The Ford Sierra 1.6L

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HOWEVER important the Ford Sierra may be to dealers around the country, and to Ford around the world, it must be remembered that it is intended as a family and fleet-users’ car. So I do not propose to say much about it, because it is the sporting 2.8-litre V6 XR4 version that should be of more interest to MOTOR SPORT readers.

Having said that, there is no question but that this Sierra of the distinctive appearance is very nice to drive and a very, very good family conveyance, but lacking “character”. At first, having come off an Alfa Romeo, the cornering and road-holding seemed to be unexceptional and the driving-seat comfortable but not outstanding. Then I reminded myself of the context in which this interesting car should be judged — as the next step from the best-selling, universally-liked Cortina, £5,372 for the test-car, against £12,500 for the Alfa — and thought how good the Sierra is. Whether Ford have adopted independent rear suspension (by semi-trailing arms and coil springs) from deep technical preferences or simply to have something to counteract their retention of rear-wheel-drive, or because they have never been very adept at defeating rear-end harshness, I know not. But it has worked and the Sierra rides well in this and other respects, and corners smoothly on an even keel.

The flexibility and willingness of the engine is notable, too, especially remembering that it is a normal 1,594 c.c. o.h.c. 75 b.h.p. Pinto power-unit, now with low-friction pistons and electronic ignition. The steering was as light and smooth as on many power-steered cars and the gear shift pleasant but not quite in the category of the once marvellously-slick Ford gearboxes, the clutch just a trifle juddery. The Sierra disliked strong cross-winds and there was some gear whine. Being new it smelt of glue — French cars used to have a special odour — perhaps this is the new bonding scent of the 1980s? However, I do not want to go into great Sierra detail here as we shall hope to do this when appraising the XR4 next year. Certainly the Sierra breakthrough into the split folding back seat Hatchback market must be important and the fish-like appearance is smooth and will appeal to many tastes. The quiet-running is good, too. Whether it was worth angling the centre console towards the driver when the only “instruments” it carries are clock, radio, cigarette-lighter (useless item of equipment to those so worried about personal well being that they backed compulsory seat-belts, which reminds me that the Sierra’s seat-belt warning light can be excused in view of the coming compulsion and more so as it only stays on for a brief period after you have started up) and 3-speed fan control. Interior stowages are generous, the screen-pillars too thick, the internal door-handles clever (but I prefer locking “pips” or central-locking), and the triple control-stalks confusing, particularly as to get full use of the lamps you need to operate two of them, Fiesta fashion.

As to fuel economy, I got 32.7 m.p.g. of 4-star, possibly adversely affected by jerky running, as from a sticking valve, after a fast Motorway spell which cured itself. I was puzzled to see that a weekly contemporary claimed a best of over 47 m.p.g. and 26.3 m.p.g. driven hard and with performance testing, but they had the 5-speed version, which could possibly be the reason for their better figure, though not to the extent of almost 47 1/2 m.p.g., one would have thought. A fuel range of over 400 miles is very acceptable. The test Sierra was made in the United Kingdom and was on Uniroyal tyres.

The Sierra must surely be another “winner” for Ford? I most certainly would not object to doing a long-term test of one, which was the confidence Ford’s once displayed in their products. While not the most significant new car of recent times in my book, what a very fine family-bus this is, which one feels will repay Ford’s £660 million investment in it. — W.B.