Fiesta's very special Individual

Ford's new Fiesta supermini makes a big impression with ANDY RUSSELL.Remember the advert where a man came out of the casino and we learned he put a million on black and it came up red, and he married a sex kitten just as she turned into a cat? But it turned out for the best because he drove a Volkswagen Golf.

Ford's new Fiesta supermini makes a big impression with ANDY RUSSELL.

Remember the advert where a man came out of the casino and we learned he put a million on black and it came up red, and he married a sex kitten just as she turned into a cat? But it turned out for the best because he drove a Volkswagen Golf.

One of the best car ads ever, it sticks in my memory because it sums up the new thinking of downsizing to cars that meet our needs with costs that suit our pockets.

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It's years since that VW TV ad but it sprang to mind when I was driving the new Fiesta. I am the man who bought a large family hatchback just before my sons passed their driving tests and bought cars. So I am in that band of motorists looking to downsize my car. I justify my oversized car by saying it has all the creature comforts I expect, gobbles up the miles and, on rare occasions, carries four people in comfort. But so does the new Fiesta and it was much more fun to drive.

This is the type of customer Ford is aiming its new special edition Fiesta Titanium Individual model at. It's not cheap at �15,882 for the three-door and �16,189 for the five-door but it adds premium luxury features including snazzy, if initially rather bright, deep red and silver leather seats and a deep red interior, new seven-spoke 16in alloy wheels and Bluetooth connection and a USB port to the already well-loaded Titanium, further boosting a supermini that already has big-car appeal in a small package.

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For all the Fiesta's huge sales success and worthy attributes over many generations, it was never the sexiest supermini, but that has changed with the new model. It's a cracker, especially the five-door model with the rear doors breaking up the rather slabby rear haunches of the three-door. It bodes well for the new Focus which will take a very similar tack when it goes on sale early next year.

Four petrol and two turbo diesel engines give plenty of choice but the Titanium Individual is offered only with the 96PS 1.4-litre petrol engine but it's a competent all-rounder, zipping around the city or cruising comfortably on the motorway.

The 1.4, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, is smooth and flexible, revs freely in the lower gears and can keep up with most things on motorways and could easily put points on your licence unless you use the standard cruise control.

But it's the ride and handling departments that makes the new Fiesta shine. For a small car it drives better than many a couple of classes above, tackling twisty country roads with sporty verve with a taut, flat stance through corners and well-weighted steering. Even with 16in alloys and low-profile tyres making the ride firmer and leading to some tyre noise on poor surfaces, the suspension is capably soaks up bumps and lumps regardless of speed.

The Titanium Individual comes only with a deep red finish to the top of the dashboard and door panels and those deep red and silver leather seats - I found it brash at first, but that was probably an age thing, although I grew to like it so don't be put off.

Sports-style front seats are snug and supportive and the dashboard with its mobile phone-inspired dashboard looks good - with alloy surrounds for the dials and airvents and tasteful panels on the centre console and steering wheel giving it an upmarket feel - and works well with controls just where you expect them. The interior shows good attention to detail, even down to the tactile profile of the steering wheel, but some of the plastics lower down the fascia feel cheap. A wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment means it is easy to feel at home behind the wheel while a light clutch and slick gear change makes it relaxing to drive in traffic.

If you think superminis are small runabouts, think again. The Fiesta is very roomy with decent legroom in the back for adults, and good headroom despite the roof sloping down into the tailgate. As well as looks, another reason for buying the five-door is that access into the back of the three-door is tight even though the front seats tilt forward and slide.

The useful 295-litre boot is flat-sided but has a high sill. The 60/40 split rear seat backs fold down on to the cushions but leave a step up from the boot floor and the painted backs could easily get scratched.

The Titanium Individual includes cruise control, climate control, ambient interior lighting, rear privacy glass, front, front side and driver's knee airbags, MP3 jackpoint, front fog lights, heated front screen, electric windows and power-fold heated door mirrors, leather seats, Bluetooth connection and smart 16in alloys. But it is a shame that stability and traction control is a �300 option.

Loaded with kit and with the Fiesta's big-car feel, the Titanium Individual is further proof that small is beautiful.

Ford Fiesta 1.4 16v Titanium Individual

PRICE: three-door �15,882; five-door �16,189

ENGINE: 1.4-litre, 96PS, four-cylinder, petrol

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 12.2 seconds; top speed 109mpg

MPG: Urban 37.6; extra urban 61.4; combined 49.5

EMISSIONS: 133g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE? Length 3,950mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,973mm; height 1,481mm

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