Autosport - Road Test: Fiesta 1300S
"Fiesta: Ford stir the pudding"
17th March 1977



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Road Test: Fiesta 1300S

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Autosport - Road Test: Fiesta 1300S - Page 1

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Fiesta: Ford stir the pudding

Having sampled the Fiesta in various forms at Monte Carlo, I have now been able to give the "S" model a much longer test in England. As I covered the engineering side of the car fairly recently in these columns, perhaps I need not go into too much detail on this occasion.

The car is particularly notable because with It Ford have joined the club. In other words, this is their version of the small, front-wheel drive saloon that is now the conventional popular car of Europe. They have chosen the transverse-engine layout, in which the gearbox is mounted in line with the power-unit and there are no step-down gears. While there is nothing unusual about the basic design, it has been laid out right from the beginning for servicing that shall be rapid, cheap and infrequent.

Fleet managers have, in the past, mistrusted front-drive cars; in some cases they had good reason, for there were driveshafts that called for absurdly frequent renewal and clutches that took all day to replace. Ford are determined to kill this prejudice, for the fleet market is valuable to them. They have also concentrated on getting a good insurance rating, as more and more cars are chosen these days on this figure.

The car has the popular 3-door configuration, the body being much nearer to a genuine estate type than most of these hatch-back saloons. The big rear door is balanced on gas struts and easy to lift, while there is no lip to obstruct access and the floor Is flat. The rear seat folds quickly and easily to extend the luggage area and when the seat back is in its normal position, a shelf conceals the suitcases.

With relatively high seating and a low waistline, the Fiesta gives a good all-round view to the occupants. All the seats are comfortable and the rear passengers have enough space for long journeys. However, the driver's seat has insufficient adjustment at both ends of its travel and only medium-sized people are entirely at ease. The interior is cheerful and the controls are well arranged, though I tended to forget which of the three stalks to press to sound the horn in an emergency, preferring the old-fashioned button at the wheel centre.

The gearchange is quick and easy in action but the clutch of the test car had a long pedal travel and sudden engagement, calling for some concentration to make a smooth start. The machine feels lively and the maximum speed is ample for a car of this size, while the engine will pull at low speeds on top gear without rumbling in protest.

Third is a very useful gear, both for overtaking and cornering. The transmission is quiet but the engine becomes noisy when pressed, though it is quite refined at medium speeds. Wind sounds are well subdued and road noise is never really obtrusive. Compared with other small cars, the Fiesta S is by no means noisy, though the Ghia version is quieter by virtue of additional padding.

The S which I tested has an anti-roll bar at the rear and slightly harder suspension settings. It handles very well indeed, with less under-steer than the standard Fiesta and practically no roll. It is one of those little cars that encourages one to have fun and it would be difficult to imagine anything easier to drive. The steering is pleasantly light to handle and the brakes stand up well to hard driving. An important feature is the arrangement for checking the thickness of the linings, without even removing the wheels; the hand-brake needs a hefty heave to avoid running back on a steep gradient.

Unfortunately, the ride is definitely on the hard side. Some of our secondary roads are becoming rather neglected and when I made a fairly long journey on such surfaces, I found the shaking somewhat tiring. Yet, the suspension seems better able to cope with primitive, unmade tracks ! I often find that cars with hard springing tend to slide on wet surfaces, but the Fiesta showed no such propensity.

Except for the elaborate, automatic systems on the super-cars, all heating and ventilation equipment works better when you have learned how to drive it. With a little practice, I was able to look after my comfort, and that of my passengers, without difficulty. However, I did find that windows were rather inclined to mist up, not only when starting but also after several hours of driving. The rear window tends to become obscured by road dirt on the outside, but the optional windscreen wiper and washer make a splendid job of clearing it quickly. I wash the road-test cars regularly and I must say that the Fiesta S repaid me for my trouble. Painted a cheerful yellow, with a green " go faster" stripe, it was a jolly little vehicle without any boy-racer pretensions and made one feel that spring must be just around the corner.

An extraordinary variation is found in the effectiveness of car lights. Nowadays, one drives so much on the dipped beam that it is a great disadvantage to have headlamps that virtually die when the main beam is extinguished. The Fiesta S has a good spread of light in the dipped position, which avoids those night-driving headaches.

Small but not baby cars - Super-Minis somebody has called them - are rising higher and higher on the sales charts. The entry of Fords into this already hard-fought category has really stirred the pudding, and one can only guess what the impact of the Fiesta will be: It is not the smallest or the most economical of the little cars, but it may well prove to be the cheapest to run, when such things as garage bills and insurance premiums are taken into account. The Ford investment in the Fiesta is so colossal that anything less than total success would be unthinkable. The product is attractive and if it proves to be as reliable and easy to maintain as it is claimed to be. its future is assured.


Car tested: Ford Fiesta S 2/3-door saloon, price £2360. Extras on test car: glass sunroof £113.94; rear wash/wipe £45.77.
Engine: Four-cylinders 74 x 65mm (1117cc) Compression ratio 9 to 1. 53bhp DIN at 6000rpm. Pushrod-operated overhead valves. Ford downdraught carburetter.
Transmission: Single dry plate clutch 4 speed synchromesh gearbox with central remote control, ratios 0.959, 1.346, 2.050, and 3.583 to 1. Helical spur gear final drive, ratio 4.056 to 1.
Chassis: Steel monocoque. MacPherson independent front suspension. Rack and pinion steering. Trailing dead axle with Panhard rod, coil springs and anti-roll bar. Servo-assisted dual-circuit disc/drum brakes. Bolt-on steel disc wheels, fitted 155 SR-12 tyres.
Equipment: 12-volt lighting and starting; speedometer; rev-counter; water temperature and fuel gauges; clock; heating, demisting and ventilation system with heated rear window; 2-speed plus intermittent wipers and screen washers; flashing direction indicators with hazard warning; reversing lamps.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 7ft 6in; overall length 11ft 8.4in; width 5ft 1.5in; weight 14cwt 45lb.
Performance: Maximum speed 87mph. Speeds in gears: third, 72mph; second 47mph; first 27mph. Standing quarter-mile: 19.8s; Acceleration: 0-30mph, 43s; 0-50mph, 10.2s; 0-60mph, 14.9s; 0-70mph, 21.6s.
Fuel consumption: 32 to 40mpg.

Captions -

Middle-Right - A jolly little vehicle without any boy-racer pretensions makes you feel spring is just round the corner.
Bottom-Right - Above, the interior is cheerful with neat controls. Below, the family dogs appreciated the big rear door and lack of lip to obstruct access.

by John Bolster.