Car reviews - Ford - Fiesta - Econetic 5-dr hatch
18 Mar 2010
HOW the automotive world is changing. It wasn’t so long ago that when a car manufacturer boasted about its product’s performance, it usually referred to its ability to accelerate fast.
These days, that's increasingly less so. The 0-100km/h measure is being fast overtaken by the litres per 100 kilometres fuel consumption figure, so Ford has just released Australia’s fastest... sorry, most fuel-efficient car, the Fiesta Econetic.
Like the whisker of time separating performance cars’ acceleration figures, it’s down to thimble-fulls of fuel between the Econetic and its closest ‘competitors’ in fuel-efficiency, but that’s all by the by.
The 0.2L/100km difference between the Fiesta and Toyota's hybrid poster-car, the Prius, is all it takes for Ford to win the crown - at least until another manufacturer manages to slip under the Fiesta’s economy bar.
The Fiesta Econetic is much like any other new WS Fiesta to look at, with the 14-inch steel wheels and wheel caps the only obvious clue for trainspotters to indicate its parsimonious place in the Fiesta range.
The interior is not a generous space but occupants up front have a better time of it than those in the back. Superbly supportive buckets with the ample underthigh support that most car company bean-counters shave off the development budget are a good start, as is the funky dashboard, which houses a clear and nicely legible instrument panel and controls that are placed high up and obvious rather than buried low on the dash where no-one will find them.
The dash and door cards have a quality, contemporary texture and shade of colour, and don’t feel cheap or nasty.
The front seats might feel like the dress circle but the back is definitely the stalls in this theatre. Legroom is tight, headroom acceptable but the seat is not especially supportive or comfortable, although is not below average for this class of car.
While the front has the necessary beverage holders and storage trays for the modern requirements for clutter, there is only one measly seat pocket for storage in the back.
The cargo area is served by a high loading lip and the lack of carpet on the rear seatback seems like a cheap measure in a $25,000 car. Apparently the Americans will get carpet on their Fiestas here but we, like the Europeans, get to see what the seat is really made of.
Under the floor is an air compressor and a bottle of puncture repair goo, a wonderful weight (and therefore fuel) saving measure in Cologne but not in the outskirts of Caloundra. A full-size spare, even as an option, would be good.
The Econetic starts up quickly and settles into a gentle diesel rattle at idle. The low-rpm response is very linear for a turbo-diesel, lacking much of the turbo lag that blights the Punto 1.3 JTD, for example.
The engine revs out smoothly and feels surprisingly flat in its rev band for a turbo-diesel. Normally, the troughs and peaks of off-boost and then on-boost as the turbo spools up and down is clearly felt in a turbo-diesel, but not this one.
That doesn’t mean this super-frugal Fiesta doesn’t have the characteristic turbo-diesel mid-range punch, but given the lack of any sharp transition, it feels like it has been wrapped in a silk glove.
We spent much of the launch drive program trying to drive economically and saw a best figure of 3.3L/100km driving in Canberra and its environs. That’s not bad at all, but it will be interesting to see how the Econetic fares in the real world of stop-start city traffic, where the similar Fiat Punto 1.3 JTD can soon end up averaging 8.0L/100km.
The Econetic handles well, offering the same excellent turn-in and good grip levels in general open-road driving as other Fiestas. We didn’t get the chance to loop up a twisting mountain pass to really pass judgement on the chassis, but it doesn’t appear to be much worse off than the excellent set-up of the standard Fiesta.
Ride quality is not bad either, and reflected road noise was well suppressed too.
The Fiesta Econetic is a good all-round performer that has a smooth and quiet turbo-diesel engine which also happens to have the kind of fuel consumption figures that owners can boast about.
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