Fiesta's revitalising pleasure

A few weeks ago, while South African motoring media got their first taste of the all-new Ford Fiesta, billionaire Ford investor Kirk Kerkorian unloaded most of his shares in the Ford Motor Company.

Kerkorian bought the shares at almost $8 a share in April and he sold most of his seven million shares at about $2,40 a share last month, losing roughly 70% of the money he invested in Ford.

People will say that his actions are directly related to the economic climate, but one can’t help thinking that he has lost faith in Ford and its products.

Whatever his reasons, it looks bad for Ford and that’s a real pity because the news broke while I was driving the one model that could turn Ford’s bad times around.

The Fiesta manages to be impressive without making much of an effort. Normally, when it comes to small cars, I have to meditate my inherent pessimism away but I didn’t have to do any mental preparation for the Fiesta to make a good impression.

From the striking exterior design to the fitment of the upholstery and instrumentation, the new Fiesta proves that there are designers and other Ford employees who are still committed enough to create cars that stir the senses.

Designed in Europe and created on the same platform as the award-winning Mazda 2, the Fiesta isn’t bigger than its predecessor, but it is 40kg lighter and that makes quite a difference on the open road.

There will be three engines on offer—a 1,4-litre petrol, a 1,6-litre petrol and a 1,6-litre diesel—in either three-door or five-door derivates with three different trim options.

The first car I drove was the 1,4-litre, which develops 71kW of power and 125Nm of torque.
It was energetic enough to ensure that I discovered a rather annoying standard feature on the car.

The Fiestas have a built-in alarm tone that goes off every time the speedo needle reaches 124kph. It’s a factory-fitted feature and given that the base model drives well enough to exceed the speed limit often, sales people should ask prospective customers whether they would like to have this feature disabled. After a few hundred kilometres, the tone will drive you to distraction.

Afterwards I drove the diesel, which produces 66kW and 200Nm, and then the 1,6-litre petrol. I can honestly say that I would be happy with any of these models, though the 1,6-litre petrol (with 88kW and 149Nm) would be the pick of the bunch.

All the models handled well and displayed the sort of dynamic drive that one would expect from more expensive cars. Fuel consumption for the diesel is said to be in the range of 4,2-litres/100km on a combined cycle, while the 1,4-litre is 6-litres/100km and the 1,6-litre petrol is also in the region of 6-litres/100km.

Standard features across the range include a radio and CD player, front power windows, power steering, air conditioning, steering wheel audio controls as well as dual airbags, a driver seatbelt reminder, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution. The top-end models benefit from bigger wheels, a Bluetooth system with voice control and a sportier body kit.

Prices range from R136 990 for the 1,4-litre five-door base model to R168 990 for the top-end 1,6-litre five-door petrol.

All Fiestas come with a four-year/120 000km warranty and a four-year/60 000km service plan with services every 20 000km for the petrol derivates and every 15 000km for the diesel models.

A lot rests on the new Fiesta to revitalise a struggling brand. But after driving all the models on offer, I get the feeling that if Ford creates more cars like the Fiesta, it would definitely have a shot at a more than sustainable future.

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