Ford’s all-new Fiesta light car is funky, fashionable and fuel efficient and finally Ford thinks it may have found the secret to posting real sales numbers in the growing and competitive end of the Australian new car market.
- David Twomey
The current Ford Fiesta is a good car, but the company and particularly its dealers have struggled with shedding the ‘Falcon Car Company’ image and making real inroads into sales in the light and small car segments.
With monthly sales of just under 500 units the Fiesta has not kicked the goals for Ford that it should have, but with a rejuvenated marketing team, led by recently appointed Vice-President of Sales and Market, Beth Donovan, a small car expert from the US, the company is now aiming to double that figure.
Not without reason either as in-house rival Mazda is currently selling about 900 Mazda2s a month, the Fiesta is built on the same platform, while Toyota has been pushing up to 2400 Yaris’ a month out the door.
Ms Donovan says that with the new WS Fiesta, which officially goes on sale on January 1, 2009, Ford expects to move 900-1000 vehicles a month.
At the media launch of the Fiesta in Adelaide she made it clear to CarAdvice that with the launch of the Fiesta, which will be joined by a new, locally made Focus in 2010, the company was blurring the lines between segments in the growing light and small car arena.
Ford believes that potential buyers will crossover from the bottom end of the focus market into the top end of the Fiesta market and while Ms Donovan was clear that no firm decision had been made on re-introducing the Ka, sub light segment car, this too could see a crossover between Fiesta buyers and those opting for the even smaller vehicle.
Not that the new Fiesta is small and like cars in all segments, current design principles mean the vehicle is spacious on the inside, while compact on the outside.
She says that the company expects sales to be about 45 percent the base CL model with the Zetec accounting for 20 percent of sales and the LX the remainder.
On the question of automatic or manual she says this is somewhat blurred at the moment due to shifts in buying patterns as more people move towards smaller vehicles and initially Ford expects to sell about 50-50 automatics and manuals.
Ford says the dramatic, eye-catching design of the new model is an extension of its acclaimed kinetic design language. Clean, sharp angular lines instantly differentiate the new model from its competitors, while a space age-like interior introduces an easy-to-master suite of operational controls.
To go with the fresh new look there is very competitive recommended retail pricing, starting at $15,750 for the CL model, $18,490 for the LX and $20,250 for the Zetec.
A 1.6-litre engine with manual transmission is standard across the range, while an automatic transmission, matched to a 1.4-litre engine, is available as an option on all models except the three-door Zetec.
The auto ‘box equipped cars weren’t available for the media to drive at the launch, due to supply delays, and in fact Ford says the 1.4-litre automatic won’t be in dealers until February next year.
The 1.6-litre engine with manual transmission delivers 88kW of power at 6000rpm and 152Nm of torque at 4050rpm. Fuel consumption is a frugal 6.1L/100km and carbon emissions are contained to 143g/km.
The slightly smaller 1.4-litre engine mated to the automatic transmission generates 71kW of power at 5750rpm and 128Nm of torque at 4200rpm. Fuel consumption is 6.9L/100km, carbon emissions are 164g/km, and all Fiestas are Ethanol-10 compatible.
Fiesta will be available in both three-door and five-door body styles. The CL will be available in three-door or five-door guise, with manual transmission or optional automatic, and rides on 15-inch wheels.
The LX is five-door only, available with manual or optional automatic, and is standard with 15-inch alloy wheels.
The sports model of the range, the Zetec, is offered in both three-door and five-door configurations. The five-door is available with manual or optional automatic while the three-door is manual only.
Styling cues help distinguish the Zetec from its stablemates, which include larger 16-inch alloy wheels and a body kit comprising unique front and rear bumper, bumper grille and larger rear spoiler. The three-door model also features sports rocker panel mouldings.
The Zetec model has been awarded a five-star safety rating by EuroNCAP and Ford expects ANCAP to give the same safety rating. The lesser models will only get a four-star rating in standard form, but can be optioned with a $1000 safety pack, which will take them up to the five-star standard.
All new Fiesta models will be fitted with Anti-lock Brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and while braking is quite up to the job, we'd have to wonder about the use of DRUM brakes on the rear!
river and passenger airbags are standard and a driver knee airbag is standard on both Zetec models. Additional safety equipment, optional on CL and LX and standard on Zetec, includes front seat head and thorax side airbags, driver knee airbag and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).
Technology features include Bluetooth® with Voice Control (available on LX and Zetec) and USB connectivity, allowing MP3 player integration (Zetec), while a 3.5mm audio jack and Easyfuel capless refuelling is standard on all models.
Cruise control is standard on LX and Zetec models, and these vehicles are also fitted with a leather-trimmed steering wheel. There are 11 exterior paint colours available across the new Fiesta range.
Ms Donovan expects the Fiesta to attract a range of new customers both young and older to the Ford brand but emphasises that much of the styling and design features in the car are aimed at younger buyers.
The look of the car is, in our opinion, well balanced and there's definitely more appeal in the shape than the sibling Mazda2, which suffers from a 'big bum' rear end and 'bulging eyes' headlights, neither of which are as flattering to the overall appearance as the more sweeping lines of the Ford.
Driving the car it is obvious that the car is very clearly targeted at a younger market with a heavy influence on styling, including optional dashboard colours, a range of technology connectivity that allows the use of phones, music and the like without the driver having to take the hands off the steering and controls which are suited to city driving.
The electric power steering is light at low speed but still perhaps a little light at highway speed for the serious driver.
Ride and handling is well controlled and confident, without being exceptional, while the damping is aimed more at comfort than handling and does occasionally produce a bouncy ride over the short, sharp corrugations so often found on Australian roads.
Performance from the 1.6-litre engine, coupled to the five-speed manual gearbox, was more than adequate for a spirited afternoon of driving through the Adelaide Hills, without setting any speed records.
We felt the performance would suit the target market and Ford emphasised that its own research showed that this market was more interested in the technology inside the cabin than a “few extra kilowatts under the bonnet.”
There’s more than enough torque on hand to keep the car moving, even up the steepest inclines, and the handling is sufficiently reassuring that good speed can be carried into corners, negating the need for constant gear shifting.
Seating in the front of the Fiesta is supportive and comfortable and while rear seat room is adequate for two adults, we would suggest that three across seating would be confined to children and teenagers.
As buyers of the Fiesta will probably be either young drivers, who traditionally seem to travel with just one passenger, or older buyers who won’t have many rear seat passengers either the accommodation in the rear is unlikely to be an issue.
The boot offers a generous 280-litres of space with the rear seats up and when they are folded this increases to 965-litres.
Against some of its rivals the car feels more accommodating than the Toyota Yaris but probably less spacious than Honda’s new Jazz.
We’ll be putting the new Fiesta to the test against its rivals early in 2009 and will be able to give a definitive answer on which is the best at that time.
Recommended Retail Price
CL Three-door 1.6-litre 5-speed manual $15,750
CL Three-door 1.4-litre 4-speed automatic $17,250
CL Five-door 1.6-litre 5-speed manual $16,490
CL Five-door 1.4-litre 4-speed automatic $17,990
LX Five-door 1.6-litre 5-speed manual $18,490
LX Five-door 1.4-litre 4-speed automatic $19,990
Zetec Three-door 1.6-litre 5-speed manual $20,250
Zetec Five-door 1.6-litre 5-speed manual $20,990
Zetec Five-door 1.4-litre 4-speed automatic $22,490
Safety Pack for CL and LX includes:
- Head and Thorax protecting Side Airbag
- Driver Knee Airbag
- Dynamic Stability Control $1000
Prestige paint $320