The Ford Fiesta 1.3 Ghia

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An appreciation 

The Fiesta, Ford’s World small-car, was announced in the summer of 1976 and to date over 1½-million have been sold. We have referred to it on many occasions, so this is neither road-test report nor a technical discourse about the Fiesta. But I want to pay tribute to the Ghia version of the load-absorbing three-door Hatchback that I have been sampling recently. It so happened that it followed the luxurious Renault 30TX I had been testing, and arrived for appraisal when the Rover 3500 was being serviced. This seemed unfortunate, because I had some longish journeys ahead of me. 

I was soon to find how well the little Ford took everything in its stride. Driving out of London along the congested Thames Embankment in the rush-hour, it was convenient to be in a compact car, and away from the M30 I was able to appreciate the excellent candle-power of the Ford halogen headlamps, which belie their small size and which are also good on dipped-beam. The next day I set off from the Surrey/Hampshire border in a freezing-fog for Brighton and discovered the Fiesta to demist effectively and to have a much appreciated high-output heater. That afternoon I had to drive from Sussex to mid-Wales, which I accomplished non-stop except for traffic hold-ups. After getting away from the drivers of the former county, who as ever seem either to be training for a slow-race or perhaps think anything over 40 hazardous, speed could be picked up in Hampshire, on the scenically pleasing route from Petersfield to Basingstoke, after which Newbury was attained quickly and a spell on the M4 showed me that at an indicated 70 m.p.h. at 4,000 r.p.m. the noise-level of the 49 b.h.p. (DIN) push-rod o.h.v. engine is quite acceptable. Beyond the Swindon turn-off I was on familiar ground, and in a hurry, so the Fiesta’s good road-clinging (the tyres were Michelin XZX — from the race-winning tyre makers) and accurate, bulkhead-mounted, rack-and-pinion steering were appreciated, although it feels vague in the straight ahead position. In this long afternoon’s haul I rated the driving seat as comfortable as the Rover’s.

The next week-end four people and their luggage set off in the Fiesta Ghia for Northampton at a rate of knots and I discovered that road-holding was not affected by the heavy load. This called tor small suitcases but when only two people are travelling the back seat folds, giving 42.6 cub. ft. of luggage-space. The Fiesta then went to Silverstone the next day and returned from there, via Nottingham, to Wales, again fully laden, that evening. In between times it was used for local pottering but was soon doing another day-stint of over 300 miles out of Wales, over the Cotswolds and through the Chilterns, when I looked at a collection of racing cars embracing a 3.3 GP, a 4.9 and a Type 57 Bugatti, etc. That run was mostly in torrential rain but again the performance and comfort were more than adequate, and in these unpleasant conditions the rear wipe/wash aided safety, the fluid container of ample capacity, so that frequent topping up, even with washed headlamps is not necessary. 

Throughout all this Fiesta-commuting I was continually doing “full-to-fulls” to try to convince myself that this charming little Ford really was using petrol as conservingly as it seemed to be doing. The gauge, very easily read, like all the instruments, was apt to be pessimistic, no bad thing in this Motorway-age, but my checks showed the best m.p.g. figure to have been 40.7; the overall average petrol-thirst came out at 38.4 m.p.g., with not much hanging about. Which means a petrol-range of some 270 miles without running dry. The automatic-choke worked instantly for every start. The front-hinged bonnet lid self-props and releases, and the sump dip-stick is 100% accessible. The eager little oversquare power-pack, peaking at 5,600 r.p.m. and providing nearly 100 m.p.h. and 0-60 m.p.h. pick-up in 10.7 seconds, used oil at the rate of approx. 1,000 m.p.p.

What else? Well, the Fiesta rides well and clings well. I noted recently that the new Opel Kadett also handles very well for a small-car but would be better with improved damping. Ford seem to have got the damping right, for their Fiesta. The Ghia model gives you a lot of extra little luxuries but you can check these off in Ford’s attractive colour-catalogue. Those I especially liked were the remote control external mirror, the many stowages including door-bins and a lockable under-floor cavity (which I couldn’t find!), the removeable/tilting glass sunroof, the rich-looking velour upholstery, an illuminated clock and others afore-mentioned.

The excellence of the gear-shift is in Ford’s long tradition of good gearboxes, the brakes are servo-assisted and after the initial feeling that there was no anchorage there, which is usual when coming from a heavy to a light car, they proved entirely acceptable, and progressive in action. The clutch was a bit Fiesta-sharp but not wildly so. Those slothful over their gear-shifting will be glad to know that the engine runs happily, and pulls away silkily, from 25 m.p.h. in top gear. I have already praised the Halogen headlamps, you get dimmable facia-lighting, intermittent 2-speed screen wiping, and many other conveniences in this attractively-styled little Fiesta Ghia and the “posh” trims, of course, but with mahogany confined to the panels. It is admirable, in my estimation, not only as a good second-car but as a practical substitute, even over big-mileage hauls, for the petrol-guzzlers. Ford of Britain know what most motorists want and, as I have said before, the Fiesta must be the car we shall all soon be needing! As I write, the top of the range Ghia Fiesta can be yours, as the advertisements say, for £4,250. — W.B.