New cars: Fiesta Auto

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Smooth operator

Following closely on Ford’s use of the Ferguson permanently-engaged 4WD system, this progressive company has introduced another technical breakthrough, with its adoption of the new Van Doorne CVT automatic infinitely-variable transmission, offered as a £673 option on two Fiesta models. The Fiesta Autos will no doubt augment Ford’s present top-sales successes, and further increase the number of cars with the famous script-name in the oval badge seen on our roads.

Any stigma once associated with automatic gearboxes was dispelled years ago, when Moss and Hawthorn chose them for their road-cars. However, Ford’s new CTX two-pedal transmission may be of more interest to learner-wives and car-timid girlfriends than to lead-footed enthusiasts, so I will be brief. An 80-mile drive in a Fiesta Ghia Auto, over a route from Hadley Hall embracing motorways, dual-carriageways, country by-roads and towns, was sufficient to convince me of the excellence of this latest innovation.

I first met the Van Doorne Variomatic transmission in 1962, when a little flat-twin Daf proved how easily it could be driven on Blackbushe airfield by my wife and three daughters (none then licence-holders, but suffered belt-slip when tried up MCC trials hills. By 1965 however, this transmission was being used successfully on Brabharn Formula Three cars and for rallying, and I feel sure Ford’s very special push-instead-of-pull steel belts are immune from slip.

The new system has other refinements, such as “N” and “P” positions for the control lever, the latter supplementing the handbrake. More important, there in an “L” position, which can be engaged at any speed, to provide engine braking, and better uphill performance, whereas I believe the early Dafs used to slog up in a high ratio with the driver unable to do anything about it . . . 

Acceleration in “D” alone is more than adequate on the Ford Fiesta Auto, but when the accelerator is eased back the revs fall away to give an effortless cruise, CTX being the equivalent of a six-speed gearbox with no step-ups to impare smoothness or pickup. This should improve fuel economy to a touring consumption of around 45 mpg.

Ford has invested 80 million in CTX (how does the motor industry make any profits?), which weighs a little more than an equivalent manual gearbox but is lighter than a normal automatic with a torque-converter. So now we have a very smooth operating two-pedal car. After sampling this belt-drive Ford, I drove home in my chain-driven XR4x4 convinced that CTX should materially increase Fiesta Sales, particularly in the fleet-vehicle and second-family-car fields. WB

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