Okay, so we've driven the Ford Fiesta Sport hatchback, complete with all the bells and whistles like the 1.6 liter engine, the advanced dual clutch Powershift transmission, Bluetooth voice control and a USB port. But, for some reason, I'm having much more fun in this Fiesta Trend sedan, with just a 1.4 liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission and just an simple socket for my iPod.
Why is that?
I have to admit, on the design front, the Sport hatchback is truly the best of the range, and arguably the best looking in the class. There's not much difference between this Trend sedan compared to the Sport, though I do miss the chrome accents on the front airdam that completes the look. I'm also not sold on the design of the trunk, which seems like a bit of an afterthought to me.
Inside, it's a different story altogether. The dash is well and truly busy, with the funky controls and dials. I like the "mobile phone" inspired layout for the audio system, though you do have to reach over quite a bit to change stations or adjust the volume. The quality of the interior is great considering the price range, as you'll never feel that you're shopping in the budget, entry-level car class.
The steering wheel feels great to the touch, and the shifter is light and easy to work. The pedals are perfectly placed and easy to heel and toe if you'd like to be a bit more ambitious, but more on that later. The front seats are a little slim for a plus-sized guy like me, but nevertheless are also the best in the class. The rear seats offer quite a bit of room, and can fold down to stretch the trunk space into the cabin.
For features, it's definitely one of the best in the class, its status as a mid-range model notwithstanding. All windows are powered, same goes for the locks and steering (of course). At the center of the dash is a large LCD with a readout for the audio system and other vehicle functions. It even allows you to select how many flashes the corner lights will do when you tap the indicator stalk to change lanes. How neat is that?
At the heart of the Fiesta Trend sedan is a 1.4 liter engine. The Fiesta's powerplant produces a pretty healthy 95 horsepower nad 126 Newton meters of torque, not bad considering its just a 1.4 liter. Bolted to the engine is a 5-speed transmission, a tranny that proved a perfect match for the engine. The combo gives the Fiesta Trend very decent acceleration, with the transmission's fairly close ratios giving the engine an easy time pulling the car off the line, though it does sacrifice top speed quite a bit.
Like most other subcompact cars, the Fiesta's suspension is composed of MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam in back. In saying so, it's expected that this car drives just like any other subcompact in the market, but it really doesn't because it drives so much better. In town, the benefits are obvious, as the Fiesta easily negotiates turns at speed with confidence. It's smooth and comfortable inside over the worst potholes in the metro, and doesn't have as much tire noise as you would expect inside a budget priced car with budget priced wheels.
Where the Fiesta comes alive is really up in the mountains. I've made it a habit to take any car with driving potential up to the mountain routes of Tanay, Rizal, and in this case, it serves as a benchmark as I took both the 1.6 Trend sedan and 1.6 Sport hatchback up here. Right from the onset, the Fiesta 1.4 Trend with the manual transmission feels much, much better.
Even though this car only makes 95 horsepower, I can really feel and make use of each and every one of them. I've found that the 6-speed Powershift transmission in the top of the line versions of the Fiesta didn't perform as well as I was hoping it would, especially as it holds on to 2nd (or was it 3rd?) gear a little too long (sacrificing efficiency a bit) and does not shift down as intuitively as I would expect. The manual completely rectified that and, if you were sitting next to me as I take on this road in the Fiesta 1.4, heel and toeing to match the revs and wringing out the engine out of the corners, you'd notice the ear to ear smile on my face.
Sure, I would have expected to have so much fun in a car like a Genesis Coupe or an MX-5, but never would I have thought that I would have had this much fun in a near-base model Ford Fiesta.
Aren't surprises great?