The dismal prospect of petrol prices rising to more than £1 a gallon, and even the faint threat of rationing in the air, turns thoughts to small cars, which if things continue this way we shall all soon be wanting. A good choice in this direction is the Ford Fiesta S, which has all the attributes of the smaller car and is, withall, a very nice little three-door saloon to drive and use. The S-version with the 1.1-litre 53 b.h.p. (DIN) engine and the stiffer sports suspension and rear anti-roll bar goes remarkably well and corners even better than a small front-drive vehicle should, aided on the Fiesta I tried by Michelin XZX tyres.
The Fiesta is now so well established – record first-year and first two-year sales, and over a million delivered – that to discuss it in detail is unnecessary. Suffice it to say that I liked the deluxe aspects of the S-Fiesta I tested. It had the glass-panel sun-roof that made the roomy interior seem even more spacious. Incidentally, the car spent much time outside in continuous heavy rain but no water entered anywhere, which cannot be said of all cars, even today. The Chevron fabric trim, reclining front seats, illuminated lidded glove-box, door bins, trip-recorder, accurate electric clock down on the centre console, Ford push-button radio, and squirts for the Lucas/Ford halogen headlamps, put the S-version of the Fiesta in the class which should appeal to those changing over from larger cars. There is rear wipe-wash, two exterior mirrors, the driver’s with internal adjustment, rear fog-lamp, the expected triple control-stalks, Ford’s highly efficient heating, ventilation and demisting, sports wheel-trims, body side-lining and S-motifs and the seats are notably comfortable. The tail-gate is unobstructed when open for loading but has to be opened, and lifted, with the single key.
The instruments, which on the S-model include a 7,000 r.p.m. unlined tachometer (peak power at 5,700 r.p.m.), are easy to read but the pessimistic petrol gauge is of the slow-to-record type, which can prove alarming until one knows the car. On the road this Fiesta is a cheeky little package. It is sufficiently quick 0-60 m.p.h. in about 16 sec:and a top speed of 86 m.p.h. – to be able to do the average long journey in not much different time from larger cars. There is just more noise, which commences at around 3,300 r.p.m. and is a bit obtrusive until 4,000 r.p.m., or about 70 m.p.h., when it quietens out. The sporting suspension isn’t objectionably hard; the servo-assisted brakes with G-valve are admirably light and powerful, the steering light and “quick” (3 1/3 turns, lock-to-lock). The test car had the very “sudden” clutch action which can embarrass one when driving off in some Fiestas and is, I understand, largely a matter of cable adjustment. It may have been this that caused the electrical cable between the engine-mounted starter-motor and the starter-solenoid to part, perhaps under the somewhat harsh take-offs I made until I remembered to be especially careful. This was quickly fixed by the local Ford dealer (who arrived in a Datsun). To compensate for this, the Ford gear-change, from the stubby little lever, is a joy to use. There is nothing “elbow-pinching” about this compact Fiesta and not only did I greatly enjoy making reacquaintance with Ford’s smallest model but I was pleased to get 36 m.p.g. of four-star from it, over a considerable mileage. The tank holds some 7 1/2 gallons of fuel. Checked at 700 miles with the accessible dipstick, the sump level was at “full”.
With the extras named the price comes out at £3,813. — W.B.