New cars: Renault 19 and Ford Fiesta

Fiesta facelift

A new model from a major manufacturer is big news, even when the model in question has been around for twelve years with several million sold.

The new Fiesta has just undergone its second major re-vamp and looks all the better for it, but the real question is whether the improvements are worth the £550million investment programme.

At a glance the car is obviously from the Fiesta family, even if the wrap-round tail lamp clusters are new. Closer inspection reveals more rounded corners, revised hatch, bonnet and windscreen angles and a flatter roof panel. The larger rear window gives some clue as to the greater glass area, while the relocation of the wheels towards the corners of the car has increased the track by an average 2in.

Wheelbase has been increased by 6in, which makes it almost the same as that of the Escort, but because the overall length has been increased by less than 4in it does not give the impression of being an Escort-sized car. This extension has enabled Ford to add a useful five-door version to the range. With the increase in dimension, the car is roomier inside and a little more comfortable. When the rear seat-backs, with a 60/40 split, are folded down there in greater luggage space both vertically and horizontally between the rear suspension turrets. A revised fascia layout greets the driver, along with a new steering column angle. A useful item is the windscreen de-icer, an option usually found on larger cars.

The engines have also received some attention. The bore and stroke of the smaller pushrod units have been altered to give a longer stroke and increase the air-to-fuel ratio, while an electronically-uprated version of the CVH engine, developing 110 bhp, is finding its way into the forthcoming XR2i. The 1.6S model will receive the 90 bhp ex-Escort carburated engine. All models naturally run on unleaded petrol.

Improved ventilated discs are fitted on the two higher-performing versions and an antilock braking system for the disc-drum system is an optional extra. Five million examples of the Fiesta have been sold since its appearance in 1977, 1.2million of them in this country. The facelifted model should continue the success story. WPK