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Owner Review

2011 Ford Fiesta LX review

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In numerology and various other fields beyond the purview of this site, the number seven possesses some form of significance. And that is, for those among us old enough to remember, before a certain Brad Pitt and the stomach-churning delivery he receives at the climax of a certain motion picture from several years back is considered. To this one household, the number seven marks the number of ownership years 'the other car' has clocked with us, this being a European-designed, Thai-sourced WT-series LX-trim Fiesta from Ford.

Powered by a ubiquitous Ford non-turbo 1.6-litre found in various offerings and tunes elsewhere across the pre-EcoBoost global Ford empire, it was a slight capacity and power upgrade from the initial batch of Europe-sourced same-generation Fiestas that came with a 1.4-litre motor up front. A decent motor, if a little lacking in aural entertainment, it has been faultless in the Fiesta, plodding like an eager puppy waiting for the next throw of the ball. Even its relative lack of low-rev torque is easily addressed with more throttle input, and in turn is met by its eagerness to respond when pushed.

Mated to a fairly intuitive gearbox with somewhat sporty pretentiousness and a decently sorted compact chassis, back roads are where it has spent a disproportionate amount of its existence.

With regard to its overall handling, it's not as responsive to directional changes as its manual-only and class-leading Fiesta-on-STeroids stablemate, with a little more roll and a lot less torque when pushed hard. Nonetheless, give this little number a series of undulating bends in rapid succession and one could easily appreciate why fun isn’t always only about out-and-out power. Ironic, really, given this quality seems lost on numerous owners we have met, with many a Fiesta appearing destined to plod around in inner-city and suburban traffic.

The price one has to pay for it, however, is L/100km figures hovering around the mid-7s to 8s, somewhat off the published 6.6L/100km official combined figure. Those who rely on automated shifters and are keen to try it out, the 1.0-litre turbo-powered Fiesta Sport introduced with the major facelift as the replacement motor of choice addresses the torque bugbear rather decently.

Unfortunately, there are no proper shifter pedals, which yours truly believes would have been so much better matched to spirited driving than shifting the stick down to S, which half the time feels like just an excuse at making lots of noise and not much else. But as someone who lives with three pedals on his daily drive, what does yours truly know?

Seven coincidentally also represents the number of years, or 135,000km, whichever came first according to the notice from Ford Australia, the warranty was extended to the much-berated Getrag-sourced six-speed twin-clutch Powershift gearbox that we have come to more than welcome. More on that later. In its element, the gearbox near-perfectly matches with the ride and well-weighted steering feel of the Fiesta, and easily helps make it one of the better driving compact hatches among its contemporaries, several of which were tested before the purchase decision. A qualitative comparison also found gear changes less hesitant in low-speed start-stop situations, and more responsive to comparative hardware.

As with most things in life it is all about balance, and with the Fiesta one of the trade-offs for the fun would be the interior. First up, hailing from a pre-touchscreen era, there is the seemingly Nokia N-gage (look it up, younglings) inspired centre console, framed by what is probably the most effort any plastic bit in a car has been given to look and feel... Plastic. Then there is the low-res orange-hued LCD display reminiscent of plasma displays found on Toshiba-branded laptops of yore, with fairly crisp if somewhat cartoonish graphics and text.

Mercifully having likely spent their button-count quota on the centre console, the same designers reward those sitting in the driver’s seat with a surprisingly under-buttoned leather-clad steering wheel that feels really nice to grip hard. Fans of Euro-sourced Fords would likely find the steering feel familiar and typically very well weighted for a broad spectrum of driving speeds and styles. Ultimately, though, an absence of reach adjustment and the presence of even more plastic-feeling plastic dampens any potential overenthusiasm in finding a true high point with the interior.

Going beyond the dash up front, there are bits and pieces of plastic all over the interior, ranging from textured faux-soft touch to what is probably borderline legal quality-wise for automotive interior use. Strangely, despite the Fiesta’s apparent unbridled affection for cheap plastics, two surprising consolations with the interior seven years on are most of it has actually held up quite well, with nearly all the bits that have fallen off to date traced back to the dodgy efforts of window tint installers, while creaks and rattles are still surprisingly rare, even when going over poorly surfaced roads at speed on a really hot afternoon. Cheap plastics with decent fit – who would have thought?

And, oh, the seats – while of firm, semi-bucket type, they are surprisingly supportive and sufficiently comfortable for a non-stop Melbourne to Canberra blast. Although, long-distance drives would be more fun if one did not have to worry about the prospect of dealing with an inflator kit in the unlikely event of a flat tyre on the M1.

So, seven years later and 77 (see, that number again) thousand kilometres on the clock, our attention inevitably returns to the gearbox. A strong contributor to the fun this car represents, it has also been the Fiesta’s prime source of outright disappointment, offset mildly by the voluntary warranty extension – yes, there have been issues.

Failures in the form of clutches (yes, that is plural) and an actuator module, which in turn manifest themselves in several near-stalling experiences and culminate in a ride on a flat-bed two days before Christmas. Yes, we have had our share of those, to the extent we wondered at times if Ford was looking over to rival VW’s DSG woes and decided on responding with a 'hold my beer' moment.

Looking back over seven years, they almost appear as footnotes and have not seemed to detract from the overall experience as a fun package. Almost. Thus far, since the incident two Christmases back, the latest upgrades have supposedly addressed the inherent issues, and we are happy to report the gearbox seems to run smoother than ever and nothing has gone wrong since.

Except, perhaps, for the perceived overall reputation of the brand in Australia. And the high likelihood the current Fiesta on offer is the last we will see. Which is a pity, as contrary to lingering perceptions, the newer petrol-powered small and compact Ford hatches no longer come with dual-clutch gearboxes.

With the rare exception being the aforementioned 1.0-litre turbo-powered Fiesta Sport.