Test Driven: Ford Fiesta Sedan Review
Published June 24, 2009
Lets get something clear from the start: I hate Ford Fiestas. This maybe a bold statement to make at the beginning of a review of FordÃ¢s latest super mini, but let me at least state my case. My dearest Grandmother had a 1979 Fiesta 1.1 Popular Plus. I was often put on the back seat as my grandmother took me on wild tours of the countryside of Northern England; as it was the Ã¢olden timesÃ¢ this particular Ford Fiesta didnt have seat belts, so I bounced off the roof, the windows, and found myself in the footwell quite a few times. My Grandmother decided she didnt like the color of her yellow Fiesta one day, so she painted it. Herself. With white emulsion. You could see the brush strokes, but she was adamant it was her Ã¢newÃ¢ car. Another round of wild rides ensued. With my grandmotherÃ¢s family being a strong Ford loving family (she recently upgraded to a Ford Ka) I went through several generations of crazy Ford Fiesta journeys with my dearest grandmother so itÃ¢s easy to understand why I strongly dislike Fiestas, especially with all the abuse I went through during my junior years on the back seat of one with my grandmother at the helm. Thankfully these days IÃ¢m too big for her latest Ford Ka, but at 76 years old she isnÃ¢t showing any signs of slowing down physically, but her lead foot is heavier than ever.
ChangÃ¢an Ford were kind enough to lend me their latest Ford Fiesta this weekend, the sedan version that will eventually see production also in North and South America. Usually when car makers design a sedan out of a hatchback car they manage to make ugly monstrosities that only developing world markets seem to buy (look at the Peugeot 207 sedan, for example). Not so for Ford: the Focus hatch and sedan are equally handsome cars and that has spread down into the latest Fiesta range. The kinetic design theory that is present across the Ford range has worked well for the latest Fiesta, the lines of the car clearly embrace the kinetic design style of Ã¢always acceleratingÃ¢ even when standing still.
The Fiesta we had this weekend was a 1.5 Luxury sedan model, with a 4 speed automatic gearbox. Although the test colour, gloaming silverwe had was not the best in the range, it certainly suits the sedan styling better than the vibrant blue or rustic orange colors which look better suited to the hatchback model. The Fiestas boot, or trunk to our dear American readers, is surprisingly large. Expecting a tiny little boot, I was extremely impressed to find that it could easily take two large suitcases at a push, or accomodate a great deal of grocery shopping. The interior is light and airy, the leather seats offer adequate comfort. The central console seems awfully complicated at first, but after five minutes of playing it becomes completely clear what it all does. Our car came with an AUX input, making it easy to hook up an MP3 player rather than using one of those awful radio transmitter things that always receive interference from every one else that has one at the traffic lights. The dashboard is long, and wide and the new Fiesta is essentially a Tardis; its a small car, but its also huge.
ItÃ¢s easy to get comfortable at the wheel of the Fiesta, especially for someone like me that drives a huge SUV, and a smaller SUV often. Usually driving small cars after driving large ones makes me feel nervous, but not so in the Fiesta. The Fiesta handles extremely well, one could say its better to drive than the heavier Focus. The four speed automatic gearbox finds its feet at above 3000rpm but anything below its weak at best. When you accelerate from traffic lights, its almost as if the gearbox has a comittee meeting takes a vote before deciding whether or not to take action. As the gearbox is of the semi automatic kind, its easy to swap over to manual mode if you want to control the power. We took our test Fiesta (and test Mondeo) up the highway towards the Ba Da Ling section of the Great Wall, winding around the small twisty two lane highway was easy work for the Fiesta, with it easily mastering tight corners and braking sharply when needed. Overtaking in automatic mode is a challenge, I do recall throwing my fist in the air and screaming YYYYEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS! When I finally managed to get past a 1.6 VW Sagitar, but throw the gearbox into manual mode, keep the revs high and youÃ¢re laughing your way past BMW 7 series.
The Fiesta also has a few niggles. When pulling into a gas station to refill the tank I spent a good few minutes with the gas station attendant looking for the lever to pop the gas tank lid open, you wonÃ¢t find one below the steering wheel or next to the driverÃ¢s seat like many other cars; in fact you wonÃ¢t find one at all on the Fiesta. ThatÃ¢s because the gas tank cap doesnt have a lever you simply push the gas cap, and it pops open. A great idea, but the cap itself feels very flimsy when opened, and could easily break off. Another issue we had on our test drive was the lack of lights on a stalk, but this is common on most Ford Euro cars. Whilst driving through mountain tunnels I was frantically looking for the light switch, but it is obscured by the steering wheel. Obviously the above two issues are minor, a regular Fiesta driver would figure these out within an hour of owning the car.
So is the new Fiesta any good? Yes, the Fiesta is quite frankly a fantastic little car, the best in its segment. The sedan has a huge boot which will make it popular with small families, the hatch version has an excellent sporty stance. I expect that the Fiesta will sell well in its new role as a Global Car, even in North America when it goes on sale in 2010. The Ford Focus has almost become an automotive icon for middle class life in China; the Fiesta could easily become the automotive icon for upcoming young, professional white collar office workers. In 2010, I am planning to move to Shanghai and I doubt I will be driving my compact SUV around in the quagmire that is Shanghai traffic. Instead I will buy a small car and the Fiesta is currently at the top of my small car list, despite the abuse I suffered at the hands of my grandmother and her Fiesta over 20 years ago.
China Car Times Verdict: For city driving go and buy one, now.
Models: 1.3l and 1.5l with manual and automatic offerings.
Pricing: From 78,900rmb to 111,900rmb
Thanks to Wesley and Craig at Changan Ford, and Martin at APR for reviewing the grammar, and spelling!