We've noticed that all good cars become intuitive even after only a few days. After three weeks with the Fiesta, it became like a fling you didn't want to leave. You know you agreed to a month, but when the month's end loomed, you didn’t want the affair to stop.
The enjoyable driving experience begins when you plop your backside on the seats. You instantly feel the seats hug you. And like I mentioned in my past entry, there's the knee brace to rest your leg on; a feature normally exclusive to European marques. The steering wheel thickens at the thumb position, making it easy--and encouraging, to be honest--to flick the Fiesta around. Yes it's tempting to channel your inner Ken Block, but be reminded that he's a professional driver and you're probably not. That doesn't mean fun is out of the question. Far from it.
Once you start going about town in the Fiesta, the first thing you will appreciate is its compact size. The learning curve is very short because it's easy to estimate where the Ford subcompact's ends are. And when you're backing up to park, a bumper sensor will guide you to the parking slot. I was surprised to see this feature in this price range and category. Parking sensors are more necessary when maneuvering large SUVs or sedans. The Fiesta's size doesn't really require a backup sensor, nevertheless it's still a very welcome feature.
After getting a grasp of the car's dimensions when driving it, I start to see how it handles and accelerates. With its 1.6-liter, 119hp engine, the Fiesta has plenty of grunt for its size. It was actually the most powerful subcompact on the market until the all-new Hyundai Accent came along.
The Fiesta also has a dual-clutch transmission; the first in the subcompact category. There are two sides to this. The downside is perhaps the Fiesta's most glaring fault. When driving slow and the revs are around 1,000rpm, I noticed the car shudders as if trying to find the right gear. This happens several times at first, and it's noticeable because the rest of the time the shifts occur as smooth as butter.
Some of us in the team suspect this is because the Fiesta is trying to look for the best combination between fuel economy and acceleration at this rpm range. Over time however, your driving style compensates a bit and it doesn't happen anymore. If it were crafty enough, Ford can probably say at this point that the Fiesta's transmission "learned" and adapted. But that might be too much of a marketing stretch.
The upside of the dual-clutch transmission is, like I said, the shifts are silky smooth. Whereas good, single-clutch transmissions are already almost imperceptible when changing gears, the Fiesta's dual-clutch tranny takes it up a notch. You have to listen to the engine closely to hear the gear shifts.
When you mash the accelerator you will hear the engine produce a new noise. It's louder and strained, as if the four-pot is trying to break free. Gear shifts are still smooth, and this results in fast, linear acceleration. It's not the type that pushes you back in your seats hard, but it's quick enough to sprint ahead of most cars when the light turns green.
What will push you against your seat is the Fiesta's handling. As with most gasoline powerplants, the engine's strength is in the upper middle range: 4,000rpm to 6,000rpm. Although there's still more-than-adequate power in the 2,000rpm to 3,000rpm sector. At speeds of 20kph to 30kph, step hard on the gas and the Fiesta surges with vigor. With the seats and knee bolster holding you in place, it's easy to take turns at higher-than-normal speeds and feel how the Ford grips the road. This car should be fun in gymkhana maneuvers. Now I know why Ken Block can rack up so many hits on YouTube using this car--in addition to his godlike driving skills of course.
Photo by Mikko David