This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday August 6, 2011
"What's this?" our buddy Mike asked. "Fiesta 1600 automatic," we replied. "But it's twice as big as my Fiesta," he responded. The 2011 version of the little Ford is perhaps not double the size of his early example but it has grown longer, taller and chubbier. It's a natural part of automotive evolution. As journalists whine about this or that, each new model balloons out until designers are forced back to their drawing boards in efforts to recapture the car's original spirit. It happened with BMW Threes, Toyota Corollas and many others - the plot was lost so new models had to be introduced in order to get back to basics. While the new Fiesta is still essentially a small car, it is growing.
Now in its sixth generation, Ford's funky little family car with sporting attitude is available here with three, four or five doors and choices of three engines and four levels of trim. Engines include a 1400 cc, DOHC 16-valve petrol motor developing 70 kW and 128 Nm, a 1600 cc inline four with variable camshaft timing on both inlet and exhaust valves and a 1600 cc diesel. Trim levels range from entry-level "Ambiente" via more upmarket "Trend" and "Sport" models to a special three-door "Titanium" version. Gearboxes are either five-speed manual or six-speed twin clutch Powershift automatic.
This review is of the four-door, 1600 cc petrol powered Trend sedan fitted with six-ratio automatic. Something I have noticed on some other Fords and is repeated here is that only those without third pedals qualify for ESP and traction control. Does that imply that drivers of automatics are somehow less competent and in greater need of protection? I hope not. Anyway, automatics also qualify for Hill Hold with Launch Assist and a gradient assistance function, so let's accept the bonusses and leave it at that.
While the 'box in this Fiesta may be called "Powershift," it differs somewhat from the version used in bigger Fords and Volvos. They use wet clutches activated hydraulically. This one uses dry clutches with electric motor and solenoid actuation. The big cars' gearboxes have manual override, the little one doesn't. A word of clarification here: there is an override notch to hold first gear, but you cannot shift sequentially through all six. Rats! By way of token compensation, there is the gradient assistance function mentioned earlier.
A selector button on the side of the gearknob prevents the 'box from hunting for gears while driving up hills. Under normal circumstances this works quite well, but... Slowing suddenly for the lumbering lorry that wants to join its mates in a three-way dice up Key Ridge, thus blocking the freeway completely, confuses things slightly.
What about our regular dash through the midlands twisties without manual override on the gearbox, we wondered? Oddly enough, it can be done. Sort of. This version of Powershift has some slippage built in to provide smoother shifts while dawdling through city traffic. This makes it behave like your standard slush box. Get the speed up to 80 km/h or more though and the torque starts talking (ouch!). With more revs dialled in, the gearbox reacts like a Powershift should, giving its driver lower gears, faster kickdown and snappier reactions. It's almost right, but really needs a manual override function for best results.
On the safety front, the car has ABS brakes with EBD, ESP and traction control, two air bags, rear door child locks, ISOFIX anchorages on both outer rear seats, front seatbelt pretensioners and side impact protection beams. Rear seats are provided with three seatbelts and a trio of head restraints.
The practical boot measures 430 litres up to the parcel shelf and loads from about mid-thigh height, with a sill about 20 cm deep. A steel spare of standard Fiesta size, 175/65 R14, is a close match for the 185/55 R15 tyres fitted to the Trend model's alloy wheels.
Rear seat accommodation is best suited to smaller folk and storage consists only of pockets on the backs of the front seats. These are straightforward family car-style units, with the driver's chair mechanically adjustable for height. The steering wheel adjusts for height only and features repeater buttons for the sound system. An assortment of trays, cup holders, slots, a dropdown box in front of the driver, a tray under the passenger seat and a decently sized glove box look after storage needs in front. The computerised command centre in the middle of the dash is very modern in design and reasonably easy to navigate. Simple rotating dials control the ventilation system.
On the move, this little Fiesta performs willingly and drives confidently. Despite their upswept design, rear side windows are bigger than those on some other new cars, so outward vision is very good. Electrically assisted steering, apart from using less power than hydraulic versions, is nicely weighted and makes driving and parking easy. Despite having grown upward and outward a little over the years since its introduction, the Fiesta is still the cheerful little car it always has been. Even Mike would agree.
Price: R207 180
Engine: 1596 cc DOHC 16-valve four cylinder with variable cam timing
Power: 88 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 152 Nm at 4300 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11,3 seconds
Maximum speed: 192 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 7,3 l/100 km
Tank: 43 litres
Warranty: 4 years/120 000 km, with 3 years' roadside assistance
Service plan: 4 years/60 000 km at 20 000 km intervals
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously.