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Brief Test - Ford Fiesta 1.1 L Economy
Ford claim their new Economy option, available on some Fiesta models, will give fuel consumption savings of up to 15 per cent. We put them to the test.
DESPITE THE impression that may have been created by the recent petrol price wars, the fact cannot be ignored that fuel prices are still rising. It is not surprising, therefore, that major manufacturers are not only maintaining their research into fuel economy but also introducing models which are deliberately aimed at economy of both fuel consumption and purchase price.
As part of their model realignment programme, the Ford Motor Company have taken exactly this step. On April 1st this year it announced a new Economy option which is available on the Fiesta (Popular Plus, L and GL) and Escort (base and L saloon) models.
These "E" versions differ in a number of ways from the standard models. On the engine, the main change is the fitting of Ford's Variable Venturi carburetter to the 1117cc pushrod ohv "four", which gives it slightly improved power and torque: 55 bhp at 5,700 rpm and 60.5 Ib ft torque at 3,000 rpm, compared with 53 bhp at 5,700 rpm and 59 Ib ft torque at 3,000 rpm for the standard 1100cc engine.
Other changes are a taller final drive ratio (3.583 instead of 4.056) and revised internal gear ratios: third gear is now closer to the ratio for top in the standard Fiesta (1.296 instead of 1.345) while top gear (0.878 as opposed to 0.951) is, in effect, a long-legged overdrive ratio providing 19.6 mph per 1,000 rpm. Ford refer to the gearbox as "3 plus E".
Finally, and probably the most immediately noticeable difference, there are two "econo-lights" (one amber, one red) which illuminate when the car is being driven "wastefully". These lights, which are situated at the top of the speedometer (and cannot, incidentally, be switched off), are operated on a simple vacuum gauge principle. A sensor is fitted in the carburetter, downstream of the venturi and throttle: when the throttle is open, the pressure in the intake manifold rises almost to atmospheric, causing first the amber, then the red light to illuminate. With the throttle almost closed, however, pressure in the manifold is greatly reduced and the lights go out.
However, the first thing a buyer will note about the "E", is that it is slightly cheaper than its standard counterpart. The 1100L version we tested costs £4,162 - giving an initial saving of £106. Thus the "L" model is competitive on price with its many similar "economy" rivals, including the Austin Metro HLE 1.0 3-dr (£4,299), the Citroen Visa Super E 1.1 5-dr (at £3,659 by far the cheapest of our selected rivals), the Renault 5 GTL 1.1 3-dr 5-sp (£4,246), the Talbot Samba GL 1.1 3-dr (£4,017) and the VW Polo 1.1 CL 3-dr (£4,229). The Polo 1.1 CE model at £3,975 would, in fact, be a more direct rival to the Fiesta 1.1 LE, but as yet Motor has not tested this version.
The Fiesta E starts easily and warms up quickly, though the automatic choke appears both to come on too much and stay on too long - as is often the case with automatic chokes - and surely can do nothing to aid fuel economy.
Despite its economy-orientated engine and gearing, the Fiesta should not the other hand cruising at speed in top is relaxed. The gearchange is light and positive, although occasionally it takes more than one attempt to engage first
We last road-tested an 1100cc Fiesta over five years ago (Motor w/e Feb 5, 1977) and managed to obtain an overall fuel consumption of 30.7 mpg. With their 1982 Economy versions Ford claim up to 15 per cent savings in fuel consumption for the Fiestas and 11 per cent for the Escorts, compared with the standard models.
Our test car lived up to this claim. We achieved an overall figure of 37.9 mpg (even though the car had undergone several long motorway trips at high cruising speeds) and our touring figure was 44.8 mpg, showing a marked improvement over our.....
Middle-Right - Above: the front seats are a little too soft to give optimum lumbar and thigh support
Bottom-Right - Above: the facia is neat with pedals and column stalks both well placed. Left: the economy model comes with two "econo-lights" (arrowed) on the speedo