Globally Ford has been on a bit of a resurgence lately, and the reason for that has been products with cutting-edge design and technology. And in India as well now, Ford is implementing its ‘One Ford’ policy that brings its best products to relevant markets around the world. And one such model is the new Fiesta sedan, which was recently launched in the US as well.
In India, meanwhile, even after Ford down-segmented the Fiesta and slapped the ‘Classic’ moniker on it, the fun quotient remained unharmed. For around `8 lakhs, no car in its class manages to offer the Fiesta Classic’s driving pleasure. The Ford Figo and Maruti Suzuki Swift offer the same virtues in their respective segments, while the Ikon – until its demise recently – was the handling champion in the entry-level sedan category.
Incidentally, the two sedans – Fiesta Classic and Ikon – are essentially Fiestas from different eras. It’s up to the new one (which touches down by August) to carry forward that legacy. But it will be tougher than ever before, as Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Maruti have updated their offerings – plus, two brand new products will join this bandwagon in the next 8 months.
The Indian automotive marketplace hasn’t been this busy ever before, so handling corners alone won’t increase footfalls at Ford dealerships – and especially considering the skyrocketing fuel prices, the car shouldn’t punch a hole in the consumer’s wallet either. Sure, being fun-to-drive helps, but not at the expense of half your pay cheque going to the fuel cartel – the most influential member is the government by the way.
The much-practiced phrase ‘commerce over creativity’ doesn’t hold good in this segment anymore. The new Verna, upcoming Nissan Micra-based sedan, and Skoda Rapid are all works of creative minds. There’s no plain vanilla in this segment anymore, as designers opt for the ‘like it or leave it’ design approach. That said, the Fiesta didn’t find any haters in the fellow scribes who participated in the media drive. This, of course, is a boot pasted to a hatchback – but the seamless integration of the rear end and C-Pillar makes it look right. Chrome, in India, translates to ‘okay, this car looks premium,’ and so the Fiesta carries a lot of chrome on it. The curvaceous sheet metal, meanwhile, looks attractive, and the overall design is chic.
The Fiesta bears no resemblance to the Classic whatsoever, since it sits on an updated B-Platform. It also gets two new engines, paired to 5-speed manual transmissions. If you’re a rear seat passenger, and drive occasionally, the Fiesta doesn’t disappoint. There’s more than enough room at the back for two individuals, and the folding arm rest has cup holders – height-adjustable head rests is another feature that you’ll love on long journeys.
It also gets a full dose of Ford DNA, which means that it’s every bit a driver’s car – in that it’s wholly built around a driver who loves corners. Testament to that is the driver’s seat – with extra padding and side bolsters to provide support and ensure that you don’t slip and slide under hard cornering. The driver’s seat is also height adjustable, just like the steering wheel, so it fits every member of the family just perfectly. Steering-mounted audio and bluetooth controls allow you to concentrate on just what this car is built for – driving. You do get the cruise control, but really, I think when a car is this engaging to drive, I’d rather drive it myself, as opposed to letting the electronic gadgetry take over.
Now that I’ve blabbered on about the Fiesta’s dynamics, you’d expect me to go crazy over the petrol engine. Sorry, but that’s Fiesta’s biggest shortfall. The new 1.5 liter petrol engine – despite having dual variable valve timing, and making 108bhp and 140Nm of torque – runs out of poke every time you try and wear your crazy cap. The engine enjoys being revved, but there’s just not enough power to supplement the enthusiasm of those 195 section 15-inch grippy tyres and firm suspension. According to Ford, this Fiesta is the most fuel efficient car in its segment, but it’s perhaps the least entertaining engine of the crop.
If the petrol engine wasn’t uplifting, the diesel I assumed would be – simply put – pathetic, or so I thought. But, once I sat in and drove it, I was amazed. Not just that the steering weighs up nicely at speed, but the engine’s reckless surge above 1,500rpm is massively entertaining. The noises are so well contained that even when the needle is at the wrong side of either gauge, the cabin remains as silent as a library. Regular undulations on the road didn’t unsettle the car, and the brakes gave a very progressive feel. Plus, you get ABS and EBD, so you’ll never feel unsafe at high speed.
The dashboard has a smart-phone inspired keypad that lets you operate the sound tracks on your CD, iPod, or USB. The red backlit display is small, but easy to read. The piece-de-resistance, however, is the voice-activated temperature, audio, and phone controls. It listens to your commands and responds brilliantly to let you control things like fan speed, temperature, CD tracks, radio frequency, iPod track number – it even lets you call any person from your phone book, after having paired your phone. You switch it on using the button on the stalk behind the steering wheel, and then simply start voicing your requirements.
The Fiesta is expected to be launched in late July. The price hasn’t been revealed as yet, but we reckon that the diesel model will cost about `10 lakhs. For this kind of money, there are other cars offering a longer feature list, better interiors, and more rear seat comfort. But, if you’re looking for driving pleasure – none of them even come close!
|Engine||1.5 litre / 4 Cylinder / 16 Valves / DOHC||1.5 litre / 4 Cylinder / 8 Valves / SOHC|
|Transmission||5-speed Manual / Front-wheel drive||5-speed Manual / Front-wheel drive|
|Power||108bhp @ 6045rpm||90bhp @ 3750rpm|
|Torque||140Nm @ 4500rpm||204Nm @ 2000 – 2750rpm|
Shrawan Raja is the Managing Editor of the daily updated http://indianautosblog.com