Ford Fiesta 1.6 Ghia Five-Door review
by David Finlay (21 August 2002)
After spending much of the 1990s building very odd-looking Fiestas (the front end of the Mk4 always reminded me of something I'd seen in underwater wildlife documentaries), Ford has changed tack with the latest version. Smarter than its predecessors, though not especially distinguished among small hatches, it bristles with styling cues from the one-size-up Focus.
The resemblance goes no further than that. While the Focus is hardly a wallet-batterer, the Fiesta gives considerably more impression of having been built down to a price for customers who want the best value for their buck.
The 1.6 Ghia tested here is, at the time of writing, the most expensive Fiesta there is. Optional extras such as 16" alloys, a 6-CD autochanger, parking distance sensors and a few extra airbags take the total cost to just over £12,000. But despite the Ghia name, there is no sense that this is a top-of-the-range car.
It seems well-built, and it's comfortable enough (though it would be more so if the steering wheel adjusted for reach as well as height, as it does in several rivals), but it's by no means lavishly equipped. The biggest giveaway is the sound system, which is easy enough to use because the buttons are clear, large and well-spaced - something other manufacturers might like to take note of. However, it also looks very basic, as if Ford was trying to spend as little money as possible on it.
Room in the front is generous, room in the back is miserly. Like many other cars in the class, this one will not carry four adults any distance without complaints from those in the rear about the lack of space.
There may also be some acid comments about the ride quality. It's certainly smooth, but this has been achieved by the simple means of making the suspension very soft indeed. As a result, there is an awful lot of body movement, even when cornering fairly gently. It's almost as if Ford had decided to fit the softest springs available to deal with any bumps the car might encounter and leave it at that.
Push on a little harder and you discover that things are not quite that simple. Even on the most undulating roads round these parts the Fiesta never grounded out once, so a lot of thought has obviously gone into the damping. And once you've got used to the fact that the ride is approximately what you would expect of a rowing boat in the Bay of Biscay during a Force 9 gale, you find that the grip levels are very high, and that whisking along country roads can actually be jolly good fun.
All the same, for daily use I think I'd trade in a bit of compliance for a more stable ride. This is not a sports car, so there's no need for it to feel like a roller-skate, but there must be a happy medium here somewhere.
The 1.6-litre Duratec engine sounds a little rough at times, but it performs very well, particularly in the mid-range, which makes swift overtaking a simple chore. The economy figures show that it's also a very efficient unit, though the 45-litre tank means you don't get very far between refills. The CARkeys staff member who has decided to take a Fiesta on a long continental trip is going to be visiting an awful lot of petrol stations.