Meet our Ford Fiesta 1.6 S. Some deft manoeuvering, a bit of vigilance and a wee bit of bad behaviour on my part made sure the new (and very coveted) long-termer’s keys landed in my pocket first. It’s been war ever since!
You see, we’ve had many a CRDi, TDi and PD on our fleet. So, the arrival of the Fiesta resulted in office staff acting like piranhas on a feeding frenzy. The fights for the key have begun, and, since I can’t leave them unattended on my desk, I’ve had to be very careful with them. I’ve managed to hang onto the car for two whole weeks though. Here’s the story.
The ‘S’ on the bootlid is Significant. It means harder, shorter springs, wider tyres and bigger wheels. In a market where everyone is going soft on their suspension settings, the S’s harder edge comes as a breath of fresh air. And, at its current price of Rs 8.38 lakh (on-road) this is probably the bargain driver’s car of the decade – the budget BMW if you will. Even Narain Karthikeyan loved it when he drove this very car at our track test last year. With its rorty, redlined-at-7000rpm 100bhp engine in the tight chassis, it has everyone here mad-dog drooling.
But I got to it first. Driving it in town, I had a few unexpected surprises waiting for me. Yes, I know it handles well and it’s got good power, but I’d forgotten those nice black seats with their simple white stitching and the black-and-silver dashboard – perfect for the ‘sport’ image this car has. The seats are comfy and the compact dimensions make it a great traffic warrior. The ride isn’t too bad, there’s a hint of stiffness and it crashes over sharp bumps, but it’s something I can live with.
Then came the locomotive test in Gujarat. We ‘had’ to take the Fiesta because a ‘timely’ service light on the other preferred tourer, the diesel VW Jetta flashed on the night before the journey. Shapur and Ashley didn’t complain about the change of car and I was ecstatic. You see, Gujarat’s meandering highways are the perfect place to let that sweet engine run to its redline in third gear. Even better if you do this in a corner. The car stays flat, that steering is perfect with its feedback and weight and there’s tremendous grip from those 195/55 R15 Goodyears. On these open roads, you’re strictly a gear lower than necessary, just to hear the hard edge that the engine note takes on as it revs higher. It’s got good throttle responses everywhere in the rev-band and it’s ‘gelled-hair’ smooth, so it doesn’t tire you out over long distances either.
The great thing is the stiffer springs only act to keep the car stable at high speeds and through corners. They don’t toss you around and the car is devoid of any high-speed wallowing feel that softer set-up cars have. It’s brilliant. And, for all the revving it did, it gave us a very respectable 10.5kpl with the air-con on, three-up and luggage.
Still, it’s not without its faults. Here are a few jobs for the next Fiesta update. The headlights are quite poor, but maybe it’s just a simple beam adjustment job. And, the Fiesta S is available in eight colours. All except the ‘Aquarius’ blue are boring. Come on, you’ve put a big wing and skirts on the car, why not offer a Ferrari red or a canary yellow?
And, get some adjustable headrests for the rear seats; the current fixed ones are not ideal on long journeys. And, fix that fuel gauge. Its readings are an imprecise approximation.
Shapur’s whacked the keys while I was writing this – so it’s going to be a while before I get them back. Till then I’ll really miss seeing that big wing every time I look in the rearview mirror.