'The PET never lies’ is the unwritten rule at BSM. The idea, for those who came in late, is to lay out a Performance Evaluation Track test (on or off-road, depending on the competing cars) with the same driver putting them through their paces. The track involves straight line acceleration from start with a lane change manoeuvre at just over 100 kph, a zero spot that completes what is essentially a 0-100-0 run, a slalom run with an entry speed of 60 kph (till the car reaches top tyre performance), a skid pad run and a flying finish.
So what do we achieve by doing that? Let’s put it this way – in the minute or less that it takes for cars to complete the circuit, it tells you about its acceleration, high speed dynamics, braking efficiency, handling and tyre performance... all at one go. Well, it is much more fun than merely extracting numbers out of test cars and that means we repeat the entire thing till we are satisfied.
Since there was no way that the Ford Fiesta TDCi could have matched the Hyundai Verna CRDi on a PET course, we decided to give the new Hyundai an independent test. With a 110 bhp CRDi motor under its hood, the Verna diesel has created a niche for itself. But when it comes to petrol models, there was a PET waiting to happen with both cars featuring DOHC, 16-valve engines and almost identical power and torque figures.
Before we let the PET loose on you, a bit on both cars. Seen next to each other, the Verna looks the more substantial automobile and, mind you, size is important in this market. Sure, it has a stubby tail which makes it look almost like a notchback in profile, but still. The Fiesta, with its muted Mondeo look, is a much more handsome machine though and has the correct proportions and balance. The Fiesta exudes the kind of build quality that one has come to expect from European sedans, while the Verna features a more up-to-date architecture. Personally I like the Fiesta interior over that of the Verna. I detest fake wood as much as I love aluminium and the Fiesta scores in this regard. Both cars use quality materials and plastics but, again, I will give the edge to the Ford. Superior ergonomics, thanks to the above-mentioned architecture, is the strength of the Verna. It is easier to get in and get out of the Hyundai too. That said, driving enthusiasts may prefer the lower seating position and the in-your-face dials of the Fiesta.
As for comfort, it is the Verna that offers more rear room, and if at all you are buying one of these cars for chauffeur driven duties, then it’d better be the roomier car. Ride quality is one element that is not tested during a PET test, so we can dwell on it for a bit. The Fiesta offers a better ride on almost all surfaces – especially when it comes to tarmac traumatised by an extended monsoon. The Verna is not bad either and our test car went through broken roads without sending the tremors to the occupants. Still, it is the Fiesta that stays dynamically unchallenged, even at speeds, when one encounters a bad stretch of road, while the Verna gets easily perturbed. More than the underpinnings, it is the steering that needs to be faulted here. We will come to that later.
On the PET track the Fiesta, as expected, was faster off the block. It can and did manage the 60 kph run in 5.9 seconds. The Verna managed an equally impressive 60 kph run (5.11 sec) and the motor felt surprisingly lithe and more energetic than we expected it to be. Sure, there is a certain degree of gearbox boom that intrudes into the sanity of the cabin, but it can easily be termed ‘fun’.
Even the most spirited launch did not affect the directional stability of the Fiesta, nor did the lane change manoeuvre at three digit speeds. The Verna is more dramatic and the slithery nature of its front end while tackling the 5500 rpm launch points the blame directly to the quality of rubber in use. The Ford excelled in its ability to come to a halt, again, without stepping out of line even for a nanosecond. The Verna came to a halt all right, but its monocoque and its underpinnings seemed to be struggling to quieten the high energy motor under the hood. Both cars can be bought with ABS and we think that will be money spent wisely.The PET cars go through heavy acceleration through a U-turn before entering the slalom run and a perfectly weighted steering plays the pivotal role in this section of the course. The Fiesta steering may feel a tad too taut at parking speeds, but its perfect for delivering the message to the front wheels under a hefty right foot. Very critical for controlling a front-wheel driver and enthusiasts will certainly fall in love with the Fiesta steering gear. On the contrary, you need an experienced hand behind the wheel of the Verna which, if we may use the term, suffers from a vague steering which does not communicate well with the driver. It turns for sure and it is there for sure, but it cannot handle power the same way the Fiesta steering gear manages it.
The Verna is the quicker car through the twisties as we found out during our slalom runs, but it is the Fiesta that inspires confidence. Again, sorry Hyundai, the steering ratio of the Verna needs rethinking since it is not very predictable when it matters most ie quick directional changes. Both cars managed near perfect skid-pad runs with throttle induced understeer moments that cannot be termed scary.
And the flying finish saw the clock stop for the Fiesta at 56.57 seconds while the Verna logged in at 57.74. Not too much of a difference, right? Sure, we expected this match to go to the wire too and what saved the blushes for the Ford was its well-honed chassis more than its ability to lay rubber on the road. The Hyundai, despite its energetic motor, could not get the driver as involved and it had to show in the PET timings.
So which one should you buy? If you are going to get the service of a driver then buy the Verna for sure and enjoy the rear seat (hey, heard that before?). If you want a performance Verna then, well you are reading the wrong road test – the diesel version you’ll see elsewhere in this mag is quicker (if not quite as refined). If you really want to enjoy your driving, then trust us, the Fiesta 1.6 is where you should put your money. And guess what, you can get it in Dura Sport colours now. Told you, the PET test never lies.