2014 Ford Fiesta Facelift in CarToq’s first drive review

Let’s flag off proceedings with a car quote. “You just won’t get it until you drive it” is an oft repeated phrase that dyed-in-the-wool car nuts use to convince folks stuck on the sedate side of the bridge. CarToq got a chance to experience the 2014 Ford Fiesta Facelift yesterday and the car does what it does best quite well, that is ride and handle like a gem. Also, it looks ravishing what with that Aston Martin inspired front end and the Mustang like bump on the bonnet. The interiors get a once over and a couple of new features make it into the equation. But then, this is what facelifts are usually about right, revised looks and a bunch of new features? Well, yes, but the Fiesta is not your run of the mill C-Segmenter. Let us explain.

As folks who guide people on car buying decisions, CarToq editors, like most other motoring hacks have a constant stream of communication with friends calling/texting in for car buying advice. Why, we even have a real time advice section right here. One such call arrived from the west of India to the south on a lazy Sunday afternoon, which most folks otherwise spend snoozing. The caller in question was a 27 year old IT professional who had just jumped jobs and now felt ready to treat herself to a spanking new ride. Some background here. The lady on the phone owns an 8 year old Santro Xing, pretty knackered up with use, abuse and then some. So, this is somebody who has been living with the bare basics of four wheeled motoring, or in other words with an entry level hatchback.

A few excerpts from the conversation,

Santro Xing Girl –  Hi

CarToq – What’s up, long time!!!

Santro Xing Girl – I want to buy a new car

CarToq – Okay. So, what’s wrong with your Xing?

Santro Xing Girl – Well, it’s kind of old and I think I need a better ride now.

CarToq – Oh, well, we have lots of new stuff coming. Seen the new Hyundai Grand i10 and the Xcent? The interiors of these cars will blow you off your feet. I mean., since you’ve been with a Hyundai, these cars are logical upgrades for you. 

Santro Xing Girl – Actually, I just drove the Honda Amaze Diesel and I liked it. It comes with decent features even in the base model and the interiors are nice and airy. But….

CarToq – Great, so you’re making a jump towards diesels. H’mmm

Santro Xing Girl – Yes, now I need to drive 40 kilometers a day to work and back. So a diesel would be better. 

CarToq – Yes, yes. So, what do you think about the Amaze? Booking one?

Santro Xing Girl – I’m kind of confused. I like the Amaze but once I drove it at 100-120 on the bypass, I didn’t feel confident. The engine’s noisy and I also don’t like the way it pulls. 

CarToq – The way it pulls? Well, you have 100 horses under your foot lady. It’s (Amaze) got good pep. 

Santro Xing Girl – Yes, but it didn’t have the diesel kick. 

CarToq – (she must be talking about the turbo lag). Oh yes, the Amaze doesn’t have the kick. No turbo lag. 

Santro Xing Girl – Oh, the Amaze has no turbo?

CarToq – No, no, it has one, but the turbo on the Amaze works incredibly well that you hardly notice it. Anyway, it’s very good for driveability. You won’t have to wait for power. 

Santro Xing Girl – But still, I like that kick. 

CarToq – So, buy the Hyundai i20 then or the Volkswagen Polo GT TDI. Nice kick, of the non-alcoholic kind, in those cars. 

Santro Xing Girl – Polo too pricey and i20, I somehow don’t like the shape. 

CarToq – Ok, so do you have any other cars in mind?

Santro Xing Girl – Yes, I drove the Figo Diesel before test driving the Amaze. 

CarToq – Ahan, so did you like it?

Santro Xing Girl – Yeah, i felt much better at 120. I was more confident and also I like the way it drives. It has that feel you know. Somehow, I liked it much better than the Amaze. 

CarToq – Whoa, not bad. Look who’s talking about feel and drive and all, instead of the interiors and you know, looks and all. It’s not a compact sedan and you won’t get that bigger car look in the Figo. 

Santro Xing Girl – Yes, that’s the only reason I’m still considering the Amaze. But the Figo feels like a better car overall. 

