Fun with a Fiesta XR-2

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The sporting new Ford Fiesta XR-2 was described in the January issue. To say that it is a fine little fun-package should be obvious, with a 1.6-litre engine in the compact 12′ 2″-long baby Fool. Fun indeed it is, As I left the Standard House car-park in a smart all-black XR-2, a paint finish that costs £76.86 extra over the basic price of £5,500, it occurred to me that I was in something of the same position as was our Editor of long ago, Capt. Richard Twelvetrees, when he went off on test in a saucy little 16-valve Bugatti or a shining all-aluminium 12/50 duck’s-back Alvis Super Sports, except that I was warm and comfortable within a three-door Hatchback. However I did not have any anxiety about oiling-up of sparking-plugs, illegal noise, or of being trapped in a 20 m.p.h. speed-limit…

Yet there was a similar fun-factor, even in the London traffic, for I found I was staying mostly in second and third gear as the XR-2 slipped easily and quickly through the traffic, as Twelvetrees must have done 57 years earlier, especially in the Bugatti. Out on the M4 my wife and I fell to discussing the ever-absorbing subject of what my next car might be. As if in answer, three or four different kinds of BMW slipped by at slightly over the legal speed, at which the Fiesta was decently quiet, 70 m.p.h. being equal to just under 3,800 r.p.m. in top gear. Only by going to 80 m.p.h. and over does a buzzy noise-level intrude — rather as if the XR-2 was designed to encourage legality.

As if to continue our conversational theme, apart from big Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz, at the luncheon-stop a 5.8-litre Ford V8 LTD parked beside our equally smart XR-2. Continuing towards Wales, I soon became aware that the fuel-gauge was indicating empty, although we had started with an almost-full tank. This was a weakness, because the 7½-gallon tank (with lockable filler-cap) gives a range of under 200 miles when driving hard, the tank does not encourage “brimming”, and the gauge shows zero when over 1½-gallons remain. Filling up next day at the local BP station showed that consumption on the fastish run home was 33.5 m.p.g. and that the XR-2 is causing much interest, when a girl running an ordinary Fiesta came out to admire it, it being her ambition to own one, a trend repeated in another Welsh town, where the car attracted considerable attention. Rightly so, although I disagree with Ford advertising “a full complement of instruments”, as only heat and fuel-gauges are provided between the 140 m.p.h. speedometer and 7,000 r.p.m. tachometer, with a digital clock up by the roof. But these are easy to read and nicely lit, and the switches are also convenient and well-lit, except that a steering-wheel spoke blanks those for rear window heater and wipe / wash. Triple control stalks are used, the I.h. one for lamps, dip, horn and turn-indicators, somewhat confusing as a r.h. stalk haste be used to get sidelamps. The Recaro front seats scenery comfortable, the rear scat reasonably accommodating, folding to enhance luggage carrying. Stowages include front-door bins, two open cubbies far the driver, fascia shelf and an unlockable cabby for the front-seat passenger.

The XR-2 will exceed 100 m.p.h., do 90 m.p.h. in third gear, reached in only 261/2 sec., go from 0-60 m.p.h. in 9, sec., 50-70 m.p.h. in 7.2 sec., yet if “Aunt May” gets hold of it, she will be able to hold top gear of the 4-speed box at 30 m.p.h. and accelerate away from 1,500 r.p.m. (91 lb/ft torque at 2,800 r.p.m.), so smooth and docile is the engine, in spite of giving 84 (DIN, b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.) against 66 b.h.p. from the Fiesta 1300. As the road-clinging and cornering power from the revised suspension and Pirelli P6 tyres are tremendous, this is a pure fun-car in miniature. Ford’s excellent gear shift, a light if somewhat “quick” clutch, and, after a modicum of pedal-lag, powerful brakes, enhance the enjoyment, and the Lucas headlamps (with Hells spot-lamps) are excellent on dip or full beam. The small steering wheel has a thick rim and the column is slightly slanted to the right, as on some single-seat racing cars but the driver does not notice this; the turning circle is ungenerous. The suspension gets quite frisky at times and is harsh over bad bumps, but the ride remains good, so the balance between “stiction” and comfort is commendable. No rev.-limit for the push-red o.h.v. engine is quoted but there is no need to go beyond 6,500 r.p.m., and 5,000 r.p.m. suffices in ordinary quick driving. The exhaust note or over-run boom are moderate.

Make no mistake, the XR-2 is a fast and captivating little car, bound to endear itself to Ford believers, of whom I am one, and ripe for racing. The overall fuel thirst was 32.3 m.p.g. The bonnet release is on the n/s for the self-propping lid and all under-bonnet services arc accessible. — W.B.