The Ford Fiesta experience

The word “fiesta” evokes many joyful and exciting images for us Pinoys. It brings to mind childhood summers and out-of-town trips where we enjoyed the color and pageantry of varied town celebrations. It was thus with a sense of thrilling adventure that I welcomed the opportunity to drive the Ford Fiesta “S” hatchback , a sports variant no less. I wasn’t disappointed.

I had heard, of course, that the Ford Fiesta shares the same platform as its sister, the Mazda 2. But you can’t tell from looks alone unless one has a trained eye for automobile design. I’ve driven both and can honestly say that the Fiesta has its own distinctive profile and feel, incorporating what Ford Group Philippines calls “bold Kinetic design elements”. It has a style all its own.

The white car that I drove from the dealer was certainly compact and sporty. It had clean lines and a stance commonly described as “aggressive”. In fact, it looked ready to just about jump out of the showroom. Per specs, it’s wider and longer than the Honda Jazz though shorter than the Toyota Vios. But the interiors are roomy and plush, with all the bells and whistles one normally expects from higher-end models.

The cabin is comfy and surrounds the driver like a high-tech cockpit. Before even starting the car, one is immediately drawn to the center console, with its directional controls and a center “OK” switch for running through the menu.

On either side are buttons for the CD, radio, auxiliary jack and a number pad for the hands-free phone. The multitude of gadgets can be intimidating at first, but as one gets to know the Fiesta better, you appreciate the integrated functionality of the whole set-up. It even has audio adjusters on the left hand of the steering wheel, nifty for those who shift from music to news while navigating Manila’s chaotic traffic.

And for something truly unique in its class, the Fiesta has Voice Control, allowing one to control audio and cell phone functions via voice commands.

But the proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the driving. And this is where I think the Fiesta leaves the competition behind. The “S” variant has what is said to be the most powerful 1.6 liter engine in the local market, the 1.6-liter Duratec Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Crankshaft Engine). According to a review in Top Gear magazine (August 2010) , with an output of 119hp and 151Nm of torque, it’s even more powerful than the 1.6 – liter variants of other brands, including the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Altis.

I can believe it. The Fiesta provides a surge of power uncommon in cars of its size. It has a six-speed automatic transmission, actually a dual-clutch transmission which provides quicker gear changes.

The most common complaint regarding subcompacts is they often feel underpowered. No such problem with the Fiesta “S”. A perfect combination of engine and transmission, it makes for a smooth and powerful ride whether on the highway or weaving through traffic. And the cabin is surprisingly quiet, giving a cool, cocoon-like feel even as one maneuvers through the mad rush of EDSA and environs.

One reason the Fiesta handles so well is it boasts of Ford’s Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) , cutting-edge technology which allows the car to adapt the steering to changing road conditions. A driver doesn’t need to make an extra effort to control and steer the car under variable driving situations, for instance when traversing uneven roads or hitting crosswinds. The car does it for you.

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