The best small car in the world. Buy one.
With the exception of the first few lessons in that God-awful Yaris, I learned to drive in a 2007 Ford Fiesta 1.25 Style. It taught me a lot. And I'm happy to have had such a highly regarded car as my first long-term steed, for it gave me a chance to make my mind up properly. And my decision is this. Ford's Fiesta is the best small car in the world. Anybody who wants a small car at Fiesta money and does not buy a Fiesta frankly needs his (or, as a city car, more likely her) head examining.
Grasp the door handle of a 2007 Ford Fiesta Style and, whilst it is black scratchy plastic, at least it feels solid and chunky. Get into the comfortable but oh so plebeian cloth seat, and the comfortably sized steering wheel falls neatly to hand once adjusted to suit one's driving position. All the controls were within reach and placed where you would intuitively look, and the cabin had a quality feel. Nice and sensible dash too, for a modern small car.
So, start the engine. The 1242cc four thrums into life eagerly, you snick the stubby gear lever into a well-placed first gear, and off we go. Where we are very pleasantly surprised. On paper, the 1.25 Fiesta is slower than evolution (Of Darwin's type, not Mitsubishi's) yet on the road it feels nippy, smooth, and quick. If anything, too quick - this is a car which encourages spirited driving, and I found myself over the speed limit more than was perhaps wise for a man on a provisional licence. The gearbox was smooth, with a pleasant change action (A Ford strength, as testified by letters of compliment by a Mr F. Flintstone) and a sensitive yet not overly delicate clutch. Turn-in was sharp, and it put a smile on your face. This was a small car in which excellent progress could be made.
With space for even my six foot three frame and ample room to wear the headpiece of the Coldstream Guards in the front, it really should have been no surprise to find that, excepting a somewhat awkward entry and exit procedure through the gap twixt front door and front seat, the back seat was more than ample for someone of proper proportions. Two of his rugby-playing mates could even have joined him on the back seat without causing much consternation - well, where space was concerned anyway. Not that I had cause to look, but I should imagine the boot was more than capable of taking unfeasibly sized boxes of rubbish to the tip, or of taking the shopping home from Sainsburys. Whilst I'm considering practical matters, it should drink less than an abstemious vicar.
Given the above eulogy, it's only fair I should draw attention to this car's weak spots. It's far too wide; my right elbow does not need six inches of space and a thick door to seperate it from the world outside. Lose an acceptable amount of this and we still can chop six inches from the car's width - in cities narrower cars are an advantage. I also think that anybody planning on motorway work would be better served by a 1.4 or even 1.6 Fiesta. You see, the 1.25 engine is fine round town, but it is far happier in top to cruise at 60 than 70. I found myself speeding up and coasting back down unintentionally on the motorway, like the asthmatic kid in PE lessons who didn't understand the concept of pacing himself at cross country. The easiest way to average 70 was for me to drive at 80 - the car's efforts to relax me resulted in a fair compromise.
But two flies is what is otherwise the most pleasant ointment in it's class are not enough to dissuade me from recommending the Fiesta. If there's a better small car, send me one with a full tank and I'll make an informed decision.