The Ford Fiesta S is the closest thing there is to a front-wheel-drive BMW. Whoa! That took a bit. Now some of you must be scratching your day-old stubble, wondering what on earth is going on.
The resemblance is uncanny. Let’s start with the ride quality. On its stiffer, lower springs, harder dampers and lower-profile tyres, the S has the same skippy, sometimes thrashy, often unsettled low speed ride of a BMW 325i. Just not to the same extent. Larger, deeper bumps produce the same loud crash from the suspension and there is often some rocking over poor patches. Close your eyes (only if you’re in the passenger seat, of course) and you’d actually think this car was Bavarian! And once the speedo arcs its way over 80 or 90, the unsettled demeanour disappears in much the same manner.
Then there’s the motor. Smooth and very tractable it may be, but just like any good BMW petrol, there’s no sudden step-up in the powerband. It all builds up in a linear and progressive manner — the motor gains in enthusiasm the harder you wind it. It seems like it’s saving its breath for the top end, because once you get to 4000rpm, it positively aches to rev harder. And it sings all the way to 7000rpm. No huff, no puff, no stress, no strain.
The steering is similar too. A bit weightier than normal at low speeds, it drenches you in feel as you turn harder and harder into a corner. Especially chatty once the tyres are fighting for grip, the exceptional body control delivered by the shorter, harder springs of this car make it amazing to drive on the limit. The best part: the S responds to the steering, throttle and brakes even when you are generating considerable slip from the tyres. But to experience the best this car has to offer, you must take it to some good driving roads. Just like you would any self-respecting Bavarian.
We started our long-term test of the Fiesta S with a hammed-up picture of Autocar staffers lining up for the car. Of course, we were exaggerating at the time. But now this is true. The car is in big demand on weekends, with its snub nose often pointed in the direction of a hill station.
It doesn’t do too poorly in the city either. The flexible motor is a joy to use in the traffic, the audio system with its punchy amp is simply fabulous and I find this car just the right size for crowded city streets. The Fiesta is also very sensitive to tyre pressure. Set the cold tyres to exactly 30psi (recommended for low loads and speeds), and ride quality improves considerably. But go up by just a pound, and ride quality gets noticeably harder.
The car is sensitive to driving styles as well. Allow the Fiesta S motor to lug from a very low engine speed and the Ford consumes fuel at a fair lick. But drive it with a little more gusto, keep the momentum going and this motor will give you good fuel economy and performance. Even with regular bursts of hard acceleration thrown in, the Fiesta S gave us 9.2kpl. Take a bit of care and this will easily jump into double digits.