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Test Drive Review: Ford Fiesta 1.5

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I come from a time when every boy-racer in the country wanted a Ford Laser S 1.5, and when its successor the TX3 1.8 came along in the early 90’s, I knew guys who would have willingly traded body-parts for it. There was a time when Ford was the absolute king of the road insofar as performance cars are concerned. Everyone wanted one, in fact I distinctly remember the TX3 broke the existing mold when it came to locally assembled hot-hatches, it was the first to offer a 1.8-litre engine with dual-overhead cams, 16-valves and fuel injection, all sewn into a sporty 2-door coupe. And then it all went belly-up about a decade later.

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Ford decided to get into the ‘lifestyle’ pick-up truck game – they created the segment actually – and with the enormous success of the Courier and subsequent Ranger, it’s passenger car sales began falling by the wayside. They practically had to give away the remaining Telstar sedans. And since there was no successor to the final ‘bubble-butt’ TX3, Ford’s glory days as a hot-hatch maker came to an end. They weren’t complaining though, their trucks were doing incredibly well.

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Not many will remember that during this ‘truck craze’, Ford were still selling cars too, in the form of the Lynx. There was even a really good one called the Lynx RS 2.0, but none of them ever managed to recapture the kind of sheer frenzy and adulation that the TX3 garnered. Till this day, ask anyone what car they remember from Ford, and nine times out of 10, the answer will be ‘TX3’. It really began to look like Ford were no more than truck makers, until at least the Fiesta came along. And not a moment too soon too in my book.

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It is the car that single-handedly saved the Ford brand, insofar as people looking at it as a carmaker again. Its popularity over the years since its launch has proved quite staggering, and shows no signs of waning. The latest one is really going to appeal to its target audience for sure. It boasts the sporty looks of a Focus ST, but in a smaller, tighter package that’s going to appeal very much to those seeking their first set of wheels.

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It’s a tempting proposition every way you look at it; on the inside the Fiesta, be it in sedan or hatch guise, offers a more than decent amount of room for passengers, and all the creature comforts of a modern-day entry level car, and then some. The Fiesta now has Ford SYNC, a Microsoft powered feature that allows owners to, well, ‘talk’ to their car. Using voice-activation, SYNC allows drivers to make phone calls, hear voice mails and SMS, as well as even call up the kind of music they want to hear.

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While it may not have the kind of grunt that its predecessor had in the 90’s, there’s still a respectable 112Ps and 140Nm from the 1.5-litre Ti-VCT, 4-cyl engine that’s mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox, with sequential shift capability. Keyless entry is yet another convenience that most will find very appealing. It eliminates the need for any key fumblings, so long as the key-fob is in your pocket or wallet. Push button start/stop ensures that you don’t even have to see the key fob, as long as the car senses you have it, you’re good to go.

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In terms of drivability, the Fiesta as exactly as you would expect looking at it. It feels tight and sporty, and yet not overly harsh over bumps and undulations. Despite having EPAS or electric power steering, there’s still a modicum of feedback from what the front driven tyres are doing under you. There’s adequate get-up-and-go, and while it may not be blistering, it’s still a pretty good pace for a 1.5L.

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However, it’s the ease of maneuverability that’s going to win a lot of hearts and garner a lot of fans. Now here’s the best part. The new Fiesta is priced at only RM84,541.50 for both the Sport Hatchback and Sedan Titanium. All that’s left to decide is which body configuration suits you best. On a personal note, I’m happy to say that I don’t find the sedan variant as unappealing as I did the previous generation. It looks very decent, but in my book, I’d go for the hatch anyday. I’m glad I’m not in the market for a new ‘first-car’, it’s a very tough choice.

Specs that matter:

Engine             In-line 4-cyl, DOHC, 16v, Ti-VCT, MPi, 1498cc

Transmission   6-speed auto ‘Powershift’

Max power      112Ps @ 6300rpm

Max torque      140Nm @ 4400rpm

Dimensions     4323 x 1722 x 1489 (LWH, mm)

Safety              ABS, EBD, ESP, TCS, dual airbags

Features           Rain-sensing wipers, PATS immobilizer, Hill-start assist, SYNC