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First drive: Ford's fiesty XR4 is Fiesta resistance!

Ferocious: Fiesta XR4 fights well above its weight in the hot-micro class.

Brilliant new Ford Fiesta XR4 delivers a stirring light-car drive for under $25,000

8 Jun 2007

FORD has surprised many with sub-$25,000 pricing for its new Fiesta XR4. On sale now from $24,990, the front-drive three-door hot-hatch includes stability and traction control, six airbags, power windows and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Developed by Ford of Europe’s TeamRS outfit, which is also responsible for the successful Focus ST (sold here as the XR5 Turbo), it is made in Germany and sold elsewhere as the Fiesta ST.

As the fastest Fiesta to date, the XR4 dices with the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart, Mini Cooper, Fiat Punto Sport, Peugeot 207 GT and Suzuki Swift Sport.

All bar the latter – which makes do with a smaller and less powerful engine – cost significantly more than the Ford.

Speaking of engines, the Fiesta gains Focus power in its transition to XR4, thanks to the 2.0-litre Duratec twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder unit that Mazda also uses in its ‘3’.

For the XR4, this aluminium cylinder headed and chain-drive fitted four-pot petrol unit has been tuned and optimised for 95 RON premium unleaded fuel.

It delivers 110kW of power at 6000rpm, while 80 per cent of the 190Nm torque top, which starts to level out at 4500rpm, comes in from just 1500rpm. From 2200 to 6150rpm, there is still 171Nm at the driver’s disposal.

This has been achieved via the inclusion of a variable valve intake system Ford dubs VIS that plumps out the available torque, as well as the implementation of a new exhaust set-up that features a revised catalyst for reduced back pressure, as well as a more tuneful tone.

A low-inertia flywheel has also been added for a faster throttle response.

These power and torque figures are up 48 and 30 per cent respectively on the 74kW/146Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine found in all other Australian-bound Fiestas, as well as 3kW and 5Nm more than what the regular Focus range can manage.

Ford says the ADR81/01 combined fuel consumption figure is 7.4 litres per 100km, while its carbon dioxide output is 177g/km.

At 1090kg, the XR4 weighs just 31kg more than its Fiesta Zetec three-door stablemate.

The existing five-speed manual gearbox – no automatic or five-door variant is available – has also come in for modification, receiving numerically lower final drive ratios, with first, second and third gear sets having also been ‘shot-peened’ for extra strength.

Ford has also shortened the gearshifter’s throw for quicker and more accurate movement, and fitted a new clutch housing to help accommodate the larger engine in the Fiesta’s nose. To this end, the belt driven auxiliary items have also been repositioned, with a rear mounted alternator and a front mounted air-conditioning pump.

27 center imageThe European team that devised the ST/XR4 spent two years developing the Fiesta’s chassis in England and at the N&uuml rburgring racing circuit in Germany.

Ford deemed that no changes were needed to the existing car’s stiff body structure, and that the MacPherson strut front and twist-beam rear suspension set-up has been carried over fundamentally unchanged.

Nevertheless, the front and rear springs are considerably stiffer (rising 7.5Nm/mm to 24N/mm and 2Nm/mm to 17N/mm respectively), the twist beam axle is 200Nm/degree stiffer than before (it now registers at 720Nm/degree), the dampers have been recalibrated, and more negative camber has been incorporated into the redesigned front suspension knuckle.

For more agility while maintaining high-speed stability, the steering rack ratio has been shortened by 10 per cent and the toe-in is reduced, while the steering’s front subframe has also been stiffened for a more precise feel.

Keeping all the speed in check are rear disc brakes – a Fiesta first – and larger front discs. Measuring to 278mm x 22mm up front, they feature larger callipers and pads than in other models too.

Anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution complete the stopping package, and work in conjunction with the aforementioned stability control (called DSC in Ford-speak) and traction control.

Ford says that much time was spent ‘balancing’ the XR4’s controls “… to create harmony between the feel and response of the brakes, clutch, steering and gearshift functions.”

Tyres are a specially developed Pirelli P-Zero 205/40ZR17 asymmetric tread pattern type, wrapped around a multi-spoke alloy of bespoke design.

Other exterior alterations include a redesigned front bumper fitted with a deeper air dam, a small lip spoiler and chromed-ringed fog lights, while a different rear bumper houses a large air diffuser opening and restyled exhaust pipe.

New body side mouldings, side skirts and a rear roof spoiler have also been added, with the latter said to be tuned for optimum aerodynamic efficiency.

The powered and heated exterior mirrors are also a fresh design, and are body coloured, like most of the XR4’s add-ons.

Inside, there are ‘sports’ seats devised to provide more grip and support, trimmed in leather with cloth inserts of varying colour, depending on the exterior’s hue.

Leather also wraps a new-look steering wheel and gear knob, while additional brightwork can be found in the instrumentation, doorsills, pedals, handbrake and door pulls.

Uniquely, the XR4 can also be had with either a blue or red dash panel.

Electric windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning, a 6-disc CD stacker with remote audio controls and a trip computer are also part of the package, although the Ford GT40-style stripes adds $300 to the price.

Furthermore, like the Focus XR5 Turbo, Ford of Europe has not developed a cruise control system for the Fiesta, so it is not available.

“Believe me, we are trying,” says Jogi Shetti, Ford Australia’s import product marketing manager.

Ford expects to sell every one of the 40 XR4s it imports every month.

The keen $24,990 ask is partially a result of the Focus XR5 Turbo’s success in Australia, which gave Ford Australia more clout when negotiating prices.

“We don’t believe the XR4 would have been viable at $30,000,” Mr Shetti reveals.

The XR4 name was chosen over the ST moniker for continuity with the Focus XR5 and Falcon XR6 and XR8 brands within Ford’s sporty stable, and signify the number of cylinders offered.

2007 Ford Fiesta XR4 pricing:
Ford Fiesta XR4 $24,990
Optional GT stripes $300

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