Car reviews - Ford - Fiesta - Metal
Contemporary styling, cabin presentation, handling, grip, safety, refinement, comfort, affordability, well equipped, adequately powerful
Room for improvement
Aggressive body suggests more performance than what’s on offer, no colour choices beyond black, no five-door option, rear cushion won’t fold down flush like in the previous-shape Fiesta, restrictive rear vision, no 6th gear, a bit of road noise intrusion
7 Dec 2012
MOST small cars are no longer small.
Compare a Focus Cruze, or even Lancer, with their respective 2002 predecessors, and you will find how much larger – in fact, how medium-sized – small has become.
It’s been an industry trend for decades that most succeeding generations of models grow, but consider the fact that a 1978 VB Commodore is smaller than a Cruze in every dimension except length, and it is easy to see why Australian buyers are abandoning large cars.
They’re simply too big!
But what if your C-segment small car is no longer small enough? Easy, you buy a light car from the B-segment below. It’s a booming end of the market, and one that hasn’t yet been fully mined by the manufacturers.
Enter, then, the Ford Fiesta Metal.
This is – or was, for only 250 were imported and most are already sold out – a European-market limited edition designed to maintain customer interest in the Fiesta against a wave of rival newcomers.
Maybe the recession-riddled EU wasn’t in the mood for a premium, slightly slammed, black-wheeled, uprated petrol-powered three-door hatch with tied-down suspension and a host of little luxury items like leather sports seats (with a laughably primitive heated seat button), cruise control, climate control and full Bluetooth connectivity including audio streaming.
But we’re certainly glad to see the Metal here.
It marks the return of the German-made WS three-door, which was discontinued along with a high-quality dash finish and telescopic steering when Australian-bound Fiesta sourcing switched to Thailand.
And though these items are quite frivolous, they represent excellent value at $22,990 (plus on-road costs), especially if the owner likes to drive their hatch with a bit of spirit and verve.
It’s a shame Ford hasn’t been very adventurous with the exterior colour palette, however. To paraphrase old Henry, you can have the Metal in any colour you like as long as it’s black! But black-on-black isn’t exactly great in an Aussie summer – and we found the air-con to be a bit feeble, too.
Plus, with the old Zetec-based alloys also painted black – and wearing 205/40 R17 tyres – you might expect us to give the ride a black mark.
But no… while that may sound like a recipe for a rough ride and road noise assault, the reality is the Metal – like all modern Euro Fords – is dynamically very accomplished, and still the best in the B-segment for the price point.
Weighty and direct, the steering makes the driver feel connected and in control. You can tip the Fiesta into a tight turn and the car will go exactly where you want it to.
But the Metal isn’t a hot hatch with super-sharp inputs or superglue grip levels. It doesn’t seek out the road camber like a hot-hatch bloodhound.
Mid-corner bumps are felt through the wheel and can upset the composure a little but there is generally a happy balance between steering feedback and isolation from poor road surfaces.
This is no substitute Fiesta XR4 – the previous-gen model’s pre-ST hot hatch flagship that won over Aussies with its exceptional chassis tactility and finesse.
As it stands, the Metal instead is just an above-average runabout with a fluid and fun chassis.
The warm rather than hot-hatch theme also applies to the tuned 98kW/160Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which has received small power and torque upgrades (10kW and 9Nm respectively) and a broader rev range (an additional 300rpm at the top end) as a result of a new air intake and fatter exhaust.
But if you’re expecting the zingy response of the Polo GTI then you might be disappointed. The fact is, with the garish painted alloys and all-black trim, this Fiesta looks like it should fly. The body kit is writing cheques the engine can’t cash.
That’s not to say the Metal is sluggish or slow, because it actually has more than sufficient performance, with lively acceleration levels and low-rev torque response.
Combined with impressive mechanical refinement, these qualities put it among the top non-turbo light-car contenders.
Shifts from the five-speed manual gearbox are quick and a pleasure to execute, adding a real premium feel.
The driving position, too, is a cut above, partly because of the leather upholstery, grippy front seats, chunky (reach-adjustable) wheel, and climate-control air-con that collectively lift the interior ambience above the usual. The instruments look classy too.
One of this generation Fiesta’s defining features has been its multimedia connectivity, from the plethora of buttons in the busy centre stack, to the voice-activated technology.
For new users the Fiesta can initially look a little intimidating, but – like the driving position – everything soon falls into place.
From a functional point of view, the cabin can easily accommodate four adults, with ample front legroom, sufficient headroom, plenty of shoulder space, lots of storage areas and easy access to the second row via a quick-fold passenger seat.
Rear passengers also get to enjoy a comfy cushion, though the middle occupant may argue otherwise. It’s nicely finished too, with a reading light included in the Metal package – an omission on the Thai-made Fords.
Like all WS/WT Fiestas, the rear seat-back folds, but not flush like it used to in the previous generation, due to a fixed rather than tipping cushion.
That’s a bit of an oversight. Otherwise, the hatch area is quite voluminous for a car of its size.
Indeed, nowadays Ford’s B-segment baby – as represented by the new Metal – is hardly one at all, offering big-car performance, sporty hatch handling, a refined interior, comfy ride, and the sort of features that would have been special in a luxo-barge not so long ago.
So it’s no surprise models like the Metal materialise. As small cars keep growing, expect to see more light car niches in the not too distant future.
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