A Comfortable Drive

Anamit Sen | Roadtest | September 17, 2012
A Comfortable Drive


Ford has launched the new Fiesta after a very good 2010, thanks to the Figo. Ford showcased the car in Delhi much earlier this year and I've been chasing them for a car ever since. Perseverance paid off finally as I was allotted a diesel for four days.  Like many other companies in India, Ford is keeping the earlier Fiesta in production, renaming it the Classic Fiesta as it still has many takers. The new Fiesta is actually the booted version of the Fiesta that has been around in Europe since the last three years, which means when speaking in terms of Ford we now have a contemporary Fiesta again. Ford has launched the Fiesta here with two engines, a 1.6litre Ti-VCT (Variable Cam Timing) petrol engine as well as a  1.5litre turbo-diesel unit.

I've been itching to do a drive myself especially after my recent Fascination Drive experience in Kashmir (where I didn't drive) and inspired by the oft-driven and written-about Golden Triangle I came up (actually, my cousin did) with the idea of doing an alternative triangle – Gurgaon to Gwalior Fort, then on to Jhansi and Sawai Madhopur before returning to Gurgaon via Alwar. We would also be staying over at the RTDC economy hotel in Sawai Madhopur in order to visit the Ranthambhore National Park to see if we could get lucky and see a tiger in it's natural habitat.

For me, the fact that Gwalior has a medieval hilltop fort was reason enough for the trip, especially as we would be staying within the fort in the Scindia School. Researching the fort I came to know that according to legend a Rajput chief, one Suraj Sen (no relation of mine), was suffering from leprosy and was cured by a hermit named Gwalipa who lived on the hill top.. The hermit  made him  change his name to Suraj Pal saying that as long as the Pal bit was retained, his descendants would remain rulers. Apparently, 83 descendants did that but the 84th wanted to be different - he changed his name and promptly lost his kingdom. .

Back to the Fiesta however – in India the  car has been positioned in the B premium segment. Ford is banking on what it feels is a proven lineage as over a million have been sold after it launched in Europe three years ago. Ford is targetting Ajay, an imaginary average Indian male who is a successful businessman, entrepreneur probably, doing well and wants to express himself through the products he purchases.

In terms of looks, the new Fiesta is quite striking. Especially from the rear three-quarter view, it looks nice and sleek unlike other booted hatches. From certain angles in front,one can see the hatchback base. The kinetic edgy look is there, together with the muscular rear end and the sweptback headlights in front. It does not have certain features that are available in the European version however and that is a shame – Europeans get a start-stop button, 12 rim design options and 6 different model variants with five different engine options and 11 colour options. What they don't get and we do, is a 430litre luggage boot. The new Fiesta weighs in 1157kgs with dimensions of 4291mm x 1722mm x 1496mm (LxBxH). Compare that to the Classic Fiesta which measures 4282mm x 1686mm x 1468mm and the Fluidic Verna which is 4370mm long, 1700mm wide and 1475mm tall. The wheelbase of the new Fiesta is 2489mm compared to 2570mm for the Fluidic Verna and 2486mm for the Classic Fiesta.

The Kinetic design can be found in the interiors also, notably on the steering wheel and on the fascia. The instrumentation is clear and legible but I kind of liked the honeycomb pattern on the earlier Fiesta, which is missing here. The steering wheel is a bit skinny but the gripping points are good to grip, but if one wants a sporty steering wheel is available as an optional accessory.  The Electric Power Assisted Steering has Pull Drift Compensation Technology which is a software-based technology that helps drivers offset vehicle pulling or drifting that can occur in steady crosswinds or on uneven roads. EPAS is a sophisticated system by itself that uses sensors to constantly measure the wheel torque applied by the driver to maintain the vehicle’s path, continually resetting to adapt to changing road conditions or the vehicle turning a corner.

As mentioned earlier, our destination was the Scindia School, Gwalior approximately 300 odd km away and we left Gurgaon early in the morning to avoid traffic out of Gurgaon and get as far ahead as possible on NH2 before hitting truck traffic.   The route to Gwalior is via  Ballabhgarh, Hodal, Mathura, Agra, Dholpur, and Morena. After a brief pit stop and driver change at Mathura, we reached Agra by 10.15AM, getting to grips with the car all the time. We had the Eicher road atlas with us but two things led us to miss the turn into Agra – the map does not show exactly where the road bifurcates towards Kanpur and Calcutta and the overhead board indicating the turn was just a frame with bits of metal hanging.

For the Gwalior Road or NH3 one has to drive through Agra and it turned out to be a nice, broad dual carriageway with good signage all along. With the sun up now, I checked the AC's performance. With the temperature set to 20degrees, the grille temperature was 8 degrees while at the rear seat it was 23degrees. At the front seats it was higher at 25degrees but this was probably due to the sun hitting the thermometer directly. We checked out the nifty voice control feature which was a bit of a hit and miss affair - requesting 24degrees resulted in 22degrees once and another time I was told off that 54degrees (!!) was not possible and the AC set itself to the warmest setting with the blower at full speed! The radio commands worked better though as  did the demisting on-off commands.

I hardly sat at the rear but when I did, I found the headrest digging into my head awkwardly. Adjusting the headrest made it somewhat better but   most users will probably chuck them out. NH3 also gave me an opportunity to check out the 1498cc TDCi 8v SOHC all aluminium alloy engine in terms of revs versus road speed versus selected gear. The engine develops 90PS of power and 204 Nm of torque between 2000 and 2750rpm. While at 50kph in fourth gear the engine was doing 1200rpm, selecting fifth gear made the engine very uncomfortable - at 1000rpm, the Fiesta labours and stutters mainly because it is outside the torque band.  At 80kph in fourth gear the engine does 2200rpm which drops to 1700rpm in fifth. Taking the speed up to 100kph in fourth and fifth gear resulted in rpm figures of 2700 and 2000 respectively. The Fiesta diesel could do with a sixth gear, because at 100kph  (2000rpm) the engine note makes you think there is still another up shift to go – indeed, I inadvertently shifted into fourth several times thinking I was shifting into top gear.

The Fiesta's suspension is very good – it tackled bad (sometimes non-existent) roads without a murmur and the power steering soaked up everything. However, while lane changes are very comfortably achieved and the car is very stable - feels planted at three digit speeds, it still feels too bulky to chuck around like the earlier (Classic) Fiesta. The Agra-Gwalior section was mostly taken up with evaluating the car and apart from Dholpur where the road was a bit bad, we passed the infamous Chambal ravines without incident (dacoits) to end up in Gwalior city. We were directed to drive up from the Urvai Gate end uphill whereupon we drove into the fort and eventually rolled to a halt in front of the ornate gates of the Scindia School, the trip meter reading 336.9km. The road trip had started.

WU Likes: The ride, the introduction of voice control, the rear end styling

WU Dislikes: MP3 files did not sound good on the audio system and the voice control system needs to be fine-tuned for Indian accented English. The engine doesn't like being at low rpms, which could be a factor in heavy city traffic.

WU Verdict: The Fiesta is a good highway runner, it gobbles up the kilometres very easily and comfortably. There is leg space at the rear but the cabin is more oriented to front seat occupants. The ride is good and the engine though not a screamer has plenty of torque. Needs a sixth gear or a revised fifth gear/final drive ratio for the highway.

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Anamit Sen was invited to participate in the 3rd Honda Read more
Anamit Sen was invited to participate in the 3rd Honda Read more