It was hard not to adapt an immortal song lyric after punting the Ford Fiesta Metal through a bendy section of national park. Although it didn’t really need to be confirmed, for a true car enthusiast, all you need is … a light body, manual stick, grippy tyres, solid chassis, and 7000rpm cut-out … to really love driving.
More literally, all you need is $22,990 to snare the most affordable brand new driver’s car currently available on the market.
The Ford Fiesta Metal is a limited edition model, and just 250 will arrive on our shores from Germany – not Thailand like the rest of the Fiesta range. It has been two years since Ford dropped the slow-selling three-door bodystyle from the Fiesta range, but it makes an encore appearance with the Metal.
This isn’t a dealer-fit sticker-pack special in the same vein as a Ford Falcon Classic or, erm, a Laser Zampatti.
The 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder has been re-tuned, scoring a new air intake and unique exhaust with wider pipes to help liberate an extra 10kW (now 98kW at 6700rpm) and 9Nm (now 160Nm at 4250rpm). Revability improves with the outputs, the cut-out now 6950rpm, 250rpm higher than regular models, and stability control can be fully turned off, unlike regular models.
Sports suspension – Ford won’t specify the increase in damper stiffness – and 17-inch black alloy wheels with sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres rounds out the external changes over the $2500-cheaper five-door Fiesta Zetec. Added kit inside extends to piano-black trim, leather sports seats with front heaters, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights, rear parking sensors and single-zone climate control.
The basics with the sixth-generation Fiesta, which launched in 2008, are already sound.
The steering is wonderful – one of the best electro-mechanical systems currently available in any car, regardless of price. Wonderfully resistance-free and light, yet tactile, immediate, sharp, and never nervous, the Fiesta continues the fine Ford tradition of connecting drivers with the front wheels better than that of any rival, including the Suzuki Swift Sport and VW Polo GTI.
Wonderfully lush damping in the Fiesta CL and LX entry grades hasn’t been ruined with the addition of sports suspension. In fact, Polo GTI drivers will probably dislike the sensation of springs and dampers actually extending and compressing over bumps, instead of hammering over them, keeping the body tight and driver’s bones rattled. Simply, the Fiesta Metal permits a touch more movement to keep things comfortable and composed, allowing higher speeds on really rough roads.
Like that nearby national park, for example. Mid-corner undulations and craggy surfacing are commonplace on this particularly tight and narrow slice of tar-top, yet the road is a facsimile of many others the country over. On the tight and narrow is where hot hatchbacks thrive, and the Fiesta Metal, although an entrée to the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST, does the genre justice.
With the 1.6-litre four kept above 6000rpm in second-gear corners, the Fiesta’s attitude can be changed with the flex of a right ankle. Throw it into a bend on the throttle then lift off, and the Fiesta will neatly edge into oversteer, although the Bridgestones ensure any lift-off ‘moment’ is of the nose-tightening variety, not the snap-and-the-rear’s-gone kind.
Alternatively, let the Fiesta carry speed through the same bend, and it’ll grip at the front, nail a brilliantly tight inside line – just follow the white thread on the left – then hammer the throttle. All the while threading the driver wonderful feedback through the wheel.
The Fiesta has enough chassis smarts to not require stability control because it’s possible to have fun well within its limits, however the safety net is smooth and subtle in operation, a fine back-up measure. But it’s nice to be able to turn it off, anyway.
The engine is wonderfully keen and flexible, revving not just harder, but if memory serves, also faster than the regular 1.6-litre four.
Occasionally, on uphill sections, the Fiesta will get caught between second and third gear – having only five ratios to play with highlights the gap between them, and it’s a hole a naturally aspirated engine won’t tolerate. Get caught below 4000rpm, and the cliff fall in response reminds us of why we like turbocharged engines. And eating our cake, too.
Around town, the cheap cabin plastics, puffy seats – they’re a bit overbolstered and covered in vinyl-like leather – and an ever present, industrially-growly engine note marks the Fiesta as either old school or a cheap product, depending on your perspective. Really deep pot-holes send shivers through the steering wheel and the suspension clunks noisily over them, while road noise levels are average.
It may not be ultra-fast, or particularly polished with its cabin and refinement, but the Ford Fiesta Metal is an enthusiast’s special and a charmer to boot. If properly hard driving is the priority, then it’s an easy pick over a VW Polo 77TSI or even GTI, and the superb steering alone places it ahead of the otherwise-excellent, and quieter, Swift Sport.
Fine tuning basic ingredients … is all you need.