FORD has a reputation for making cars that are fun to drive, with a capital F. From
the sharp-steering Ikon to the Fiesta and the Mondeo, they’re all a real hoot. Now, along with the Fiesta’s mid-life facelift, Ford has introduced a version of the Fiesta that’s a better drive than ever. The skirted, spoilered and generously shod Fiesta S, as it’s called, really whets the appetite for a good road.
We just happen to be on such a one, the winding East Coast Road from the former French colony of Pondicherry to Chennai. The other good thing is that it’s steaming hot, so most other cars, bikes and other people-carriers are keeping off the streets. That leaves us, the yummy Fiesta S and 100-odd kilometres of sinuous tarmac.
Only minutes after riding the back of the giant black anaconda, it’s apparent that there are several changes, apart from the new nose and the freshened-up innards. Even four up, it feels considerably more planted than the earlier Fiesta. There is less body roll, grip levels are much higher and the car feels more poised and confident when hurled through corners, though turn into them could have been sharper. Some more feedback from the steering wheel would be welcome too, but otherwise the S sticks to where you point it with pinpoint acccuracy.
Ford has lowered the suspension of this S version and added stiffer dampers to get the car to drive and handle better. This unleashes a lot more of the fundamental potential of the Fiesta’s chassis and its expensive suspension that’s otherwise lost in the standard car’s much softer setup. The car has been lowered by 5mm and though the springs are shorter, they have the same amount of coils, giving them a greater degree of stiffness. This feels great out on the open road, as you can ‘lean’ the S on its stiffer suspension and 195/55 15 tyres and really loosen the reins of the 1.6 motor.
With its wide powerband, happy-to-rev motor and accurate gearshift, going harder and harder is absolutely thrilling. Just wish the brakes were more confidence-inspiring. As expected, with the slightly stiffer setup, the ride is not as pliant as the standard car’s. So, that all-absorbing Fiesta ride that soaks up poor sections of the road like a giant sponge is gone. There is a hint of underlying stiffness and some degree of lumpiness at low speeds. And you do feel a high percentage of the bumps. Still, Ford has managed to arrive at a happy compromise — it’s never thrashy, uncomfortable or irritating. And once speeds increase, the ride improves considerably too. However, road noise, a Fiesta problem, persists on this car.
The new Fiesta’s design is more in line with Ford’s global ‘Kinetic Design’ language and so, looks modern. Whereas the designed-for-India Fiesta was all proportion and staid logic, this latest iteration tries to inject some updated form and a bit of excitement. The headlights with a kink at the bottom, and the triangular form and large surface area of the lower grille are the standout feature of the new design.
There are other mods that give the S a more sporty stance — flared wheel arches, a full-length side skirt and a big spoiler at the rear. The red ‘S’ badge and the blackened-out underbody, with a chrome-tipped exhaust complete the image makeover. Good enough in electric blue to keep you staring.
The S also has a sportier interior, thanks to some fundamental changes here too. The top of the dash gets a soft-feel texture, there are new clocks and a sportier wheel. The anthracite-coloured cloth seats with double stitching look simply amazing. You also get twin airbags, ABS and at last, an MP3 player too.
Ford also claims to have tuned the engine to deliver an improved fuel economy that matches the 1.4 motor’s during normal operation.
This is one of the best six-figure driver’s cars money can buy. Now Ford needs to get cracking and improve its dealer network.
If you like to drive, the Fiesta S ticks all the must-haves. It’s as simple as that.