CarToq – Well, if you so like it, why don’t you buy it. But what’s this thing about you and driving and handling, and all. You dig great interiors and features no? Why this sudden shift in preferences?

Santro Xing Girl – Yes, I’ve been driving Josh’s (the boyfriend’s) Fiesta to work everyday and the Figo feels just like the Fiesta. I get so much control but I don’t get the same feeling from the Amaze. And the stereo of the Figo also feels better than the one on the Amaze. 

CarToq – (With a knowing smile on the lips) Well, that’s what a Ford can do to you. It can spoil you silly, simply by the way it drives. 

Continuing the conversation into a different setting, this time at the Ball Room of the Taj West End, itself an oasis of calm amid the hustle and bustle of India’s IT capital Bangalore, “a fun-to-drive-car aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts” is what Ford India’s Mr. Vinay Piparsania promised at the product briefing of the 2014 Fiesta Facelift. Volumes isn’t what Ford India is targeting with the 2014 Fiesta. Ford has the EcoSport and Figo for that. Rather, the Fiesta Facelift is an option for C-Segment buyers who put driving pleasure on the highest pedestal. Time to find out if the Fiesta Facelift lives up to the “you’ll love driving me hard” promise.

Let’s begin with the changes on the car, shall we? Design wise, the 2014 Fiesta Facelift sees a makeover at both the front and the rear. The front gains the new Ford global design language, that many associate with the Aston Martin’s front end. A large hexagonal front grille that goes deep down is an “in-yer-face” styling element. The bumper is a new item and so is the hood, that comes with a tasteful looking bulge that hints at a big engine lurking under it. The big engine is something that the designers of the Fiesta have left in the realm of your imagination though.

Moving around the car, you notice the sharply raked headlamps that seem narrower than before, and new alloy wheels that were originally offered as aftermarket units on the last generation Fiesta. The pre-facelift’s rear seemed too tall for visual comfort and the designers have corrected this with the facelifted model. The rear gets a large chrome strip at the bottom of the bumper, one that emphasizes the width of the car. The tail lamps go wider and a built-in spoiler element on the boot lid give the Fiesta’s rear a sense of width that was sorely missing on the previous iteration. So, the rear now complements the front’s sporty appeal and rightly so. All in all, the Fiesta Facelift turns heads everywhere it goes and this is something that the older model could never manage doing.

Swinging into the cabin of the car, you settle into a more airy ambience. Again, this is a change dictated solely by car buyer feedback. Ford has added beige elements to the underside of the dashboard, and also a finger print magnet in the form of a Piano Black center console finish.  The dashboard’s black and beige plastics still feel hard to touch but the texture gives them a premium appeal. You have the best of both worlds in the Fiesta’s dashboard plastics – a hard wearing top and a premium looking bottom. In essence, you’ll find lesser people complaining about a small cabin on the new Fiesta as the beige and black elements work in tandem to deliver an airy feel.

The beige theme continues to the seats of the car, which snugly wrap around you and provide great grip levels, especially when you’re throwing the Fiesta Facelift around hard corners. Also, the beige seats are another conscious attempt to give back seaters an airy feeling, especially with the window line raking up steeply. While the folks up front will simple love the front seats, the Fiesta Facelift’s rear is comfortable for two adults and that’s about it. Trying to squeeze in another adult will only make things uncomfortable and if you’re seeking a chauffeur driven C-Segmenter, you’re talking up the wrong tree. Refreshingly, Ford India is very clear about the purpose of the Fiesta Facelift and at no point does the automaker make tall claims about the rear seat of the car. The Fiesta Facelift is an out and out driver’s car and Ford has let it remain one. Ford has updated the SYNC infotainment system with Emergency Assist and AppLink functions, a video of which will be updated here shortly.

Slipping into the front seat of the Fiesta and thumbing the push button start, the engine settles down to a steady and silent idle, with the diesel judder during start up well damped. The leather wrapped, compact steering is adjustable for rake, but not reach. The seats are three way adjustable for reach, recline and height though. The adjustable seats and steering work well together, to give the driver a comfortable driving position. Getting a move on, the diesel clutch of the Fiesta isn’t the lightest unit around but does offer good feel across the span of its movement. The gearshift on the five speed manual is reasonably slick for spirited shifting. The instrumentation console with blue back-lit needles is a very sporty touch.

