A 13-point guide to the new Fiesta and why we think it's so good:
1. The new Fiesta stands out, just like the Hyundai Verna. Its stacked headlamps and heavy nose area do attract attention. The car looks best from the front three-quarters where it looks sporty.
2. It looks quite nice in profile too, but if you stare at the rear fender area you can't help but notice the large metal area that makes it look heavy. From the rear the car appears to be taller and 'stout-er' as a fellow journalist commented. While driving on the road, we viewed it driving parallel to a Fiat Linea and the bulkiness and narrowness becomes a bit more prominent. Despite use of 15-inch wheels, we feel that enthusiasts may want to shift to 16-inchers to reduce heaviness. But the inner wheel arches may or may not allow the use of larger wheels, something we may need to check in the future.
3. Ford's use of a high waistline and tapering roof around the C-pillar don't rob it of headroom, nor do you feel claustrophobic once on the inside. The amount of legroom and knee room (helped by recessed front seats) is quite decent and the rear seats have good support too.
4. At the front, the new Fiesta has very supportive seats with useful side bolstering and lower-back support (unlike the Fiesta 1.6 S). Overall material and fit and finish is of a better quality than current Fords sold in India. And good news is, the bonnet opener is now on the driver's side. :)
5. We drove the Titanium versions of the Fiesta that are pretty well loaded. Apart from the usual AC, PS, power windows (only driver-side is power up-down) etc, the car has twin airbags and ABS as well as a Voice activated climate, stereo/radio and bluetooth functions, cruise control and space under the passenger seat to store things.
6. The voice activated system is simple to use and while the functions don't necessarily need to be voice activated, users may get addicted to it over time. We did not try out the cruise control on the busy Bengaluru-Mysore stretch where we test-drove the cars, but we don't think it really adds to the car's appeal. The steering is particularly nice to hold and the overall surfaces feel of a much higher quality. What we didn't like were the door pads that felt a bit too plasticky and we wish it came with a rear air-vent.
7. Power for the Fiesta comes from two new engines that are being launched in India first before they become the norm in other parts of the world. Utilizing the basic architecture of the older 1.6-litre motor, the new 1.5-litre TiVCT petrol engine now has twin camshafts and variable valve timing and a fixed geometry turbocharger for the common rail 1.5-litre Duratorq diesel engine. The petrol produces 106.5 bhp@6045 rpm and 14.3 kgm@4500 rpm while the diesel produces 89.8 bhp@3750 rpm and 20.8 kgm@2000-2750 rpm. Both engines are mated to a new 5-speed manual gearbox, once again India being the launch market for it. A 6-speed, dual-clutch auto box can be expected for the petrol version in the next six to nine months.
8. The diesel was the first we drove and immediately a few things became apparent. The gearing is taller for reasons of efficiency (ARAI figure of 23.5 kpl), the clutch is heavier to use and there is some lag until 1700-1800 rpm, after which it starts to have good get-up and go. The performance from the motor is more in vein with the SX4 diesel, rather than the Hyundai Verna or Volkswagen Vento. In our acceleration runs, the car hit 100 kph in 14.0 seconds and registered 9.7 seconds to go from 80 to 120 kph. These of course are not true-test figures which will happen once we test it under our standard conditions, but give you a good idea of what to expect from the car. A top speed of 170 kph was what we achieved with it.
9. The gearbox has a longer throw than the Fiesta Classic, yet it slots well and is a smooth operator. Overall engine noise is well contained, making it better than the Volkswagen Vento at speed but it can't still beat the Hyundai Verna for refinement.
10. The petrol is the one we liked the most. It has a decent torque spread, has instant acceleration and when you press it down further, especially past 5000 rpm, it develops a sweet sounding snarl and sounds hungrier. It revs all the way to 6500 rpm, but the Honda City still seems to have better top-end performance. We didn't test this car, but we think it's capable of a sub 12-second time to 100 kph and a top speed in excess of 180 kph. Both cars, however, continue to have speedos that overread in true Ford fashion. At 100 kph, the Fiesta was running a true speed of 91.2 kph. Heh heh!
11. Ford's have traditionally been good in the ride and handling department and the new Fiesta doesn't disappoint. It has a very sweet balance between ride and body control that is quite apparent once the road gets winding. The increase in ride height has been achieved purely by using high-profile, 195/60 R15 tyres. The change in ride height is to the effect of 15 mm, the suspension remaining untouched and pretty much the same spec as the one in Europe, except we reckon a slightly softer setting. The ride quality is typically European with a degree of authority, without being overly firm. You could say that the ride quality isn't quite different from the larger Renault Fluence in this regard.
12. Handling is particularly neat, with both the diesel and petrol showing great poise and good high-speed stability too. Body control is tight and the new Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) is well-weighted and accurate. There is some feel too, however don't expect it to be as feel-some as the one on the Fiesta 1.6S, arguably the best one on a Ford India product to date. But by itself, it is among the best in the segment. The steering motor also has a torque sensor for the Pull-Drift compensation system. This system accounts for change in road camber and crosswinds and works pretty well for Indian roads that generally are cambered in most places. It applies torque to the other direction once it detects the amount of torque applied by the driver to compensate for the road/crosswind conditions.
13. Ford is tight-lipped about the price or the launch, but we think the car will be ready for launch in July and the price could be in the range of Rs 8 to 10.5 lakh, ex-showroom. We hope Ford India doesn't price itself too close to the Honda City or Hyundai Verna (spec-to-spec), instead undercuts the true if it plans to succeed.
OTHER DETAILS ON THE NEW FIESTA
a. India will be the sixth assembly plant for the new Fiesta.
b. Ford India are importing the basic shell made of Boron steel since local suppliers can't guarantee the kind of steel quality they need.
c. The car isn't heavily localised, but the engines, seats, batteries and other bits are. Expect the stampings to be localised too in the future.
d. The spare tyre is a high-profile 14-inch space-saver on a steel-wheel.
e. Over 70 prototypes were part of the testing regimen. Of these, seven cars clocked 300,000 km of hard tests, the equivalent of 1.7 million kilometres on their test beds in Germany, while 15 cars were part of the live on-road tests that clocked 250,000 kilometres overall.
f. The Fiesta sedan is the first of the eight cars that Ford plans to launch between now and 2015 in India. The hatch is being currently discussed and we expect it to be here by late-2012/early-2013.