Motor Sport - Road Test: Fiesta Ghia
"My Year's Motoring. The Editor Looks Back On The Cars He Drove During 1980"
February 1981



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Road Test: Fiesta Ghia

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Copy of Article Text Below Talbot was also conserving of fuel and in many ways is a very nice car, or would have been with better quality control of the product (the boot let in the rain) - or did I get an unlucky one? To those who seek a relaxing-to-drive, fully-equipped car, even down (or up?) to a computer and cruise control, the Solara will no doubt seem just the job.

There is no praise needed for the next on my list, the Alfasud 1.5 four-door saloon. I did say in the test report that this happy concept of flat-four o.h.c. front-drive five-speed baby-Alfa Romeo has dated to some degree. That scarcely stops it from being among the very best of the small economy-cars and one that is decently individualistic into the (very good) bargain. In some of its details the restyled 'Sud chalked up shortcomings, but its overall charm is not to be denied. To its sporting demeanour can be added a low noise level, a spacious interior, and outstanding road-clinging. All of which enhanced the 1980 Brooklands Reunion for me. If the 1.5 went so well on 85 b.h.p. think how the 95 (DIN) b.h.p. Alfasud should appeal to sporting drivers.

Another very interesting experience was to drive the Audi 200 ST. Turbocharging is the "in-thing", off and on the circuits, and any reservations I may have had about the "fan" spinning at such very high speeds, under the impulse of very-hot corroding gases, was certainly not in my mind as I used to the full the exceedingly impressive acceleration of this well-mannered Audi. There is some "forced induction hum", a sniff of turbo-lag when calling on the supercharge to thrust you forward, and the power brakes needed care to stop progressively, until one was accustomed to them. Otherwise, what a motor car! The expected Audi commanding seating position and other conveniences added to the pleasure of trying turbocharging in this refined form. It was interesting, too, to try the new Lancia Delta 1500, widely proclaimed "Car of the Year". Such labels fail to influence me and I was even slightly disappointed in this new Lancia, but perhaps unfairly, due to thinking of it in the heady context of great Turinese models of the past. In fact, it is a very likeable and commendable addition to the ranks of adequately-performing small economy-car offerings, or "Euro-boxes" as some rudely call them. I think it fair to say that, as with its outward styling, the Delta is good in most respects without excelling in many except in respect of a lack of cacophony and in possessing notable refinement. However, there are so many small-cars to compare nowadays and in general they are mostly all so worthy that perhaps we are becoming blase and too critical. After all, the sort of person who was proud of his new Austin 10/4 would presumably drool over a Delta if projected from 1935 to 1981, and this five-speed compact at a senisble price, coming with a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, must haul in the customers, surely?

I suppose you could rate the Fiat Miafiori 131 2000T Sport an out-of-date offering. But I liked this combination of twin-cam-power in a saloon somewhat in the tradition of the old BMC up-market family models. It motored nicely, as well it might with 115(DIN) b.h.p. from an engine allied to those Abarth rally-cars, again you sit high, and there is a baulky five-speed gear change. There are touches of gimmickry about this Mirafiori Sport that smack of the Strada, but on the whole I thought it a friendly, unusual, uncomplicated kind of car.

It was now time to proceed to Crewe to discover what the latest Rolls-Royce was like. I did not even know what they were going to call it when I made the expedition to this rather grim-seeming city, on a very wet day. I wondered whether I was going to be confronted with a completely new model, a V12 with revolutionary suspension perhaps, or a truly sporting Shadow, maybe? If such hopes were soon dashed, any new Rolls-Royce is an occasion, particularly when revealed to you before it has been released to the World. However, as we drove in the new, sleeker, Rolls-Royce Silver Sprite out of the factory gates I had a reminder that a new model in its earliest stages can present problems, even for this illustrious maker, because there was a rattle from somewhwere on the fascia (which caused PRO David Roscoe to lean over and bang the ash-tray in an unsuccessful attempt to eradicate such an unseemly sound) and there was a faint wind-whistle from the off-side screen-pillar.

It is because of the extreme hush of almost any Rolls-Royce, and the restful "Clubland" interior which Rolls-Royce do better than anyone that such trivial things were noticed. They were soon forgotten when I drove the latest car from Crewe and sat in the back of it to experience the even greater comfort and lack of lateral movement, due to the revised i.r.s., that the Spirit exhibits against the Shadow. It was a memorable occasion, after which I went away in the V8 Rover, a car of rather similar general specification, using roads interesting because they were unfamiliar to me, until Shrewsbury was regained. I am the last person to suggest that publicity, particularly good publicity, is something motor manufacturers can do without. But I think Rolls-Royce need less of it than most. In respect of the new Silver Spirit, a colleague borrowed a Silver Shadow for a week-end before being flown by Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. down to the South of France to sample the new model, so as to be able to compare the two cars, the new one being driven over far more testing terrain than my jaunt over the roads of Cheshire had afforded. But was it necessary? I had an example soon afterwards of what I mean. Going to a meeting of the Rolls-Royce EC in Builth Wells, I sat for lunch at the same table as a member who had arrived in his Silver Shadow. He was interested that I had driven the new Silver Spirit but not bothered that I could not disclose details about it, because it had not then been publicly released. He had had, he explained, two Shadows in succession and had already ordered a Silver Spirit, without having seen it. That is how Rolls-Royce do much of their business, with customers who trust the Company's long tradition of top quality, steady development and integrity. Long may it continue so. ...

I had a Maserati Merak SS, that exciting piece of mid-engined machinery that was good only in parts, over the August holiday week-end and reported very fully on it in a colour feature in the October 1980 issue. Motor Show time produced the most widely-discussed new car of 1980, so I was relieved that the Austin mini-Metro 1.3 HLS, which I tried for all too short a spell, proved so good overall and very excellent in many respects that I was not obliged to damn it with faint praise. Indeed, I was so impressed that I devoted the whole November Editorial to it, and that in a paper supposed to be biased towards the faster, more sporting cars. . . .

This was also the time when I drove a Toyota Crown 2.8 Super, a very impressive big saloon from the viewpoint of absolute comfort and a maximum of electronic mod.-cons., applied for the occupants' benefit rather than as mere "electrickery". The six-cylinder engine of this big Jap was as quiet as that of a Royce when idling and if it had not been for too much oversteer I could have rated the Crown very highly indeed. Another test awaited with keen anticipation was that of the new Ford Escort 1.6 GL. While I was disappointed over the bounciness of the new rear suspension of this front-drive Escort and thought the noise-level from the clever CVH power pack a little too obtrusive, after nearly 1,300 miles in two of these New Escorts I am convinced that they will prove as popular as the old rear-drive models. The high-performance XR-3 version, that came with such up-market items as electric windows, central-locking, retractable radio-aerial and so on,.....

Captions -

Top-Left - TURBOCHARGING came into W.B.'s orbit in the guise of the Audi 200 5T, a car giving all round satisfaction and a very high performance.
Bottom-Middle - IT WAS exciting, or would have been if "Car of the Year" meant anything to us, to try the Lancia Delta - a very nice little car, but hardly in the older Lancia tradition.