Ford is offering the 2014 Fiesta Facelift in diesel-only guise. The engine in question is the 1.5 liter-4 cylinder turbocharged diesel unit, which outputs 89 Bhp and 205 Nm. The engine is low tech with 8 valves, an SOHC head and a fixed geometry turbocharger. Despite this, the refinement of the engine is of a high order and the motor likes being revved. The same can’t be said of the engine drone, that prominently filters into the cabin at higher reaches of the rev range. The tall first gear makes for quick getaways and from 10-15 kph, it’s best that you come back to first gear for maximum propulsion as the second gear feels weak at lower revs.

The torque of the 1.5 liter TDCI motor is not evident in the second gear, which is used best for hard acceleration than puttering around. The other gears of the car feel well spaced out and strong performance across the gears is what the Fiesta offers despite the power and torque figures seemingly less on paper. Of course, you won’t the kick of a Verna or a Vento, but the Fiesta’s engine-gearbox and handling come together as a perfect package. Also, the Fiesta is a great mile muncher at speeds of 100-120 kph , with the engine spinning at a lazy 2,000-2,400 rpm. The relaxed fifth gear with overdrive function and improved aerodynamics (3 % lower drag) result in a bump up in fuel efficiency, up to an ARAI rated 25.01 Kmpl, which is second best only to the Honda City Diesel’s 26 Kmpl  in the Indian C-Segment sedan class.

Coming to the most impressive area of the Fiesta Facelift – the ride and handling package – the car makes you feel one with the road. The steering, suspension and engine come together in a symphony of sorts, and the Fiesta Facelift has the potential to make your dreary everyday commute an affair that you’ll actually look forward to. You’d be hard pressed to notice that the steering of the car is electric power assisted as it feels as pure and as precise as a hydraulic power steering when speeds mount. At parking speeds, the same steering gets light and easy, making quick work of tight turns.  The suspension of the Fiesta Facelift  is set up firm for sharp handling at high speeds but is supple enough to soak up most bumps and potholes you’ll face in your everyday drive.

The engine, steering, suspension set up and the stiff body shell made of Boron steel make all the difference in the way the facelifted Fiesta drives and you’re looking at a car that is right at the top of the C-Segment range, when it comes to the sheer driving pleasure it offers.  In fact, the 89 Bhp-205 Nm output of the engine is soon forgotten as soon as you’re shown a twisty set up of tarmac and this is testament how well the car drives. It goes on to show how the power and torque outputs of an engine don’t mean much to the car’s overall performance. If you love driving, the Fiesta Facelift is the diesel C-Segment sedan for you. Don’t take our word for it though. Head to your neighborhood Ford dealership and take an extended – with an emphasis on that word – test drive and find out for yourself.

Ford India admits that it was too optimistic with the pricing of the 2011 Fiesta and much sharper pricing is on the cards this time around. In keeping with product rationalization – in other words, weeding out slow sellers – the petrol powered Fiesta manual and automatic aren’t built anymore and the focus in on the three diesel variants – Ambiente, Trend and Titanium. All variants get a driver airbag and ABS+EBD as standard safety features. The Trend and Titanium variants add a passenger airbag. The Titanium variant also adds cruise control, voice assist, the Ford SYNC infotainment system, reverse parking sensors, automatically retracting wing mirrors, push button start, keyless entry, USB stereo input and a host of other features to the car, making the Fiesta Facelift a well rounded driving machine. To sum up the 2014 Ford Fiesta Facelift in one line borrowed from Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of parts”, and you just won’t get it until you drive it.  Ford has just soft launched the 2014 Fiesta Facelift at very competitive prices. The Fiesta Ambiente is priced at 7.69 lakh rupees, the Trend variant comes in at 8.55 lakh rupees and the Titanium variant slots in at 9.29 lakh rupees, all prices ex-showroom Delhi. Net-net, the C-Segment diesel car that’s great fun to drive is now affordable to buy too.