Ford recently announced that it has had to temporarily pause orders on its best-selling Fiesta.
The ever-popular small hatchback has proved so popular, in fact, that the car maker is struggling to keep up with demand as it battles component shortages.
The lack of semiconductor chips is a problem that’s affecting every car maker in the world and having an impact on delivery times and specification levels for a lot of models.
So the bad news is that you can’t currently order a Fiesta Active like we’ve been testing. And that’s a shame because it’s still one of the best all-round small hatchbacks out there.
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This seventh-generation Fiesta is now five years old and while some rivals, such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 208 and Skoda Fabia, are newer it still holds its own in whatever guise you choose, especially in the wake of a mild facelift.
Externally, that facelift is most obvious in the redesigned front, where the famous Blue Oval now sits in a restyled grille and the daytime running lights take a more prominent position low down on the reshaped bumper.
Active models stand out from other Fiestas with a slight suspension lift, unique grille design, roof rails and some black “SUV-inspired” cladding on the arches. It could look naff, but the Fiesta manages to get away with it, offering a more rugged alter-ego to the sporty ST-Line.
Inside, unique seat fabric aside, the Active is the same as any other Fiesta. That means it’s well put together using a selection of solid but dull materials. Its age is actually a bonus in some ways, with a simpler more user-friendly design that still relies on physical buttons for most functions (unlike the recently updated Focus).
Some rivals offer better space, especially in the rear, and the Fiesta’s seats could prove too narrow for some drivers but for couples or families with small kids it’s sufficiently spacious. The 311-litre boot is big enough for a weekly shop or luggage for a weekend away but isn’t a match for the likes of the VW Polo, Skoda Fabia or Renault Clio.
Where the Fiesta remains the benchmark in its class is for driving fun. While the ST is in another league, even the Active is still no slouch and feels eager and responsive on country roads, with quick steering and a pleasing six-speed gear shift.
Its eagerness is aided by the test car’s 123bhp EcoBoost engine. It’s the lower-powered option in the Fiesta’s mild hybrid line-up but nonetheless has no problem providing plenty of flexibility and pace. The 48V hybrid system’s starter/generator provides a useful extra helping of torque, especially at lower revs, where responsiveness is noticeably better than the old non-hybrid unit. It also offers improvements over the old car’s economy, managing up to 52.3mpg.
A step up to the 153bhp version, especially if paired with the ST-Line’s sports suspension, creates a fairly credible warm hatch to sit below the real ST. However, the more relaxed and slower-paced engine feels better suited to the tested Active, with its taller and softer suspension. That brings a hint more roll and less body control than the sportier ST-Line, but it’s still well composed. That more pliant suspension also makes for a more comfortable ride when facing the pothole-scarred horror of most UK cities.
Active trim effectively sits alongside ST-Line and above the “regular” Titanium spec, and our car was enhanced with the “X” pack. That means 18-inch machine-finished alloys, LED headlights, heated seats and steering wheel, an eight-inch Sync3 infotainment screen, parking camera and lane keep assist among other standard kit.
Last year’s facelift also boosted the technology available on the Fiesta and our test car came with a 12.3-inch digital instrument array as standard as well as the optional and excellent Matrix adaptive headlights (£850) and a driver assistance package (£300) that added adaptive cruise control and driver impairment monitoring.
That, plus an upgrade to a 10-speaker B&O stereo and a parking assistance package took our test car’s price from just under £25,000 to almost £27,500, so you’re paying a high price for your high spec. Of course, once order books open again, you might be able to strike a deal but on the surface it’s a lot of money for a non-performance model.
If you can find a deal, the Fiesta remains a great small car with class-leading dynamics, strong engine and generous specification. However, rivals can offer more space and similar equipment levels for lower starting prices.
Ford Fiesta Active X
Price: £24,855 (£27,455 as tested); Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 123bhp; Torque: 125lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed manual; Top speed: 124mph; 0-62mph: 9.4 seconds; Economy: 52.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 122g/km