Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCi Finesse review
by Ross Finlay (1 October 2002)
We did a lot of miles, earlier on, in a petrol-engined Fiesta Ghia. Now here's a Fiesta of an entirely other persuasion - in the entry-level Finesse specification rather than the top-of-the-range Ghia, and with a 1.4-litre turbo diesel engine in place of the 98bhp petrol 1600.
Did we feel demeaned? Not at all. You can get the Finesse with the old-stager 1.3-litre eight-valve Duratec petrol engine at no less than £1000 less, but the cheaper version loses out to the TDCi on performance, and can't get near it in economy or CO2 emission levels.
There's not much point in repeating our general comments on the Fiesta design. But the curious thing about the Finesse is that, although £1000 seems a massive add-on just to get a modern turbo diesel engine (or the 1.3 petrol version is a loss-leader on a heroic scale), the test car didn't feel all that far down the ladder from the Ghia.
Power steering and central locking are standard. The interior is nicely enough fitted out, with tilt adjustment for the leather-trimmed steering wheel and height adjustment for the driver's seat, dual-stage front airbags, a stereo radio/CD system, and map pockets behind the front seats. Whatever happened to down-market basic interiors? Even the tailgate release, operated via a push-button on the fascia, worked with less of a bang than the one on the Ghia we tried earlier.
All the controls, or course, are laid out in the same way as in the other Fiesta variants, and it's very encouraging that an entry-level car allows so many adjustments to be made to the driving position.
How does Ford manage with the installation of the 1.4-litre TDCi engine, bearing in mind that it's essentially a Peugeot/Citroen design brought to the Blue Oval thanks to the Ford/PSA technical alliance, and not one of the Dagenham series restricted to the 1.8- and two-litre capacities?
Well, it manages OK, but not brilliantly, at least as far as the sound levels are concerned. From inside the cabin, the engine noise is more noticeable than it is in the French cars. That may be because the Fiesta project was already well advanced when the chance to use the PSA engine came along, whereas the others had it in mind from the start of the design process.
However, there are no complaints about the performance and economy. The latest 1.4-litre common-rail engines enjoy the benefit of having, for their capacity, strong mid-range torque - in the case of the Fiesta, 118lb/ft at 2000rpm against 107lb/ft at 4000rpm for the 1.6 petrol - and the difference in rolling acceleration is unmistakable.
And the curious thing, as a beady-eyed look at the Fiesta catalogue makes clear, is that if you want the best diesel economy in the range, go for the Finesse.
Ford says that all Fiesta models with the TDCi engine have the same top speed and 0-62mph time. It's a different story when it comes to economy. Partly because it loses out on both ABS and air conditioning, the Finesse is lighter than the other versions using the diesel engine (the LX and Zetec, but not the Ghia, which is marketed only in petrol-engined form) and it's fitted as standard with 14" wheels.
Those variations in weight and gearing allow the Finesse TDCi to beat the other models, quite easily, in all the standard economy measurements. It has an advantage of 4.3mpg on the combined cycle over the LX and Zetec with 15" or 16" tyres, and as much as 5.7mpg on the urban cycle, where it's been tested to reach the high side of 76mpg.
Second opinion: This is a nice, simple small car which does exactly what it says on the tin. Reasonably quick (it feels like it has a lot more than 67bhp), fun to drive in a cheerfully wallowy sort of way, splendidly economical and only slightly less well-equipped than the Ghia. There's hardly any space in the rear, and an intermittent whistling noise from the dashboard made me wonder - not for the first time - about current Fiesta build quality, but on the whole this is an uncomplicated, fit-and-forget car in the best tradition of small Fords. David Finlay.