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New Ford Fiesta review - Fiesta-ing in the town of boiled beans

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Aug 17, 2011
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Ford India has had a dream run of sorts during the last one year with its hatch Figo taking on established models with its funkiness and value-for-money package. The model next in line and waiting in the wings to be launched is the new Fiesta.

What's due in is the real deal in a manner of speaking. Unlike, many of Ford India's previous cars, this one will be a truly global car, developed entirely for a global audience and it will be here with its build, design and moniker unchanged for the Indian avatar. And that is why the new Fiesta will have a two-way task to complete – work past its predecessor's already strong reputation in the performance department; and in terms of affordability and cost of maintenance, live up to the image that the Ford Figo has managed to give to the Blue Oval.

Design

The new Fiesta joins Ford's other refreshed models like the Focus and Mondeo in its aggressive new design philosophy. Ford calls it ‘Kinetic Design' and the character elements flow through in the boldness of the new Fiesta's design. I surely won't argue with the claim, since the Ford identity is evident in the new Fiesta, as is the attempt at being a bold departure from the unadventurous design of the past.

The cab-forward design of the new Fiesta and the tall stance does tend to give away a bit of the original intention of building a hatch on the platform. But, at least you don't get the vibes of the car being a hash of a sedan job, with the boot being fairly well integrated into the overall design. The most impressive angle of the new Fiesta is surely the front and the weakest is the rather puny rear.

The more distinctive parts of the car are the characteristic airdam, the peeled-back, dual-barrelled headlamps and the stalked door mirrors. The high waistline that gradually rises towards the rear of the car, the clamshell bonnet, and the more prominent front wheel arches (compared to the rear) make the new Fiesta look very much like a hatch when viewed from the front.

At the rear, the new Fiesta features a short, stumpy boot with a tight lid design. A slightly small and underwhelming taillamp design makes the rear look weak. The spoiler integrated to the lip of the boot lid gives some redemption to the design. The oversized rear bumper may be a positive for buyers who are picky about cost of maintenance and repairs.

The curvy roofline of the car is another feature that manages to lend the design more character and also smartly addresses the issue of space inside the new Fiesta. The roofline also leads on to a nicely sized rear glass and a fairly thin C-pillar, both of which contribute to better rear visibility. On the other hand, the roofline also manages to liberate a lot of head room inside the cabin, easily accommodating even a six-footer at the rear seat.

Performance

Ford has chosen a number of features to bolster the India-spec Fiesta's list. Before I can pick out highlights from that list, I thought the most targeted and impressive choices were the two powertrains – one each of petrol and diesel. In the past, the diesel powertrains of Ford have been more popular than the petrol, but I think with the new 1.5-litre Duratec Ti-VCT engine, the new Fiesta could see a more distinctly balanced preference.

The petrol engine features a new twin independent variable camshaft timing technology. This Ti-VCT tech simply ensures better combustion and helps reduce emissions and improve efficiencies. By ensuring precise and variable control of valve overlap – the time during which both the intake and the exhaust vales are simultaneously open – the system ensures that wastages are minimised.

The technology ensures that at any given time, the engine can perform in either economy or high performance mode depending on driver demand.

The Ti-VCT system can help deliver instant power and quick acceleration by advancing the intake valve or during high or cruising speeds, the intake can be pulled back to increase airflow and lower fuel consumption.

Driving the new Fiesta around Bangalore's crowded city roads and on the highway leading up to Mysore, I felt the best part about the new petrol engine is its tractability. Offering a flat torque characteristic that allows impressive acceleration from low engine rpm ranges the Ti-VCT engine scores both in slow moving conditions and in highways situations.

The engine's 140 Nm of torque can be fully exploited at 4,500 rpm and a total of 110 horses are available at about 6,000 rpm. The light, but sturdy engine is responsive, very refined and torquey enough to keep your shoulder and feet happy. The India-spec Fiesta is said to be first to get this new engine and it definitely was my favourite compared to the similarly sized diesel unit.

That doesn't take away the 1,498cc Duratorq diesel engine's appeal in other departments. Intercooled and turbocharged, the diesel engine is clearly meant to be one of the most fuel-efficient in the class. With a peak power of 91 PS and a strong peak torque of 204 Nm available between 2,000 rpm to 2,750 rpm, the diesel engine seems like an ideal package.

There is not much of a turbolag, but I thought that the engine could have offered a bit more of torque at low rpm levels. In really slow moving traffic or while going over speed breakers is when you miss a bit more torque. Both the engines get a lot of help from the new five-speed manual gearbox that Ford engineers have chosen to pair them with. Featuring tall ratios, the gearbox manages to effectively get the best out of the mills. Shift quality is smooth and close to the segment benchmark – the Honda City.

Ford claims an ARAI rated fuel-efficiency of 17 kmpl and 23.5 kmpl for the petrol and diesel engine variants of the Fiesta respectively.

Interiors

Talk about other India-specific features and some of the novelty that has been built into the interior of the new Fiesta comes to mind. For example, there is the voice activated controls that the new Fiesta has been endowed with. Press a button on the additional stalk sticking out of the steering column and you can voice activate changes to the airconditioning, music system and your mobile phone.

But apart from the novel trim in the new Fiesta, the interior is by itself quite a departure from what we have seen in Ford vehicles of the past. For one, the entire cabin is fresh and young in terms of design and layout, and there has been no dipping into the parts bin of previous models. There are funky cuts and layers and of course, the mobile phone keypad style layout of the various in-dash controls. Automatic aircon, steering controls, telescopic dials, USB connectivity and cruise control are all part of the new Fiesta's interior.

The cabin is also comfy, with nicely bolstered seats, easy reach controls, spacious legroom for rear seat passengers and lots of storage options. The cabin is also quiet thanks to a number of noise reduction measures such as the use of acoustic-laminated windshield glass, new door seals and wind-noise optimised grills. Overall, the new Fiesta's interior feels young and plush. Fit and finish quality is good, though I felt quality of plastic used could have been better.

Ride

The ride quality in the new Fiesta is probably going to be the one that manages to get on par with the segment benchmark – the Honda City. There is little doubt that the Fiesta should be positioned as an owner-driven car. A rigid frame made of high strength steel and a suspension setup that has been specially tuned for Indian road conditions has clearly worked in its favour. Straight line stability is a breeze, but the new Fiesta also managed to maintain its cool when thrown into corners. The other cars in the segment tend to grapple with understeer issues when put through similar conditions.

One of the features helping the Ford Fiesta maintain its line and poise is its new EPAS system (Electric Power Assist Steering) with pull-drift compensation. The system based on a proprietary algorithm constantly measures the driver's steering input and adapts to changing road conditions. The pull-drift system compensates for slight directional shifts caused by heavy crosswinds or poor road conditions. The system effectively corrects steering input errors that may be unwittingly caused by external conditions.

Bottomline

The Fiesta is due to be launched next month and despite the good overall package that the new Fiesta represents, there will be a lot riding on the pricing strategy that Ford will adopt for the car. I think a price range of Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10.5 lakh will be the ideal. Ford can pull it off with so much of the new Fiesta already localised. That is probably also why the competition (read Honda City) has already started reacting by cutting prices ahead of the Fiesta's official roll out.

Published on June 22, 2011
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