Price: From £8,695 (to heaven knows what)
Top speed: 109 mph 0-60mph 11.9 seconds
Consumption: 67.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 110g/km
Best for: Downsizers
Also worth considering? Mazda 2, Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Fabia

One of the tricks – that's a slightly pejorative term, but it will have to do for now – deployed by car makers in their quest for favourable publicity is to load up their cars with so much extra kit that even the most hard-bitten motoring journalist cannot help but be impressed.

Some years ago, for example, I wanted desperately to try one of the new-generation Minis in its most basic form, the type that could be had for, I think, not much more than £10,000. I wanted to test how far the new Mini could carry off the spartan but fun appeal of its predecessor, the 1959 original (in which a heater was an extra). The Mini press team was unable to find me one that had plain old-fashioned steel wheels and no air conditioning. I was given a Cooper, and told to imagine what it was like to go slower and in a little less style.

Which brings me to our test Ford Fiesta: £15,320. As an impecunious friend pointed out, you could get a massive new Skoda Superb for that, or indeed, in these troubled times, a used Porsche Cayenne SUV. My "All New Ford Fiesta Titanium 5 door" boasted, as standard, an intelligent protection system, cruise control, quickclear heated windscreen, privacy glass, a leather steering wheel with aluminium trim and, less impressively I felt, some carpet mats. All that you get for £13,695. The extras were: the electronic stability programme at £300; a "leather pack" (£600); metallic paint (£375); park assist – rear (£200); and Bluetooth hands-free technology and voice control system (£150). That makes £15,320 in all, sir/madam, including Value Added Tax.

Is it worth it? Well, in a way. Like its close relative the Mazda 2, the Fiesta is one of the new generation of super-minis that almost make the credit crunch a pleasure. Anyone "downsizing" to this will want for nothing. It is lighter than the old ultra-boring Fiesta, it is far livelier to drive, though I marginally preferred the Mazda and my 1.6 diesel type wasn't the last word in refinement. I also felt the pretend BMW I-Drive one-button-controls-all system is a mistake. Still, the Fiesta's adventurous lines are carried over on the inside, and are more evidence of Ford's styling renaissance. Say what you like about Fords, but the best were always interesting, sexy even, to look at – Mk III Cortina; Capri; Puma. None of the previous five generations of the Fiesta ever lived up to that aspiration. That's changed. You can have a party with one now, provided you can afford the admission fee.

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