Ford’s new Fiesta will be parachuted straight into the fire-fight of 2011 – the Battle of the Sedan. It brings enough ammo though, including the choice of petrol and diesel motors, voice-recognition technology, a blend of nimble handling and planted ride, and good looks.
Design & Engineering
Design and Engineering
Just look at it: from the front, the new Fiesta is sharply styled, with a huge grille, dagger-shaped headlamps and a well-contoured bonnet. The style is well defined along the sides as well, with muscular wheel arches and a swooping roofline. The rear end is where it all goes pear-shaped though, and despite Ford assuring us that the sedan and hatch were styled simultaneously, the boot of this car does not blend as harmoniously into the overall design as would befit it. On the plus side, the boot is huge and will easily swallow four large suitcases.
Interiors & Comfort
Interiors & Comfort
The cabin is modern, with hooded instruments, a swoopy dashboard with a multi-info display at centre, chunky steering wheel and generous cup-holders in the centre console. The array of buttons isn’t entirely to my liking though, and the new infotainment isn’t particularly easy to use, but more on that later.
What you’ll love, are the front seats. There’s a good range of adjustability, which will help drivers of different stature, from my five-foot-and-a-bit wife to my six-foot-two cousin all find their perch comfortably. They’re well bolstered, with ample support for your thighs, shoulders and lower back. The steering wheel adjusts for rake but not for reach, and I wish it did, just to add slightly more adjustability to the driving position. The front seat-back angle gets a rotary adjuster, but irritatingly it is to the outside of the seat, near the B-pillar, and not very comfortable to use as a result.
The rear seats are not the best in the segment, and that is a fact which Ford takes cognisance of. Shoulder room is decent, and headroom, despite the swooping roofline, is more than adequate. Where the Fiesta loses out is in legroom; somehow accommodating two six-footers one behind the other won’t see either being too happy.
The voice-activated controls in the new Fiesta is something Ford is very proud of, and I’m sure many buyers will be tempted by the choice of verbally instructing their car to change radio stations or adjust the climate control. The system isn’t fool-proof, and let’s not forget that you need to learn a set of commands in a specific sequence to get it to do your bidding. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. The Bluetooth sync for the phone works fine, except that if you get an incoming call, you need to take your hands off the steering wheel and press a button on the dashboard to answer the call. Frankly, a pair of accept/reject buttons on the steering wheel would be simpler to use. Also, the system cannot recognise names stored in your phonebook, and you will need to programme the car’s memory. I have over 1200 numbers on my phone, and I really wouldn’t bother with it.
Performance & Handling
With the preliminaries out of the way, what does the Fiesta feel like from behind the wheel? A few happy expletives would describe it just fine, but since your twelve-year-old nephew might be reading this, I must refrain.
It drives well – and that would be the understatement of the year. I tried the diesel first. The clatter at start-up is rather evident, as is engine drone at a constant 100km/h clip. But you’ll forgive those flaws for the response this motor has.
Diesels are known for a big slab of torque, which the Fiesta’s 1.5-litre motor has plenty of – 204 Nm from 2000 rpm onwards to be precise – but it’s in the delivery that this engine really wins friends. Yes, there is some turbo lag up to 1750-1800 rpm or so, but the boost builds strongly and linearly, with none of the light-switch delivery other diesels in this segment suffer from. The gears are well-spaced, and the Fiesta makes good use of all 204 Nm. The motor runs out of steam at 4000 rpm, and there’s no point going much above 3500 rpm, really. Keep the engine between 2000-3500 rpm, and the diesel Fiesta motors with amazing urgency. The gears shift precisely, if a little long through the gate. I estimate its top-speed in fifth gear to be somewhere close to 180 km/h, which gives you a fair idea of its potential.
What really contributes to the whole experience is how effortless the Fiesta feels to drive quickly. White-knuckle moments in other cars are no more than command-and-obey situations with the Fiesta. It steers with aplomb, with good feel and feedback, if not quite as sharply as its predecessor, nee Fiesta Classic. The brakes were a touch grabby on the cars I drove, but after a week of being thrashed by the automotive media, including numerous bloggers, I can’t be sure whether that’s how they are or that’s how they became.
The petrol Fiesta, which I drove later, also has a 1.5-litre engine. This engine is based on the 1.6-litre Duratec which powers the earlier Fiesta, but has been shaved to 1.5-litres. It also has Ford’s new Twin-independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), which helps produce a little more power (110 PS) and is cleaner into the bargain as well. For city use, I’d recommend the petrol, with its better response and light clutch action. The motor will happily pull from 1500 rpm in any gear. You do miss the mid-range surge of the diesel though, especially on the highway, where the petrol struggles to keep up with its oil-burning cousin. That said, there’s a definite kick in the powerband somewhere around 4000 rpm, after which the 1.5-Ti-VCT screams all the way to its 6200 rev limit. But you can’t drive like that everyday, and I ended up wishing the Fiesta petrol had a bit more mid-range urge.
Refinement in the petrol is very impressive, with a hushed cabin and little or no vibrations filtering through. In fact, Ford claims a class-leading 69 dB at 80 km/h cruise for this car.
We haven’t had the chance to do a fuel run on the new Fiesta, but the ARAI figures for the car are 17 kpl for the petrol and 23.5 kpl for the diesel. By these figures, the diesel Fiesta is the most fuel-efficient in its class.
A lot of time and energy has been focussed on making the new Fiesta one of the safest cars around. Up to 55 % of the car’s structure is made of high-strength steel, including ultra-high strength boron steel. Dual airbags for the driver and front passenger have also been calibrated for Indian conditions. ABS with electric brake brake-force distribution, or EBD, varies braking power to the front wheels independently, and the rear wheels in tandem, to ensure safe and controlled stops. As a global model, the new Fiesta has to conform to global standards, and there are no compromises here.
In all, the Fiesta does have a lot going, but it’s an expensive car. Some might argue that Ford has priced the car out of contention for the class. The Blue Oval’s argument is that the Fiesta seeks to offer far more than any other car in the class. The new Fiesta does come with ABS +EBD and 2 airbags as standard, along with a music system, height adjustable driver’s seat, electric mirrors with integrated indicators, power windows, power steering and central locking even on the base Style variant. In all, there are four variants, with the Titanium and Titanium + having the voice-activated controls. But with the range starting from Rs 8.3 lakhs, the Fiesta petrol does appear a tad expensive.
If you’re the type who likes to drive, and mostly it’s your kids in the back seat, then are few better cars than the new Fiesta. Ford also promises it’ll be cheap to run, benchmarking the Maruti SX4 for spares and service cost, which is saying something.
Ultimately, given the sedan market and the stiff competition, the new Fiesta will have to dodge bullets, but it does have enough in its armoury to acquit itself well.