These two small B-segment hatchback rivals have both decided to unleash their competition out to the world in 2018.
First, we have the new Volkswagen Polo, really impressive, completely new design and engine and a great all rounded car which, in my opinion, has styling that still needs to grow on me but, overall, its pros outweigh its cons.
Ford, on the other hand, has also changed the design of the new Fiesta in quite a dramatic way, which is by no means a negative thing. But, in doing so, I believe it was much more of a gamble for Ford. Principally because of the high reputation of their EcoBoost engine together with their late modern shape that is still very pretty and suited the character of the car perfectly.
Much like the Polo, the new shape of the Fiesta doesn't make my knees week upon first glance, if you put a Hyundai badge on the front and rear, I would probably never have even noticed. The new Fiesta is now longer and wider than its predecessor, apparently to allow more cabin space, but is it noticeable? Not that I can see. The rear legroom may have been increased by no more than an inch, which is where the new Polo excels. On the other side of the coin though, the new Fiesta lineup now has an ST-line, which has stylish new trims, grill, seats and other fine details. Also, now you get rear disk breaks unlike to the previous version.
The interior has changed quite a bit in the new model. The steering wheel now actually looks and functions like its name suggests, Ford steering wheels in the past have almost been as ugly, badly designed and as odd as Renault's ones are. The dash and centre console have in a way somewhat "grown up". In past models, there were a hundred different shades and finishes of titanium looking plastic that resembled something out of a Chinese made sci-fi spaceship.
But, if one takes into account the market for the Fiesta, especially the ST, a sophisticated businessman does not really come to mind. In the past it was aimed at the youth, hence the name of the car. The infotainment screen that (kind of) looks like a child’s etch-o-sketch is modern and the display resolution is excellent. The touch and feel items are soft-touch rubber for the most part, but things like the door handles and gear lever surround still have hard-plastic finishes. The instrument cluster is distinctly Ford with its blue analogue dials and the digital trip computer system is a nice upgrade from the old model.
The new Fiesta is more of an evolutionary model than an entirely new car. It runs on the same chassis (with a few tweaks) and the engines are just about identical – the ST will have a 1.5-litre turbo and there’s a new 1.1-litre unit that South Africa won’t get. Our SA models will continue to run the 1.0-litre turbo petrol and a 1.5-litre turbodiesel.
Although specification for the South African Fiesta is yet to be confirmed, we do know what engine and gearbox combinations have been earmarked for our market. The 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol with 92 kW and 170 Nm will be available in both manual and automatic guise and will be available in Trend and Titanium trim levels. The automatic-only offers 74 kW but has the same torque figure at 170 Nm. The 1.5-turbodiesel with 63 kW and 215 Nm of torque is only available in manual guise and will be offered in Trend trim only. An entry-level Ambiente derivative might be introduced at a later stage.
Although prices haven't been confirmed locally, I'm pretty sure that it will be significantly cheaper than the new Polo, so which one should I invest in you might ask? Well, although both are in the same class, the characteristics of the previous Polo and Fiesta are pretty much the same. The Fiesta is probably more fun to drive, its more aggressively styled and the ST version, which will come at a later stage, will probably be a close match for the Polo GTI.
The Polo, on the other hand, is more practical. They all have 5 doors, more legroom, more boot space, and a better-designed interior with typical German quality. The Polo is also available with a DSG gearbox and will hold its resale value better than the Fiesta.
Although different, these two cars offer a great driving experience, good fuel consumption and built-in high tech. At the end of the day, once again it all boils down to personal choice.