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Driven: Ford refines Fiesta for light-car stoush
A mid-cycle facelift sharpens the baby Ford’s value, looks
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29 Aug 2013
FORD expects its facelifted Fiesta to gain a bigger slice of the hotly contested light-car segment after stock shortages over recent months have seen sales slide by almost 20 per cent.
With fresh styling, more features, and the international high-flying ST performance model all poised to attract new customers to dealers when sales start on September 1, the Blue Oval bosses hope the WZ revamp will edge the Fiesta back past the record 12,000 unit mark achieved in 2011.
This is despite the demise of the TDCi diesel version, which – after starting strongly by accounting for up to 10 per cent of total Fiesta volume two years ago – failed to realise its potential due to a period of stable fuel prices in more recent times, slipping to just four per cent of sales.
Speaking to GoAuto at the latest Fiesta’s launch in Melbourne this week, senior product marketing specialist Justin Stefani believes the Thai-built Ford strikes the right balance between cost and content.
The adoption of Ford’s much-trumpeted SYNC audio, phone and media connectivity system in particular should help the Fiesta lure a higher proportion of younger buyers – despite prices rising slightly at the lower end of the model line-up.
“We’ve made sure the car is extremely competitively specified and priced, with features that customers tell us they are looking for, so we hope it grows the market,” Mr Stefani said.
“Plus, the ST halo effect will throw more light on the regular Fiesta brand.” ST aside, Ford predicts the newly renamed Ambiente to take over from the old WT Fiesta CL base model and account for about 40 per cent of overall volume, followed by the Trend (formerly LX) and Sport (previously Zetec) taking around 30 per cent apiece.
The Sport, in particular, has a chance to boost numbers compared with the preceding Zetec when sales start in December, since its award-winning 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol EcoBoost engine achieves broadly similar average fuel use figures as the outgoing diesel.
While the latter’s 4.9L/100km isn’t quite as good as the LX TDCi’s 4.4L/100km result, light-car buyers seeking frugality will have more choice since the Sport will be available with the automatic transmission option that eluded – and consequently held back – the Fiesta diesel in Australia.
“The diesel market has contracted in the B-segment, and with the Sport offering similar economy at a cheaper price, it is a win-win situation for Fiesta customers,” Mr Stefani said.
Unlike the ST three-door hatch, which is built in Germany, the Ambiente, Trend, and Sport are all five-door vehicles sourced out of Thailand, and share some underbody components with the existing Mazda2.
All share the new trapezoidal grille, bumpers headlights, bonnet, tail-lights, and wheel designs.
There has been an attempt to jazz up the premium look of the dash (though the soft-touch fascia of the German-built WS and ST is missing, along with their reach-adjustable steering column) there is more consistent night-time illumination (blue rather than red) different fabrics and patterns introduce a series of minor trim changes SYNC audio/phone/media connectivity has been added and a pair of under-seat drawers are now incorporated.
Under the bonnet the lusty old 88kW/151Nm 1.6-litre Ti-VCT four-cylinder petrol engine is pushed aside for a smaller 1.5-litre unit producing 82kW of power at 6300rpm and 140Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
On the other hand, fuel use improves by 0.3L/100km to 5.8L/100km, with carbon dioxide emissions figures pegged at 137g/km.
Meanwhile, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost is the sporty option, delivering a healthier 92kW at 6000rpm and 170Nm between 1400 and 4500rpm, as well as the aforementioned 4.9L/100km and 113g/km for the manual version, and 5.3 and 121g/km for the auto.
Both engines drive the front wheels via a five-speed manual or six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic.
Ford says it fits improved shock absorbers and new front suspension bump stops for a more supple ride quality as well as sharper (electric rack and pinion) steering and handling capabilities. Suspension remains MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear set-up.
Standard safety features include a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating courtesy of seven airbags (including driver’s knee protection), electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and a hill hold function that stops the car rolling back on a slope.
All models come with cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio buttons, front and rear power window switches, air-conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, an Eco Mode system of fuel-saving driving encouragers, USB/MP3 player connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming as part of the SYNC connectivity, remote central locking, and electric mirrors.
The Trend gains niceties like 15-inch alloys and front fog lights, while the Sport’s wheels grow an inch, the body scores a kit and spoiler, the seats gain partial-leather inserts, and a Sony audio system and TFT colour screen are fitted.
A Sport Executive Pack is available in the latter, and comes with climate control air-con, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers, an alarm, and keyless entry and start.
For peace of mind, more than 850,000km of global track and laboratory testing was carried out, in a range of temperature extremes, while another 1.2 million real-world road assessment activities were conducted.
Buyers can also rely on capped-priced servicing across the WZ series.
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