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April 18, 2012

Review: 2012 Ford Fiesta 1.6 Sport

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Whether it’s the latest gadget or the trendiest social networking website, whatever it may be, it begins to lose its charm a year on. That iPad of yours, still kept in that shatter-proof, fingerprint-proof case doesn’t see the amount of time playing Angry Birds. You may have clicked the ‘like’ button religiously before, but now; you log into Facebook just to ‘friend’ people then log out. Ultimately, it’s the everyday version of entropy: your gadget still works, but it’s beginning to lose its luster.

Typically, it’s the same story with cars, where there is in fact, an unwritten rule: the flasher the car, the quicker it loses its star power. Launched in the Philippines to much fanfare more than a year ago, the Ford Fiesta is flashy as flashy gets. On the highest model, it’s got Bluetooth voice command, the PowerShift dual-clutch six-speed automatic, electronic stability program and even Hill Launch Assist. It’s been flying off the showroom floor with over 3,350 units sold (the best-selling sub-compact hatch in 2011 with more than 1,675 sold) and it’s been garnering accolades left and right (2010-2011 Car of the Year – Philippines Best Sub-Compact and Best Sub-Compact in the 7th Annual C! Awards among others). But as much as the public and press love it, how does it drive a year later?

To put it bluntly, it remains as fresh and dynamic the day I first sat in its driving seat. Upon opening the door of the racy blue-and-white Fiesta 1.6 Sport, it screams quality. Having sampled a highly popular but highly anonymous Japanese sub-compact just a few days prior, the interior is simply worlds apart. Where the typical sub-compact is built like a can of sardines, the Fiesta’s choice of materials, colors, ergonomics and design remains top notch. There are no exposed screws, no uneven panel gaps, nothing rattling and nothing loose. Indeed, the Fiesta remains the only true act of solid workmanship. And this is even before I turned the key. Once the 1.6-liter engine comes to life, you’re in for a treat.

Having had its drivetrain and chassis sharpened in the roads of Europe, the Fiesta exhibits excellent road manners. Off the bat, the steering is quick and responsive. The chassis (sport-tuned in the aptly named Sport model) loves those left/right transitions. Together with the 120 horsepower engine, the Fiesta drives like a fun go-kart, only it seats an additional three people to share the fun in. And the ride is reasonably comfortable too; none of the usual bounciness or float associated with sub-compact cars.

Aside from giving driving smiles, the Fiesta also rewards drivers with its frugality. Last September, it achieved a record 23.663 km/L in a fuel economy challenge. And before dismissing this figure as something only ‘hyper-milers’ (those who like to drive economically, or for more ‘miles’) can achieve, thanks to technology such as PowerShift, even my lead foot can easily do 20 km/L in the highway, 8.62 in the worst city traffic for an average of 10.24 km/L after driving it some 1,098 kilometers. Indeed, it’s the instant accessibility of the Fiesta that has truly made it popular with the car buying public. Ask anyone who’s driven one, and they’ll say that it’s the sharpest knife in the sub-compact segment.

Of course, there’s always a flipside to every story, and for the Fiesta it’s got to do more with the available interior space, or rather the lack of it. The cabin’s alright if you happen to need a car that transports just yourself and your significant other. But when you’re talking about a family of three, four or five your luck will run out fairly quickly. The rear quarters is best reserved for two adults. Though the seats are well-padded for long-distance comfort (it’s got adjustable headrests to boot), the seat angle is positioned awkwardly upright for the elderly or those with sensitive backs. The luggage space is fairly limited as well, swallowing about one, maybe two medium-sized luggages with the cargo cover in place. And though the seat backs fold in a 60/40 split, they don’t exactly create a flat load space, making bulkier gear much harder to load. Of course, one can argue that the Fiesta’s designed for young and first-time car buyers.

And speaking of young buyers, Ford has put emphasis in personalization options for the Fiesta. The Fiesta Sport you see here started out as a stocker, but thanks to several exterior and interior accessories (all of which are imported from the United Kingdom); it gives the hatchback an even more unique look and flavor. Outside, this Fiesta rocks the Sport Front Bumper Grille, Sport Front Bumper Skirt and Sport Rear Bumper Skirt. Inside, it receives illuminated stainless steel scuff plates and a two-tone blue-and-white leather steering wheel. There are even more options, all of which are available through any Ford dealer. If you’re willing to shell out an additional P 20,000 above the P 834,000 asking price of the Fiesta Sport, you’ll end up with the recently launched Fiesta Sport Plus which basically installs all of these nifty goodies all in one go.

Though the center of attention has always been on the tech-laden Sport model, there are 8 variants of the Fiesta available locally, all of which are designed with one thing in mind: best-in-class. Whatever variant, color, engine or transmission, the Fiesta promises best-in-class design, fuel efficiency, quality, safety and smart technology. The sheer amount of choices, coupled with its mix of design and features has made the Fiesta the fastest selling nameplate in Ford Philippines’s history and one of the best-selling cars in the highly competitive sub-compact segment.

Time passes and fads change, but as long as the Fiesta continues to deliver the style, economy and performance—elements that have been present in the nameplate from the very beginning, it’s sure to have more milestones to come. After 35 years of production, 6 generations and 15 million cars sold worldwide, the Fiesta remains one lucky guy that remains young-at-heart that builds its loyal following one happy owner at a time.

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