Ford is due to launch the latest in their Fiesta series of automobiles. It’s paced with all kinds of “automotive” goodies from the design to the interiors and of course, under the hood. I was recently given the opportunity to head on down to Bengaluru to test drive the new Fiesta and here’s what I can tell you about this slick new vehicle.
Sleek and Sexy Lines
Andrew Collinson, Exterior Designer Manager, put a lot of thought into the exterior of the new Fiesta and has termed it as “Kinetic” design form. The idea being due to the upward sloping lines and elevated rear the new Fiesta looks like it’s always in motion. At least that’s the concept it was designed with. Personally, I agree with Collinson. It does have an ‘in-motion’ sort of feel. The extra-large headlamps are designed to provide optimum viewing on highways and although I didn’t get a chance to put this to the test, I have no doubt they would accomplish the task.
Ford’s claim is that the all new Fiesta has one of the quietest interiors in this segment. I’ve driven quite a few cars in quite a few segments and this one was up there with the best of them. As pretty as the streets of Bengaluru maybe, it’s as noisy a city as good old Mumbai but with the automatic windows going up you’re enveloped in a private little cocoon with just enough sound coming in to hear to remind you that in this country honking your horn when you’re behind someone in bumper to bumper traffic is still a popular trend.
Moving on with the interiors, I can’t say three hefty people would have an overly comfortable ride in the back seat but it’s definitely comfortable for a family of four even if the guys in the back seat are in the range of six feet. Like a few other sedans out there in its class, the centre portion of the rear set can be propped down to reveal an arm rest/glass holder with a little more space for maybe a few snacks. One thing this car does not lack is bottle/cup holders as there are two more in between the front sets. Seating is both comfortable and designed to give you that balanced positioning so you feel you’re in perfect control of your car. The new Fiesta is equipped with airbags for both the driver and front passenger.
On to the control panel that’s designed to look like something out of an escape pod from a space ship. Although just a tad plastic-y, Ford’s design concept behind this layout was actually based on something to make users feel comfortable and add a feeling of familiarity – a mobile phone. Like most vehicles with fully loaded built-in systems like this, the Fiesta is ready to handle CD’s, MP3 discs, has an FM radio with presets and of course even has a USB port and 3.5mm audio-in option located in a little space at the bottom near the gear shaft.
Everything is easily within reach and of course media control is also available via the steering wheel. On the opposite side are the Cruise Control functions. It’s seriously simple to use and being the first in the country to feature this, I have to say, it was a joy to use. Obviously in the city, it’s quite useless. On the open roads though, it’s as handy a ‘tool’ as they come. Mirror control on the door is in the form of a small round knob that can be switched to the left or right for either side's mirror adjustment. It’s easy to manage.
One major peeve I have with the panel design is the placement of Voice Command button. It’s located in the middle section on the left hand turn signal indicator stick. To reach this option you’ll actually have to go left of the wheel for a couple of seconds to reach round to activate the system. Had it been placed at the tip of the same shaft, it would have been just perfect. Oh well.
The Sultry Voice of the Ford Fiesta
My little stint with the new Ford Fiesta was part of Ford’s Driving DNA campaign where auto journalists, bloggers in the same field and others like me who are all about tech were invited to put this baby through its paces. We started off bright and early (7.30am, YAWN!) after a heavy breakfast and a quick orientation with the various features and functions of the car and a list of voice commands for the systems. I started off in the dazzling Kinetic Blue 1.5-litre Duratec TiVCT Petrol Fiesta. After a quick sync with the Galaxy S II over Bluetooth that I had along with me for the ride, I got my music going, my walkie-talkie wailing with instructions and we were on our way.
Easy to read heads up display
Speaking of the syncing process, let’s get that out the way first – it’s not as easy as it seems but since I was told that these were still prototypes and there might be a few bugs in the system yet, I’ll let the lengthy procedure slide… this time. The procedure itself though, is simple, just like pairing up a wireless headset. Once that’s done you can access your phone book, music and take or end calls on the fly without let go of the steering wheel. Hit the Voice Command button and you could either dial a number by calling out the numbers or voice out a person’s name. For most parts the system is quite intuitive and the sultry voice of the Fiesta quite calming. But after a few wrong commands she can get a little annoying. Best you read up and memorise your “lines”.
