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You sit up well (which I like) in the Fiesta and there can be few people who could feel uncomfortable in the driver's seat. The engine idles smoothly and reasonably quietly. As you drive off, it at once becomes evident that the controls are light - even at low speeds the steering requires only a gentle touch - and the gear change is especially slick.
Although the clutch is light, too, engagement takes place suddenly with the pedal almost released. Disconcerting at first, but it's soon taken as a matter of course. The clang when I first shut a door surprised me, and after 12,000 miles I still find it foreign to the generally good overall quality of the car. There were few other poor first impressions. Here and there the paint was in blobs at edges of panel work, all the chromed wheel nuts had been chipped by the brace that put them on so that rust was showing, the 'S' motif and side stripe that go with this model had been applied carelessly, and the tickover speed was around 1,000 rpm, which caused some running-on when the engine was switched off.
Overall I found the car attractive and this was confirmed when I collected it from its 1,000-mile free service and found that it really was free although the sump had been topped up with at least a pint. I wasn't quite so happy to find that the tick-over speed was up to 1,000 rpm again.
Running in had been done with some care although the handbook recommends no more than to avoid fast motoring and to vary the speed. So it was after the 1,000-mile service that I began to drive it properly.
Likes and dislikes
There is no doubt in my mind that anyone who objects to harsh suspension should not buy an 'S' version of the car. The suffer springs give a very choppy ride which one comes to accept if you enjoy the benefits of high cornering ability with negligible roll, and the feeling that the car will respond with precision to any reasonable movement of the steering wheel.
At speed, the minor subsidences and surface faults, which the older motorways (and some of the new ones) are now showing, are not soaked up, although I believe that the effect is less evident when the car is fully laden. I have never had the feeling that the Fiesta might fail to make it round a corner, nor had any serious loss of adhesion in the wet and for these reasons am prepared to accept the harshness of its suspension. If you do lift off in mid-corner there is a mild tuck-in but never has the rear shown signs of breaking away. Perhaps I don't drive hard enough. Strangely I found this power-on/power-off effect more marked in our road test Fiesta 1300S which has equal-length drive shafts with the object of reducing the tendency.
There is one nasty by-product of the harsh suspension in that it makes the wooden floor of the load area rattle; I have cured this by cutting rubber-backed carpet to fit the area (I usually have the rear seat folded forward) and this also improves the general appearance of the interior.
The appearance of the exterior is, more often than not, filthy. There are few other cars, if any, that smother their rear ends - and the rear window - with road grime quicker than the Fiesta. A rear-window wiper is a near-essential extra (I haven't got one) if the car is driven at over 40 mph on a wet road. It is a particularly disagreeable fault if you have to open the tail-gate because the only way to close it is by a slam with the palm of your hand and motorway grime on a wet day is almost the worst kind of dirt to get on hands or gloves. I have never washed a car more often than the Fiesta, but after 12,000 miles it comes up looking new and shows no blemishes other than those it started with.
The inside of the car looks very good, too, the one-piece facia moulding is not only economically good, with plenty of standing space, a good glove-box and lid, which provides more standing space when open, but it continues to look new requiring only a wet rag to clean. The moulded door pockets are rigid and roomy and there's a convenient cubby hole in front of the driver's right knee.
The central upright console fitted to the Fiesta 'S' carries a dead-accurate clock low down in a position it is difficult to see even when the driver's seat is right back. Above the clock there's a mounting slot for a radio and my Radiomobile 1160 slid straight in when the blanking plate was removed. There are mounting points provided for a speaker at each side of the rear seat with ready-made sound emission holes in the trim.
The console needs some steadying fixture in the gap between its top and the underside of the facia. Without this (I use a rubber wedge) the console takes on a lateral shake and throws the radio off-tune when long wave is selected.
Another shortcoming in the interior of the car is the texture of the carpets and seat upholstery. The carpets hold the dirt, particularly things like pine needles, in a way that defies brushing; even a domestic vacuum will not extract everything from the weave (a 12 v car vacuum won't look at it) and for a completely clean floor you have to resort to picking the pieces up with your fingers. The seats seem to get grimy very quickly and normal cleaning isn't very effective. I've fitted Segaard tailored seat covers in a patterned denim to the front seats and after 7,000 miles they remain close-fitting and clean, only an occasional brushing being necessary.
If adjusted properly, the heating and ventilation is good, although some people might not find the heat output sufficient in exceptionally cold weather, even with the blower on. There is a central vent on the top of the facia, which is useful in hot weather, and the side face level vents have good vertical and lateral adjustment; but to get the air directed precisely from these side vents when the car is on the move is very difficult, so sensitive are the vents to the touch. When the vents are shut there is absolutely no air leakage from them, and this is unusual.
Faults and failures
Some might class it as a dislike but in view of the vast amount of money spent on developing the Fiesta I can only look upon the pronounced boom created at certain speeds - largely between an indicated 60 and 70 mph - as a fault. It really is disagreeable and were it not for the fact that at a true 70 mph and above the car is free from this objectionable noise I would find the Fiesta quite unacceptable on a long journey. It occurs under power and on the over-run.
Above 70 mph the Fiesta will cruise comfortably, even at 80 mph where the engine speed is just below 5,200 rpm. Ford recommend that the engine shouldn't exceed 6,600 rpm, so there's a reasonable margin.
The car has an intermittent misfire which recurs at random but is never more than momentary. Sometimes I wonder whether it happens after going round a corner quickly, at other times I think it follows prolonged light load running whether at high or low speeds. Anyway, cleaning the little (10 mm) plugs results in a complete absence of misfiring for nearly 1,000 miles. New plugs have been fitted for the first time at the recent 12,000-mile service and all is well at the moment.
The inertia reel belts are a major source of annoyance; neither of them retract without assistance and they have been trapped hanging out of a closed door on many occasions.
The only failure has been a.....
Middle-Left - Danish-made Segaard seat covers in striped denim (top) have been fined to cover the original upholstery which was difficult to keep clean. Engine accessibility (above) is good except for the distributor which is mounted low down between the engine and bulkhead. Levels in the battery, hydraulic reservoir, coolant expansion bottle and washer reservoir can be seen through their plastic containers.
Bottom-Left - Although the steering wheel is slightly off-set this causes no discomfort. Instruments (except the clock) are well placed and the control stalks have a well-defined, positive movement. The lighting staik (forward on the right) is the one that doesn't fall readily to hand.