Motor Sport - Group Test: Fiesta L
"Further Thoughts About the Ford Fiesta"
April 1977



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Group Test: Fiesta L

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Further Thoughts About the Ford Fiesta

So much has been written about the clever new Fiesta that only brief notes are required from me, to endorse its excellence, gleaned from driving the L-version for over 2,000 trouble-free miles within a month of its UK release. As you use it daily, and delve into its engineering ingenuities, its brilliant concept becomes even more apparent.

The performance from the 4-star 957-c.c. engine is such that long journeys, even on Motorways, are not too much of a drudge, especially as engine roar and fan rattle seem more intrusive at low than at higher speeds. The Fiesta will cruise all day at over 70 indicated m.p.h., yet is flexible from 25 m.p.h. in top gear. The small seats, squabs adjustable with somewhat tucked-away knobs, are unexpectedly comfortable and give easy access to the rear of the 2-door body. Vision is good, and most commendably enhanced by the splendid rear-window wipe/wash (£45.77 extra on base-models), but the dummy front J-lights somewhat impede the side view. The interior is functional, with neat little interior door-handles. Stowage is confined to door bins and facia and under-facia shelves with too shallow lips. The instruments are clear, the speedometer having a total, with tenths, milometer. The triple-stalk minor controls are practical but at first confusing, as the L-model lamps' full-beam and dipping is done with the l.h. stalk after selecting side or dipped beam with one of the l.h. stalks, the other controlling the 2-speed wipers, which have rather short blades, but the washer being foot-operated. The Hella lamps have a fairly good full and dipped beam. The hatchback requires the ignition-key to release it and has no lift-handle but is self-supporting. It gives easy loading and the back seat is simple to fold for extra space, although it does not give a true estate-car floor.

The engine starts instantly under ice-conditions but needs full choke, when it runs very fast. The gear lever is strongly spring-loaded to the higher gear positions. It functions nicely, with reverse not too difficult to select, and even conveys something of the smooth, silky action of an Escort or Cortina change on unhurried upward movements.

The clutch on the test car was very sudden and unpleasant for traffic use, and there was a clonk from the steering-column but this car came to me immediately after hard usage in Monte Carlo during the Press preview. The thick-rimmed steering wheel asks 3¼-turns, lock to lock. The action is light and cornering exhibits all the "glue" of a small-wheeled (13 in. German Dunlops), front-drive small car, without any vices. The suspension controls excessive roll at the expense of choppy action from the rear coil springs of the dead axle-beam over bad roads. The brakes felt spongy but work well. An easily-operated two-lever heater gives all the heat required in winter. The front-hinged bonnet is self-supporting and releasing but its release control is away down under the scuttle on the "wrong" side. The dip-stick is very accessible. Consulted after a hard 1,200 miles no oil was required. When eventually I did top-up with Castrol GTX consumption was seen to be well over 2,000 m.p.p., in spite of much Motorway work.

Fiesta's petrol thirst varies from 37 to over 40 m.p.g., averaging 38.3 m.p.g. The absolute range was over 300 miles, suggesting that rather more than the specified 7½ gallons can be squeezed in; without a reserve supply one would refuel after about 240 miles, as the gauge is ridiculously pessimistic. The bayonet side filler-cap needs a knack to replace but most filling-station attendants seemed to know this.

Altogether a most acceptable little Ford, in which I covered 2,074 miles in four weeks and would willingly use as a second car. The L-series Fiesta is listed at £2,079 (the outside mirror on the test car is another £5.64). Sportsmen must be wondering about a 1600 Fiesta and how it will match up to the Chevette 2300.-W.B.

The VW Polo LS

Everybody's doing it-comparing the new Ford Fiesta with other little cars, the VW Polo in particular. I admit that driving a Fiesta made me think of Polo. And I must say Tony Hill of Volkswagen (GB) Ltd. did a fine piece of PR work. I rang him about 11 o'clock one morning, to fix a test. He had a car just back from test by another paper, had it checked over, gave me the all-clear before lunch, and it was at the MOTOR SPORT offices before 4 that afternoon. I then drove it some 200 miles that evening. It was the 1,093 c.c. LS, so was not strictly comparable with the 957 c.c. Fiesta L I had sampled. But it was difficult not to do this. Polo has softer suspension than Fiesta, so the Ford sits on the road better and is thus more fun to fling about. Not that you cannot corner very fast and safely in a Polo. The seats in the Fiesta, although smaller, seemed more comfortable, at least until I had adjusted the Polo's seat-squab so that it did not hurt the small of my back. The Polo had a nicer clutch action and certainly a nicer ride over rough stuff. Its high-grade interior decor, the precision of its controls, and the quality of keys and fittings, etc., reminded me of my once-beloved Beetle-you had to open a window before shutting a door, as on the old well-sealed VW.

Where the Polo really scores is in respect of the surprisingly low noise-level of its engine. The 5-bearing, light-alloy o.h.c. power pack runs with turbine-like smoothness and more sound emanates from the tyres, 13 in. radial-ply tubeless Metzeler Soper Steels on the test car, than from this incredible little engine. The gear-change hasn't quite the velvet of some of the Fiesta's movements but is very good. It used to be said that the hall-mark of a big car was that it should feel small to its driver. Conversely, a good small-car should give an impression of size, which the VW Polo does, although in what they call the Super-Mini class. It seems bigger, more of a class-car, than the Fiesta. It is indeed surprising how effortless and capacious the modern Super-Minis are, making them quite painless for even long journeys. Perhaps it is time for a new generation of genuine small cars, like the Fiat 126 and Citroen 2cv but less pedestrian ?

The Polo has been criticised because of the.....

Captions -

Top-Left - The controversial Ford Fiesta on test in Devon...
Top-Right - ...after which the Polo couldn't gel away from Fords.