Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Brent Co, Vince Pornelos | posted January 30, 2014 15:17
Delivering the goods
An unstoppable charge is what Ford is on. For the last three years, Ford has launched one revolutionary product after another in nearly every class that the term 'gamechanger' has become quite a cliché.
Consider this. In 2012, Ford Philippines sold 9,398 units, putting the then-carmaker in a solid 6th place overall in terms of sales. In 2013 Ford Philippines, now purely an importer, sold a total of 13,286 units, allowing the company to surge past Isuzu for 5th and literally nip at the heels of Honda in 4th just 70 units ahead.
Numbers notwithstanding, this is one of the reasons behind their success: the Ford Fiesta.
Ford's B-segment ride took a while to get here back in 2010, but once it did, the small Fiesta led the banner charge for the brand, followed suit by the bigger boys in the form of the Explorer, Ranger, Focus and now the EcoSport (we'll review this soon). After having been updated last year, let's see what the new Ford Fiesta 1.5L is like after we drove the EcoBoost version in Thailand last November.
Style appears to be a standard feature of today's Fords. The original Fiesta that was launched in 2010 was already a looker, but I reckon this updated version cranked it up to 11.
The new model seems like it should be sold out of an Aston Martin showroom rather than a Ford dealer, given that inverted “Superman” chrome grille, a pronounced snout, revised headlamps and lower bumper. If anything, the car looks ready to pounce yet sophisticated and classy at the same time. Towards the side not much has changed, though Ford incorporated a redesigned rear end with new taillamps.
Initially it didn't seem that the cabin had changed, but Ford made some subtle cosmetic changes. Designers tossed out the very plasticky matte silver panels and trim on the media console and steering wheel in favor of a piano black panel and polished metal on the steering wheel.
The most remarkable thing about the new Fiesta is the improvements in terms of material and perceived quality all around. Body panels have consistent gaps and seams. The interior feels far more premium than before. Everything just feels better than the 2010 Fiesta that Ford launched, and it doesn't end there.
The pre-update Fiesta had Bluetooth Voice Control with USB, a 6-speed dual clutch automatic (Powershift) and even an electronic stability program (ESP), class leading features in 2010. Ford has retained the 6-PS transmission (more on that later) as well as the ESP for this S model, but they did one better: they incorporated the far superior SYNC connectivity suite into the car. The upgrade allows for more intuitive voice commands (i.e. Call Mom, Play Artist The Ting Tings) and better overall connectivity through Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input, bringing it in line with the higher end models in the Ford range with the Explorer and Focus. As a result, the Fiesta has the most sophisticated audio system in its class.
The Fiesta we drove back in Thailand last year had the 1.0 liter EcoBoost engine and loved it for its combination of punch and efficiency. I actually came into this test drive wishing it was the EcoBoost, but after a few days with it, this Fiesta fits the bill perfectly too.
At the heart of this new Fiesta is a naturally aspirated 1.5 liter Ti-VCT engine. If that sounds smaller than the previous version you're right. Ford has discontinued the 1.6 and 1.4 liter (for ASEAN) engines in favor of this 1.5 as well as the turbo 1.0 liter. The 1498cc motor behind that handsome grille makes a total of 112 PS and 140 Newton-meters of torque. Like we said, the Fiesta retains the 6-speed Powershift automatic transmission.
In the city and out of town, the Fiesta performs well. Power is definitely there. Acceleration is definitely there. Handling and braking are definitely plus points. Delivering 8.0 kilometers per liter in city driving (moderate to slightly heavy Christmas traffic) and 13.1 on the highway means that fuel economy is there. I checked my previous story on the 2010 Ford Fiesta with the 1.6 liter engine and fuel economy seems to have dropped somewhat, but then again metro traffic has become more intense lately.
The Ford Fiesta has never been better than this. Ford's product line has exponentially become better year after year for the last 4 years. There are still some issues with perception that Ford has to overcome in the general car-buying public, particularly with servicing and long-term reliability given our punishing roads and driving conditions, but that's true of any auto brand that is has so many more customers than before. The growing pains, so to speak.
The real challenge for Ford now is not sales, as the models in Ford's line up are simply selling themselves. Each and every one of them -Fiesta, Ranger, Focus and Explorer- can easily be considered as class leaders, product versus product, pound for pound and peso for peso.
Can Ford stay ahead of their superb sales growth with the quality of their after-sales service and reliability? Tell us what you think below.