IF you spend most of your time in city traffic, an automatic gearbox can make life easier. wheelworldreviews.co.uk editor DAVID HOOPER has been trying out the latest Fiesta which does the gear-changing for you.
NEGOTIATING our way through busy town-centre traffic can be very tiresome. Nose to tail rush-hour queues on your route home are never fun, and the excessive number of traffic lights just seem to add insult to injury.
Constant gear changes, from first to second and back again can make your left leg ache, and increases wear and tear on the car.
In these kinds of situations, a car which will change the gears for you can be a blessing which takes some of the strain out of the daily commute, and the automatic version of Ford’s excellent new Fiesta proved itself very adept at weaving its way through the town’s ever busier streets.
The automatic gearbox costs just over £1,000 more than the standard car, but if, like many people who drive small cars, you spend most of your time running around town, it could be worth serious consideration.
I was surprised to discover that there are only four gears in the Fiesta automatic, where some larger cars now come with seven, but I have to say after spending a few days at the helm, it works very well and gives an even spread of power.
The transition from one gear to the next is smooth to the point of being almost imperceptible most of the time, but if you drive the car more quickly, it can become a little snatchy at times. When you’re feeling a little more enthusiastic, it’s best to control the gear changes yourself, which you can do by moving the gear selector to the right and nudging the lever back to change up, or forwards to change down.
This way, you can iron out any untimely changes from the gearbox, and hold the car in the same gear between corners on your favourite bit of twisty road. Should the rev counter reach the red line, the car will still move up to the next gear.
The automatic version of the car is thirstier than its manual equivalent, with the urban fuel consumption figure down from 37.6 to 31.7mpg, and it is also slower, with the 0-62mph dash taking an extra 1.7 seconds than the manual car. C02 emissions also rise, from 133g/km for the manual car, to 154g/km for the automatic.
It’s difficult not to get drawn into the dynamic abilities of the Ford Fiesta – it may only have a 1.4-litre engine, but the car is such fun to drive it encourages you to take it out for a spin.
The steering is nicely weighted and although the ride is reasonably firm around town, it’s a delight on the open road. It’s as surefooted as they come and takes rapid changes of direction in its stride.
Ford timed the introduction of its latest Fiesta to perfection. Just as people were looking to downsize, along came this little car, packed with equipment and a build quality that is a match for that you would expect to find in much larger cars. It looks good too, with the centre console designed to resemble a mobile phone, a feature younger drivers should find attractive and intuitive to use.
The payback for this quality though is the price. At almost £16,000 it ain’t cheap, and that’s before you add on the extras that my test car was equipped with, which added a further £1,225 to the ticket price, taking the total to £17,103, which seems an awful lot of money for a three-door Ford Fiesta, no matter how good a car it is.
Cars like these, and the Vauxhall Corsa, used to be affordable town runabouts, and these price levels used to be reserved for mid to top-end Mondeos and Vectras.
Perhaps it’s just that I’m struggling to keep up with the price increases these days. I still haven’t got over the shock of the cheapest version of the new Astra costing over £16,000.
If you have to spend that sort of money, you want a nice car to show for it, and the Fiesta is certainly that. It’s well equipped, and comes with “luxuries” such as automatic headlights, electrically heated and folding door mirrors, privacy glass, remote central locking, a Quickclear heated windscreen, a trip computer, air conditioning and even cruise control.
The optional extras add things like Bluetooth handsfree and voice control, curtain airbags, ESP with Traction Assist and emergency brake assist and some smarter alloy wheels. What it didn’t have was seats which return to their original positions when you move them forward to allow someone into the back of the car, which is a nuisance in a three-door car.
Whether you choose to spend the extra on an automatic gearbox is up to you, but the Fiesta remains an impressive little car, that is one of the best to drive you will find in this class. Owning a small car no longer means you have to skimp on the creature comforts.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Ford Fiesta Titanium 1.4 16v Duratec Automatic 3-door.
FIESTA RANGE: From Studio 1.25 3dr (£11,536) to Titanium 1.6 TDCi 5dr (£16,289).
ENGINE: 1388cc, 96PS four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through four-speed automatic gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 154g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 103mph. 0-62mph in 13.9 secs.
Fuel tank: 42 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 4.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.