, the respective figures are up to 56.5mpg and up to 114g/km. You'll need some perspective here; the non-mHEV 1.0 EcoBoost Fiesta manages bests of 53.3mpg and 121g/km.
Provided you understand what you're actually getting here - a slightly more efficient combustion engine, not a proper full-Hybrid - there's lots to like about this lightly electrified Fiesta. That understanding will help put into perspective the fuel and CO2 benbefits of Ford's mHEV technology. So you'll be pleased with these efficiency enhancements, rather than disappointed that they're not more Prius-like. It helps that the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine being used here was already pretty efficient thanks in part to its cylinder deactivation technology. Most of the supermini models this Fiesta EcoBoost Hybrid derivative directly competes with on price have nothing like this level of engine sophistication at this price point. Add in this seventh generation Fiesta model's dynamic virtues and the deal you're likely to get from Britain's market-leading brand and you might well find the overall ownership proposition quite a compelling one.