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Car reviews - Ford - Fiesta - XR4 3-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Value, keeps true to the small fast/fun Ford ethos yet is refined and comfortable, safety equipement, everyday practicality, uniquely adorable
Room for improvement
High-set front seats, no cruise control, coloured cabin trim may not be to everybody’s taste

8 Jun 2007

SINCE the days of the competition Cortina and Escorts of the 1960s and ‘70s, many car enthusiasts have held a soft spot for small, fast Fords.

Though simple in design, their favourable power-to-weight ratio, combined with elegantly straightforward engineering and a fair degree of reliability and durability, helped the populus brand to achieve pole position in the highly coveted teenage bedroom wall-poster podium.

Oh, these made-over family cars also led to global competition victories, which then resulted in sales spikes and the birth of automotive urban-car legends.

Fast forward to today and the spirit of the old rear-wheel drive Dagenham Dustbins – as the Cortina and Escort were affectionally dubbed – lives on in the new Fiesta XR4.

The recipe is simple and straightforward… no turbo, just a big torquey 2.0-litre twin-cam engine plumbed into the proboscis of a lightweight hatchback.

Now even today’s most basic Fiesta – with its sharp steering and entertaining handling and grippy roadholding – has no shortage of fans, so Ford’s decision to implement firmer suspension, a quicker steering rack and shorter gear ratios to go with an almost 50 per cent leap in engine power sounds very promising indeed.

And the result is brilliant.

Forget that it costs under $25,000… the XR4 would impress us at $30,000, with its sweet-sounding and eager-to-rev powerplant that seems to have plenty of torque in reserve.

You can poodle about in a higher gear than usual and still have the engine tractability to pull forward at any time.

Meanwhile, the XR4’s taut body control means that you can throw this around corners at high speed, time and again, relying on the huge grip offered by the tyres.

Keeping in mind that this is just a light car, there seems to be little of the engine and road noise intrusion that lesser Fiestas suffer, so despite the sporting edge, the XR4 is actually more refined than its more comfort-orientated siblings… bonus!

Topping this off is a firm yet surprisingly pliant ride quality. Ford says it spent millions honing this chassis on tough winding roads and internationally renowned racetracks, and the evidence presented here certainly supports this.

Quite honestly, for what the XR4 is, finding dynamic or driveability fault is just knit picking.

Considering how quietly and composed the Fiesta is at the national speed limit, the omission of cruise control is extremely disappointing.

This car’s sheer eagerness and ability to carve up through tight country corners revealed just how thick the A-pillars really are. But that’s a criticism reserved for virtually every new car these days.

Some people may also find the coloured dash panel an eyesore, or the instrumentation display a tad busy, but these are only minor qualms in an otherwise extremely well constructed and presented interior.

Perhaps front seats that are set too high for drivers wishing to sit lower to the ground is probably the most serious flaw.

Otherwise, the Fiesta XR4 is a bite-sized bombshell of a light car that will surely put a smile on the dial of any hot-hatch lover.

It isn’t as rapid or raw as the much-loved Renault Clio Sport, but that car is now dead and this one costs much, much less.

Ford has imbued the soul of its long-gone small-car greats in the Focus XR5 Turbo, and has achieved the same trick again in the fine Fiesta XR4.

It has fun, safety, practicality and economy all rolled into one.

Is the Fiesta XR4 the best new-car buy for under $25,000? If you like your light car spirited and spicy, we think the latest in a long string of small fast Fords is it!

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