Text: Iñigo S. Roces / Photos: Iñigo S. Roces | posted February 23, 2011 11:07
You know that times are truly changing when car promotion goes viral and a compact hatch that has never competed in the market before shakes up the competition.
What an impression it makes. Long and low lights and grilles and sharp creases on its sides take on the aerodynamic look of modern sports cars. Attention is drawn to the gaping lower grille with unique chrome scoops on the lower corners. An on-the-prowl stance makes it appear ready to pounce into action.
The energy is kept up on the inside with an interior that's just as lively. Two large dials dominate the driver's view. Screens are everywhere, from in between the two dials to the top of the center stack. The layout of the entertainment system's controls seems inspired by the modern day cellphone. The climate controls are just as appealing with their intuitive design.
Underneath the bonnet is another spec that hasn't escaped the buyers' attention - a 1.6 liter DOHC engine with variable valve timing for intake and exhaust. It's paired with a 6-speed double clutch automatic that drives the front wheels. MacPherson struts with a stabilizer in front and twist beam rear suspension in the rear keep it stable over bumps. Low profile 50 series tires on 16 inch wheels add a sporty look.
It's just as comfortable as it looks too. The front seats hold you in tight like professional grade racing seats, yet retain all the comfort and breathability of standard fabric seats. The steering wheel is thick and contoured. The stick shift fits easily in the palm. Adjusting it all may be a bit tricky though with euro style dials instead of Japanese levers.
Take out all the toys and kit and the Fiesta is still a treat to drive. Despite its size, the engine roars every time you step on the throttle. The double clutch automatic returns quick gear changes that are hardly felt at all, even in hard acceleration. There's no manual mode, but that's hardly a letdown as it responds more sensitively to throttle inputs than most automatics. It handles just as well, too, with Euro-tuned suspension that hardly gives in to body roll. That, with the lightly weighted steering feel, add confidence, egging you on to push the car harder on corners.
Even when driven leisurely, the Fiesta will oblige. Shifts seem non-existent with no jerk or kick at all; your only clue is the dipping tachometer needle. The sporty suspension still returns a comfortable ride, soaking up bumps and dips very well and quietly. Cars don't often handle sport or economy extremes that well, yet the Fiesta seems to handle it quite easily. As a result, it's not hard to achieve high fuel economy results, ranging from 9.5 km/L to as high as 12 km/L.
My week with the Fiesta saw everything from Christmas gift delivery throughout the bustling city to the high speed NLEX to tight country roads down South on the other side of Taal Lake. In all situations, the Fiesta was a treat to drive, even after taking a wrong turn that led to storm worn and eroded roads circumnavigating Taal lake. The beaten gravel road would have scared any driver, yet the Fiesta never snagged once on the sharp rocks (even with 3 passengers and bags) thanks to its high clearance. Dual airbags, ABS and electronic stability control provided even more assurance once we got back to the highway.
In spite of getting lost, tempers were cool inside the cabin, with its insulation shutting out most of the usual road noise. All the better to enjoy its in-car entertainment, equipped with tweeters and woofers. The Fiesta integrates well with any MP3 player, even allowing you to control your iPod from the steering wheel controls. Title, Artist and song progress are all displayed on the center LCD. The Voice Command is great for bragging though not as enjoyable to use. It relies on a strict pattern of specific commands and often doesn't get it right. Yet that seems to be the only sour note on an otherwise near perfect car.
It really does live up to all the hype, and in every aspect: from its eye-catching exterior to its comfortable and stylish interior, great driving dynamics and fuel efficiency to boot. It brings in so many features previously absent in its class and will condition buyers to expect more out of every subcompact that follows.