The all-new Fiesta is the first contemporary saloon that Ford will launch in India in May 2011. Ford is now bringing its latest products to the Indian market and the company’s new ‘One Ford’ mantra means Fiestas sold in China, Thailand or the US are ostensibly the same as the ones that will come to India.
The new Fiesta is built on the company’s B2E platform, which has won much acclaim for its light yet stiff construction. The hatchback version won’t be coming soon to India. India will get the saloon derivative currently sold in China and other Asian markets. The Fiesta saloon’s wheelbase is the same as the hatchback. Ford India wasn’t part of the B299 programme in the early stages when it could have asked for a longer wheelbase, which is so crucial in a segment where the rear seat is important.
The boot section has been integrated seamlessly, and merges well with the rest of the body. There is however an awkward-looking area above the rear wheel arches that makes the rear tyres look a touch puny. However, the nose is striking and, apart from the Honda City, the Fiesta looks far more futuristic and cutting edge than any of its competition. Ford’s ‘Kinetic Design’ language is amply evident in the new Fiesta. Sharp cuts, strong creases and taut skinning make the Fiesta look like it’s full of energy. The swept-back, dagger-like headlights straddle a slot-like intake while the large, lower trapezoidal grille is a common Kinetic Design feature. The steeply raked front and rear pillars and quarter-glasses at both ends support a sporty looking roofline. The rear tail-lights straddle an upright boot lid.
The new Fiesta comes with an exceptionally rigid chassis that makes suspension tuning a lot easier. It also comes with electrically assisted steering which uses a column-mounted motor. For the Indian market, Ford is using a higher profile tyre (195/60 R15) which has increased the new Fiesta’s ground clearance by 15mm.
The new Fiesta’s interiors are dramatically different from the present car. There’s a wing-like design theme to the dashboard. The large screen is very easy to read and is a useful feature that’s missing in the Fiesta’s rivals. The new Fiesta will be the first Ford in India to get electronic climate control and steering-mounted audio controls. The Indian Fiesta is expected to be launched with light shades and richer materials. The dashboard is nicely textured with soft-touch material but some plastics lower down look shiny and cheap; some of the switchgear too doesn’t feel premium either. But what really lets the interiors down is the rear seat which simply can’t match a City or Vento for legroom. Headroom too is not as generous and the small rear windows add to the cooped-up feeling. The saving grace is that the seats themselves are quite comfy with generous cushioning. The driving position is superb, the pedals are well spaced and there’s even a dead pedal to rest your foot. There isn’t an abundance of storage space inside the cabin and the flattened glovebox, which improves kneeroom, can’t hold much and neither can the door pockets. Boot space is average but the 60:40 split of the rear seats is useful.
The new Fiesta is likely to use Ford’s DV6 or 1.6-litre Duratorq diesel engine which develops around 90bhp. Though it’s not as powerful as the Vento’s 1.6 diesel, we expect it to be more responsive just like the smaller 1.4 Durtatorq in the old Fiesta. What Ford has confirmed is a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol which will put the new Fiesta on par with the City and Linea T-Jet. This engine gets variable valve timing which boosts power by a whopping 20bhp. The Indian Fiesta will get the same IB5 manual gearbox.
The responsive 1.6 engine is quick off the line and revs eagerly and with smoothness that makes it more than a match for the City. Also impressive is the low NVH levels. Even at max revs, it doesn’t sound overly thrashy or strained. Power delivery is fairly linear. The 1.6 petrol Fiesta is undoubtedly quick but special mention must be made of Ford’s PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission, a twin-clutch unit that feels more direct and connected than a conventional torque converter. Gear changes are quite seamless, especially at higher speeds, but in slow-moving traffic, the transmission feels a bit jerky. The big advantage of Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift transmission is superior fuel efficiency and Ford should consider launching an automatic option for India.
The Fiesta’s ride and handling is miles ahead of the competition. Its dynamics are very special and it handles uneven and poorly surfaced roads very well. The brilliance of the Fiesta’s chassis lies in how supple the suspension feels and the way it glides over bumpy surfaces with just the right amount of vertical movement. The body control and grip is so good that you can scythe through a series of bends with complete confidence. Straightline stability at highway speeds is terrific, and the Fiesta is very reassuring to drive. The steering is the best example of an electrically power assisted system we have experienced. It has a pleasing weight to it, a consistent feel and lets you place the nose accurately where you want to. The key to the Fiesta’s class-leading dynamics lie in the stiff and rigid chassis.
The present Fiesta is a pretty good car, but it’s the new model with its modern and upmarket looks, strong engines and amazing ride and handling that has the potential to go straight to the top of the class. It isn’t very spacious and the interior quality is a bit of a letdown but for sheer driving pleasure nothing comes close. With the right pricing, it could prove to be the most serious threat to the Honda City yet.