Take me anywhere
With the microphone built into the top centre portion near the front interior lighting, it picks up your voice quite well and even with a significant amount of disturbance, as long as the commands are accurate. I still think a little bit of fine tuning is in order before the production models hit the streets. But like I said, she was quite intuitive most of the time and I made a few calls, adjusted the aircon, switched radio stations and even switched music tracks with just a few specific commands. Here’s the downside – you can’t switch systems On or Off with voice commands though. For example should you wish to turn off the AC and roll down the windows, there’s no command like “AC or Fan Off” or anything. You’ll have manually switch it off via the provisioned button and then on again via the same. Another little detail this system lacks is GPS. Bummer! Another investment you’ll have to make.
On a side note, let me just say, the 6 built-in speakers are more than capable of letting you rock-out while cruising down the mean streets with enough of a thump in the bass line to disturb your neighbour. That is of course, if your windows are down. If they’re up what’s inside stays inside and what noise is outside stays there too.
Hitting the Road Jack!
Enough with the system, that was the cool part. Now on to the fun part of, the Fiesta’s drive performance. Now honestly, I’m no Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Hammond but I do like to drive and luckily have the kind of friends who enable me to drive a variety of vehicles from time to time. It took us about 40-45 minutes of Bangalore traffic and narrow roads to hit the Mysore toll highway. While it’s a comfy car to be sitting in it was not the best experience to drive it. Switching gears in a crowded, pot-holed city, not unlike our very own Mumbai, was a chore in the 1.5-liter petrol Fiesta. It was a bit too sticky for my taste and pick-up was quite sluggish. Rolling over a speed breaker forced me to switch all the way over from third to first and the transition was not altogether great. It felt a little heavy try to get the car back into motion. Manoeuvring through the city though, thanks to the Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) was a breeze. I couldn’t wait to hit the open road.
The road is my buddy
When given the green flag to put the pedal to the metal, I did just that and that, and it was a whole other experience. Hitting 200KMPH in the Fiesta was a nothing task and handling even at this high a speed with Ford’s Pull-Drift Compensation system coming into play was just beautiful. It’s like you could do know wrong. Meandering through the sparse traffic on the highway was a breeze and an altogether thrilling experience. Around curves, just a light tap on the gear to switch to fourth and down to third on the much sharper turns and with the Anti-Lock Break system complete with Electronic Breakforce Distribution and Brake Assist made handling quite comfortable. But once you hit city limits again, you’ll feel the pressure.
This car was made for the open road, nuff said!
Naturally I presumed the 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCI Diesel edition would have been a little clutch heavy, and I was right. But I’m a diesel guy at heart having owned a Mahindra two door soft-top Commander for a few years and frequently used to the slightly lighter clutch on the Tavera, Qualis and Chevy Magnum. I love the little extra control you feel with the slightly heavier clutch and surprisingly the TDIC toting Fiesta was as much a bliss to drive as the Magnum. In fact it handles so much better than its petrol counter part. Gear changing within city limits and pick-up was just fluid and when it came speed on the open road, although falling a little shy of the TiVCT engine’s power, we topped her off at 195 easy.
At both ends
Handling felt pretty much the same and although we could have pushed her a little harder and a little faster, I was a happy camper where I was. I settled in at 160 hit the cruise control and made my self at home for the short but speedy drive on the open highway. They got the diesel engine right and it was a pleasure to drive, heavier clutch and all.
Ford Fiesta Test Driven
There’s nothing wrong in the looks department with the new Ford Fiesta, then again there was nothing wrong in this department with the previous model either. The new internal technology that’s been incorporated into the vehicle i.e. the voice command functionality specifically, will need a little bit of refinement in my opinion before Ford let’s loose the new Fiesta. I was not too overwhelmed with the city drive of the petrol engine although handling on both cars was just fine, but I’d have to say, given the choice and seeing as fuel prices are soaring anyways, I’d go with the diesel engine. It’s a sporty, speedy, sexy looking vehicle at the end of the day and hopefully it’ll be priced at a reasonable level. All we know for right now though, is that Ford is aiming this car at the young, go-getting, ambitious male, but I see this being just as impressive to the their female equals as well.