Sure, things like the VW Polo, the Toyota Yaris, the Nissan Micra and many others have tried to usurp it down the years, but the Fiesta has traditionally held sway — and for good reason.
It was perhaps a little unfortunate that the latest iteration of the car only arrived mid-way through Ford’s Centenary Year here in Ireland and in Cork in particular.
This did not allow dealers to exploit fully the magnetism of the Fiesta range over the full 12 month period, but the car is still performing with impressive élan in its 40s.
As things stand as we near the end of September, Fiesta — new and old — is the bestselling supermini here in Ireland with cumulative sales of nearly 4,000 units, nearly 400 ahead of the Yaris, a massive 1,200 ahead of the Polo, and almost 1,400 ahead of the next best, the Renault Clio.
The Opel Corsa, Nissan Micra and Hyundai i20 trail in.
It must be said that the Fiesta was never a bargain basement sort of car or even the best at giving buyers plenty of toys to play with. Nor was it always the most practical, but for a small car it had the sort of driver-friendly smarts that made it an immediate winner.
It was ‘The One’ in the segment and appealed to a much broader church than even Ford might have ever envisaged.
Of course, the success of the Fiesta was built on the given characteristics and firm foundations of ease of use, practicality, stylishness and driving dynamics.
Unfortunately for Ford, the continued appeal of the car presents a big problem for the designers and engineers because the key to keeping the formula working is to not trick around with it too much.
Given that the last version of the Fiesta came to us back in 2008, the people at Ford have had plenty of time to ruminate on what should be done to keep the car the class leader it has been for the majority of its life.
Sensibly, they have focused (no pun intended) on cementing build quality, fine-tuning the driving dynamics, providing a safe, appealing, comfortable and tech savvy interior as well as improving performance.
These aims, I can faithfully report, have been achieved with considerable aplomb and Ford has given itself the opportunity to keep the Fiesta in the supermini vanguard ahead of increasingly sophisticated and polished opponents such as the recently launched Seat Ibiza — which is in the running for many Car of the Year awards — and its sister car the VW Polo, which also got its European launch in the last few weeks.
Competition then, is not exactly slack and the Fiesta is going to have to be right on top of its game to keep these pretenders at bay. From what I have seen of it, it is.
We tested the new Fiesta in Titanium trim and fitted with the 1.0 litre EcoBoost engine (which is a cracker and yet another sign of the imminent dominance of small capacity petrol engines across a broad range of customer needs) and I have to say there was little on offer here that suggested Ford had either lost the plot or its ability to know how to make a winner.
The new car looks as sharp as a tailored suit, with eye-catching lines and, aside from the fact it is bigger than its predecessor as well has having a more rigid chassis and a raft of suspension enhancements, all of which are aimed at making it more practical and sharper to drive, there is everything to suggest here that all design brief aims have been achieved.
It may be that were you to put this new car alongside the original Fiesta and asked an innocent bystander to highlight the differences between the two, he or she would be there all day listing out how much had changed.
In fact, the two are nearly unrecognisable as being siblings and the current model is, dare I suggest, what original Fiesta owners might think is a Grenada — if they can remember that far back.
You could quibble about how good the connectivity is or how wieldy it is for uploading all manner of crap or downloading, or connecting with, well, the stuff that needs to be connected with, but that would be like taking on an argument with a Scottish Nationalist about the worth of the Forth Bridge.
Fact is, Fiesta does the job and while some may cavil at the touchscreen workability, it is no different, distracting or annoying than anything else that’s out there.
On the driving front, the Fiesta lays it down in spades. This thing has a history and isn’t too inclined to let it go.
It will, if extended, show delightful handling; if not, a great ride.
It is supple, pliant and in arthropod terms, it’s is as fit as a flea and just as agile.
This is a drivers’ car, although many of those who drive one may not realise it. It may look all bobby-soxy and full of the stuff that the market demands, but if you explore what’s on offer, it is something else altogether.
The engine too is a gem and although only the lowest output of those on offer is a delight to drive.
The six speed ‘box did seem a touch OTT as it seemed you were always looking for the next cog, even when in sixth, but you could not fault the willingness on offer.
Economy, as we know by now depends on how much you exercise your right foot and a bit like the Dáil bar — hard to recoup losses — but even mild restraint will deliver results you can boast about.
Bottom line then is that the Fiesta is still ‘The One.’ Despite the many potential pitfalls at hand — all too many of which Ford has fallen into in the past — the Blue Oval has managed to keep the essence of the Fiesta neatly distilled.
It has brought the car neatly up to date for the Millennial crowd and yet kept the basic foundations intact in order to keep the rest of us onside.
All told, Ford has managed to make a car that will have the opposition scurrying back to the CAD screen and, with this sort of success, the company’s swagger will remain unthreatened.