South African car shoppers armed with budgets of around R100 000 for a new vehicle currently have some tough choices to make. Do you forfeit practicality and opt for a high-specification version of an A-segment (read, Aygo, Spark etc) contender or sacrifice some of the modern conveniences (such as air-conditioning, audio systems) to buy a stripped-out B-segment (read, Polo, Yaris etc) vehicle. Or… how about one of the many “oldies” still on the market, including the venerable CitiGolf, Fiat Palio and Opel Corsa Lite? With the base-model Ford Fiesta 1,4i, the brand thinks it has a product that will appeal to a wide audience and one which needn’t be too much of a compromise.
No cheap ‘n nasty with the Ford FiestaFollowing its facelift, the current-generation Ford Fiesta looks significantly more upmarket than before. Even base-level specification, characterised by the deletion of front foglamps, the fitment of 14-inch steel wheels and plenty of black trim on the outside, can’t dampen the inherent design appeal of this little car. It may be an entry level product, but in terms of exterior looks there would be no reason to feel ashamed when picking up the kids at school or parking next to the neighbours’ driveway.
It is arguably even better inside. The redesign has smoothed off some of the rough edges found in the previous models, and the facia boasts soft-touch materials and an upmarket ambience, aided by neat dark cloth upholstery and silver trim surrounds for the large pod-like ventilation outlets. Ford has not trimmed costs by simplifying the instrumentation for this model, retaining the more expensive variants’ rev counter and even a neat digital trip-computer display. The steering column offers only rake adjustment but, perhaps surprisingly, the seat is adjustable for height. You’re unlikely to find the driving position problematic. In fact, at the price, few cars are as well packaged. Space up-front is predictably excellent, with rear legroom being entirely acceptable and the boot quite usefully shaped and size, too. A full-size spare wheel is fitted.
To position the Ford Fiesta at this price level, there have however been some compromises. While Ford should be applauded for fitting dual front airbags as standard, the lack of ABS is a serious omission. Perhaps the deletion of items such as the rear fog lamps and even central locking would make it possible to include ABS without too much of a cost knock-on effect. The other two important items that some consumers will demand (air-conditioning and an audio system) are available as options. Power steering is standard.
Power and economyThis Ford Fiesta is powered by a 1,4-litre engine that delivers “only” 60 kW and 128 Nm of torque to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. The low outputs are somewhat misleading, because the Ford Fiesta feels nippy and eager around town, only really running out of punch at higher velocities and when called upon to execute an overtaking manoeuvre. The sprightly performance is perhaps a consequence of the car’s relatively low weight (1 107 kg). The engine is also impressively economical, with a real-world figure of around 7,5 litres/100 km being achievable without much effort. Running costs are also likely to be low for another reason – service intervals are set at 20 000 km. Given the car’s affordable price, the refinement of both the engine and transmission is impressive. In short, this Ford Fiesta feels more substantial and powerful than its price and engine specifications respectively would lead you to expect.
Excellent dynamicsFord’s has been on a real roll of late in terms of bringing cars to the market that are both comfortable and fun to drive. There’s nothing particularly novel about the Fiesta’s suspension design, but the tuning is exemplary. The ride comfort and bump suppression qualities are surprising given the car’s size, as is the fact that it retains much of its bigger siblings fun-to-drive character when pushing on. Grip levels are higher than the skinny tyres would lead you to expect, and the steering is very nicely weighted for all purposes indeed. More the pity, then, that ABS isn’t standard, as it would be a good safety net for not only inexperienced drivers learning the ropes but also more enthusiastic ones keen to exploit what are undoubtedly class-leading dynamics.
Ford Fiesta - VerdictMuch of the Ford Fiesta 1,4i could be described as class-leading. Given its relatively low price, its refinement, practicality, agility and quality may surprise some shoppers buying down from more expensive products. Undoubtedly, however, due to the lack of air-conditioning, a sound system and, in particular, ABS, it is not quite a no-compromise purchase, but even so there is a lot of car on offer here and it comes highly recommended.
- Attractive styling
- Interior design and quality
- No ABS…
- … and no air-con either
Engine: 1,4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 60 kW @ 5 500 rpm
Torque: 128 Nm @ 3 500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 14-inch steel
Top speed: 165 km/h
0-100 km/h: n/a seconds (13 seconds estimated)
Fuel economy: n/a litres/100 km (6,2 litres/100 km estimated)
- Volkswagen Polo 1,4 Trendline: One of the most popular cars in South Africa for a reason. Specification is similar to the Ford Fiesta, but the Polo does have ABS as standard. Classy interior boasts high levels of perceived quality.
- Hyundai Getz 1,4: A solid little run-around that has built itself a strong a following in South Africa. Against the Ford (and Volkswagen), it offers more power, but doesn’t feel significantly faster. Boot is small and it packs only one airbag, and there’s no ABS.
- Renault Clio 1,2 VaVaVoom: Doesn’t have the others’ power, but is nevertheless fun to drive with excellent ride quality. Standard specification lacks ABS but air-conditioning is standard. Smaller engine needs to work harder to keep up, so fuel economy can suffer.