Ford Fiesta S: Comfortable Sporty Compact

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Ford Fiesta has found a strong niche in the market, in particular among young buyers, looking for attractive alternatives in the compact hatchback sector. Since it was launched here, Sime Darby’s AutoConnesXion has enjoyed a steady stream of buyers, making the Fiesta its best-selling Ford model averaging more than 100 units a month.

Good pricing is, undeniably, a strong factor in shoring up the Fiesta’s appeal. Brought in from Thailand, where it is produced, it could carry a price that is reasonably affordable and yet, provide an image that lives up to some decent social standing.
The latest version was introduced recently, bringing along a new face that is clearly underlined by the huge trapezoidal grille. Complemented by the sleek and long angular headlights, the youthful and outgoing character of the new Fiesta remains its main draw with the target customers.

Two models are made available, the 1.5L Fiesta Sport and 1.5L Fiesta Titanium; the latter comes with a leather interior. At RM84,541.50 on the road without insurance for the Sport model, the new Fiesta stays affordable and more than 300 units were sold since its entry. While the new Toyota Vios might have taken some sales away of late, the five-door Fiesta hatchback retains a youthful appeal that might draw young buyers back soon enough.

Its1.5-litre engine is contemporary with double overhead camshafts, 16 valves, variable cam timing, and multipoint injection. Ford has opted for a mildly oversquare configuration with a 79.0mm bore and 76.4mm stroke, and output is not bad at 82kW (112PS) at 6300rpm and 140Nm at 4400rpm. The transmission is a six-speed Powershift automatic.

On the road, the engine is a little revvy, keeping with its oversquare short stroke nature, but with a 1125kg kerb weight to haul, the pace is decent, not exceptional. We were brought down to earth when we had a 1.0-litre car keeping pace with us (as it obviously enjoyed a better power-to-weight ratio) until about 100km/h before we could pull away gradually. 

This is where the Ford EcoBoost engine with its mild boost turbocharger would come in handy against normally aspirated rivals, similar to what Volkswagen had provided for its range of smaller displacement models in the Polo, Golf and Scirocco. Of course, a higher price would come into play and take the shine off the Fiesta’s appeal. Then again, it would depend on how much higher the price would be. It is a bit of an irony here: a sporty looking hatchback with average normally aspirated power, not quite what a young hothead would look forward to.

We like the way the six-speed Powershift works, especially in urban traffic. The electric controls hold the gear on pedal lift-off, maintaining the level of engine torque, and that helps the car to flow with traffic without having to hit the brakes often. It is the slight pause before the car moves off that we weren’t too fond off, as if the automatic gearbox delays the uptake of power before it engages to move, almost like a turbo lag but in a ‘turbo-less’ car.

There is a Sport option, which when slotted into, raises the engine speed by 300rpm. There is no option for manual shifting via the floor shift or steering wheel paddle controls. The Sport option provided stays relevant to some hot driving as it holds the gear longer to tap the power band for speedy acceleration and overtaking.

We also enjoyed its comfortable ride, especially over bumpy road patches (which we drive over daily). The suspension – MacPherson strut and twin beam torsion bar at the rear – works well with the Continental 195/50 R16 tyres to absorb most impacts and provide a nice ride that is not so jolting. It may sound clunky over some hard knocks but we are not complaining in return for the appreciable cushioning.

The new Fiesta takes to winding stretches confidently and at a fairly quick trot, with the yaw rate through tight bends adequately controlled for some near-flat cornering. The bigger footprint of the 195/50 tyres gave good traction and with the Sport mode holding engine revs higher, we took our favourite corners with some abandonment. The EPAS (electric power assisted steering) also provided enough directional feel to give us that confidence.

The Continental tyres picked up a lot of road noise from about 70km/h on our highway drives, with the pitch varying according to the different road surfaces and speed. It might not be irritatingly intrusive but we figured the younger customers wouldn’t mind it and rather, accept it as part of the car’s audible character.

What puts the Fiesta heads above its rivals in its price bracket is the higher level of features. There is the Push button stop/start (our favourite); the auto door mirror folding when locking the car on pushing a button on either front door (we like this too); auto headlight (which we turned off as we feel it could give the driver ahead the wrong message each time we enter a tunnel); the rain sensor wiper; ESP and Traction Control; and of course, the Ford SYNC with voice activation that most youngsters would appreciate to keep in touch with friends while on the move.

The interior space is reasonably good for four adults with a fair stretch all round, and the boot is big enough to hold quite a bit. The 60:40 split rear seatrest should come in handy when sizeable items come along. We found the central dash area a little fussy with the wing-like design of the controls and couldn’t quite agree with the location of the door lock button here. We feel that it should be on the driver’s door armrest, where the window controls are, as an instinctive spot.

Until a similarly priced rival with a good level of equipment and bold looks to match, the Fiesta should continue to command a strong foothold with the younger buyers in this segment of the market.

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