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.....previous figures of 30.7 mpg overall and 39.5 mpg touring. Among its main rivals, this overall consumption is bettered only by the Metro (38.8 mpg), while the touring figure is average for the class, which ranges between 41.0 (VW Polo) and 46.5 mpg (Metro and Renault 5).
Sadly, though, the economy lights system is much cruder than in some rivals, and to avoid illuminating the olights one has to drive steadily and often at slower speeds than most people would find acceptable This is especially noticeable in heavy traffic, when any attempt to "drive by the lights" can make you a nuisance to other drivers. For this reason, most of our testers eventually ended up ignoring them altogether. Moreover, in certain circumstances the Ford system can give a misleading reading. For example, it is sometimes more economical to maintain a wide throttle opening in top gear than to lift off and select a smaller opening in third gear, yet the economy lights would tell you otherwise.
Once on the move, Ford's recent changes to the suspension (new spring and shock absorber settings) give a noticeably smoother and more comfortable ride over most road surfaces. But, in return, this has given rise to pronounced body roll and tyre squeal when cornering, with understeer building up strongly towards the limit. The steering is still very light and lacks feel in the straight-ahead position, and the car's general handling seems to have become too "soft". (Those who rate handling tautness above ride comfort should opt for the Fiesta "S", though the Economy option is not available on that version).
The brakes (front disc, rear drum) are servo-assisted and have diagonally-split dual-circuits. Despite the spongey pedal feel, they are progressive and adequately powerful in action.
The Fiesta is one of the roomiest cars in its class and four medium-sized adults can easily be accommodated. The rear seat-back folds down to improve storage capacity considerably (we were able to transport two full-size bicycles with no difficulty, for example) and the hatchback's low-loading sill allows easy access.
The Fiesta's driving position is good, but the front seats are a little soft and heavier drivers find they lack both lumbar and thigh support, which becomes especially noticeable during a long trip. The pedals however, are well placed, as are the column stalks.
All-round visibility is good, and the car comes with heated rear screen and rear wash/wipe as standard. The front wipers are very effective and have an intermittent wipe setting, and the tung-" sten headlights are good, with a strong main beam.
The instruments are few in number, but perfectly adequate and clear. In bright sunlight, however, they suffer badly from reflections, and at times the crucial 60-70 mph sector of the speedometer is completely obscured.
The heater is powerful and can be adjusted progressively, but the fan is noisy on the fastest of the two speed settings. The Fiesta's ventilation leaves a lot to be desired. The centre vent is linked to the heater system which means it cannot contribute to a warm feet/cool face compromise, whilst the other two independent side vents, although adjustable, are again noisy, and are too small and hard-to-aim to be of much value.
Vents apart, we were impressed by this Fiesta's low overall noise levels. Wind and road roar are low even at high cruising speeds, and the engine runs smoothly with no obvious boom periods, as well as revving sweetly through the gears.
Whilst under our supervision, and still with less than 4,000 miles under its belt, our test car suffered a total power failure one morning, and had to make an unscheduled visit to a local Ford dealer. Within a few hours, however, the problem (which turned out to be a loose wire from the alternator that had touched part of the exhaust system and short-circuited everything), had been rectified and the car duly returned to our offices. This problem was probably untypical, but our test car's overall finish was definitely not up to Ford's usual high-quality standards. Inside the car, for instance, some of the trim had been very roughly fitted.
For a fairly basic model the car is well equipped. Standard features in the "L" include a push-button MW/LW radio which is very basic but can be heard when travelling over all road surfaces; two door mirrors; a tilting/detachable rear parcel shelf; an analogue clock which is mounted in the centre con-sote; rear wash/wipe; a petrol filler lock; a laminated windscreen; and head restraints. Strangely, though, there is no cigarette lighter fitted to this particular model. Nor is there a lock-up glove compartment, which does render such items as cassette tapes or other personal belongings rather vulnerable. One extra perhaps worth considering would be a glass tilt/take out sunroof, which is available for £125 and would greatly improve the car's ventilation.
The modifications which form Ford's optional economy package certainly do work, but the price you have to pay is either to put up with very sluggish top gear acceleration, or to be prepared to use the gears freely to obtain respectable performance. Top gear cruising, however, is very relaxed, especially as the engine is very much more refined than it used to be. Ride comfort, too, is now very acceptable, though at considerable cost in handling tautness. For the rest, the Economy Fiesta is like any other - roomy, light and easy to drive, with a pleasant gearchange. but let down by inadequate ventilation.
Model: Fiesta 1.1L Economy
Maker: Ford Motor Company Limited, Eagle Way, Warley, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3BW.
Price: £3,340.75 plus £278.40 car tax plus £542.87 VAT equals £4,162.02