FORD MAKES some very fine handling cars, so its well placed to build efficiency-focused models that offer less of a compromise in the driving dynamics department.
The Fiesta is, and has been for a long time, one of the best-handling small cars out there. To meet customer demand for cars that cost less to run, Ford has developed an Econetic version, which in Ford-speak means its specifically targeted at high mpg figures and low road tax bills.
The latter is set in stone. A CO2 rating of just 95g/km means road tax isnt just cheap its free under the current system. Oddly, its actually powered by a relatively large for the class 1.6-litre diesel engine. A 1.4-litre would be more typical under the eco-theme, but Fords 1.6 is naturally quite efficient.
On paper its also very economical, with low rolling resistance tyres, modified engine settings and aerodynamic improvements helping the car on its way to a claimed 78.5mpg average. Thats unrealistic, as always with claimed economy figures, but depending on how you drive, the Fiesta does return some astounding numbers.
Econetic models are available in the usual trim levels, so can be kitted out quite well. Setting 65mph on the cruise control and trundling up the motorway often sends the instant fuel consumption readout past its upper limit of 99.9mpg. Any slight downhill slope and the Fiesta Econetic must be way into three-figure mpg returns.
At the same speed on the flat, as far as I could tell without stopping to check with a spirit level, it was usually in the mid-70s, which whether or not its short of the claims is astounding. This is a very economical car when driven the right way.
You notice it around town, too, but only if youre very restrained with the throttle pedal. Use just enough force and no more, even up moderate slopes, and youll rarely see the consumption readout dip below 40mpg. It takes determination and a fair old helping of luck but its possible to achieve over 50mpg exclusively in moderately busy town settings.
As an urban tool its only really compromise is the 14-inch wheels, which look hilariously small propping up the latest generation Fiesta. Not so stylish next to some other options, but the tall tyres do help to keep the cabin quieter than it otherwise might be.
The compromise comes on more open roads, where the detuned engine struggles to keep pace with winding, hilly 60mph roads. It needs to be worked very hard sometimes, which spoils the fuel economy altogether. Its best to keep it to slower speeds and flatter topography where only a little pressure on the throttle is enough.
In all other respects the Fiesta Econetic is just like any other Fiesta. The boot is a good size for one person, while a long weekend holiday for two will usually need some luggage to be placed on the back seats.
As its not really that small a car these days, the three-door versions do have long doors that require care in narrow parking spaces to prevent them bashing neighbouring cars.
The interior plastics feel mostly quite lightweight in the hand, in particular the dials for controlling the air conditioning functions could do with a little more weight to add a feeling of greater quality, but other than that there are few gripes with the environment offered by high-spec models.
Overall build quality is satisfactory; good, even. An Econetic Fiesta doesnt have to be an expensive car but neither is it cheap by small car standards, and the general quality of the plastics and trim fit are in keeping with this sort of mid-level.
Whats not quite so good is the ride, which isnt as soft and cosseting as you might hope for with such bulbous tyres fitted. The Econetic sits lower, on a stiffer and less forgiving but aerodynamically more efficient suspension setup, and beneath the squidge of the tyres the bumps come through to the cabin quite keenly.
But, thankfully, the thing that defines most Fords these days is still there. Immediate, direct and responsive steering gives the driver confidence and gives the Fiesta a lively, willing nature that its rivals tend not to be able to match. It has become a staple of the Fiesta down the generations and its great to see that even the eco-versions still have it.
Around towns, suburbs or even cruising up the motorway, the Fiesta Econetic is an outstandingly economical car and those are the environments where buyers will reap the biggest benefits. Its a specialist car, really, but its specialism could be right up your street.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi Econetic Titanium, £15,845 on the road.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel producing 94bhp and 148lb.ft.
Transmission: 5-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
Performance: Top speed 111mph, 0-62mph in 12.9 seconds.
Fuel economy: 78.5mpg.
CO2 rating: 95g/km.