THE Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost is an impressive compact car, with smooth power delivery, well-insulated cabin and ample safety features.
Ford touts its multiple award-winning turbocharged three-cylinder engine as providing an ideal combination of driving performance with fuel economy, and responsiveness with smoothness.
We found it tough to disagree, after our recent test drive of both the sedan and hatchback variants in Chiang Mai, also known as Thailand’s “Rose of the North”.
The Fiesta EcoBoost also has the hands-free in-car connectivity system called Ford SYNC, which enables drivers to answer phone calls and select music from devices connected via Bluetooth or USB, and listen to text messages by using voice commands.
“The Fiesta EcoBoost is great to sit in, drive and provides good fuel economy,” said Ford Asia Pacific vehicle line director (product development) Gary Boes in a media briefing.
“Today, people have a passion for connectivity. So, we have SYNC, developed with Microsoft, in the Fiesta for the first time. Also, the Fiesta has always been a nimble car to drive. Now, it is even more agile, with chassis refinements as well as better grip and handling through the corners,” Boes summed up.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine is tiny enough to fit in the overhead luggage compartment of an airplane, or as Ford Asia Pacific manager of powertrain controls, calibration and NVH Robert Sharples puts it:
“It is so small, it fits on a A4 sheet of paper.”
Designed at Ford’s research and development centres in Germany and Britain, the engine combines direct injection, turbocharging and variable valve timing to deliver power and performance that rival a traditional 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
Sharples pointed out that the Fiesta, with its dual dry-clutch PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission and 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, can deliver fuel consumption of 18.9km per litre.
“The Fiesta has a 43-litre fuel tank. In theory, it is possible to get 812km on a single tank of fuel,” he said.
It is also worthwhile to note that the engine’s timing belt is always immersed in oil, which reduces friction and noise compared with dry belts.
According to Sharples, the timing belt never needs replacing for the life span of the Fiesta, which means lower ownership costs.
The car’s life span is based on 240,000km of durability tests done by Ford.
“Ford tests simulate the worst driving conditions and styles. Like other Ford cars, there is no compromise on the sign-off in durability tests,” said Sharples.
He also highlighted that unlike the aluminium engine block for the 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated Fiesta variant, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost has a cast-iron block structure.
“The rationale is improved stiffness characteristics and lower NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) for this tiny engine.”
This mid-life facelift for the Fiesta, produced at Ford and Mazda’s joint-venture AutoAlliance Thailand facility in Rayong, features a redesigned front end dominated by a trapezoidal front grille, as well as improved aerodynamics.
Ford Asia Pacific design chief Craig Metros pointed out that the facelifted Fiesta underwent more than 150 hours of wind tunnel tests, resulting in a three per cent reduction in drag, and thus, better fuel efficiency.
“Aerodynamic improvements were achieved partly due to revisions to the front air-deflector design, an enhanced rear spoiler (on the five-door hatchback), under-body optimisation and configuration of light units to separate air flow,” said Metros.
Meanwhile, Ford Asia Pacific vehicle integration manager Michael Pilling said the facelifted Fiesta has reduced NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) via added sealing features and stiffer twistbeam bush attachment brackets.
“Roads in Asia can be quite challenging in some places. We designed the Fiesta for exceptional interior quietness when driven,” he said.
Pilling also noted that the car’s ride quality has been improved via measures such as new front suspension bump-stops to provide better cushioning performance.
The Fiesta EcoBoost is quite well-packaged for a B-segment compact car, with nice details like Smart Keyless Entry and a engine push start button.
The dashboard design has a sporty look, and our test drive unit came with a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone for us to check out the voice-command system Ford SYNC.
In a quiet cabin, SYNC responded quickly to our voice commands; for example, “Play Genre Rock”, “Play artist Maroon 5” and “Call Mary”.
It is a nifty hands-free system for drivers to control phone calls or messages, and music playback.
Our test drive of the Fiesta EcoBoost was on a 235km route around Chiang Mai, in the cool and wet weather of northern Thailand’s winter season.
The route involved a mixture of city roads, straight motorways, winding uphill slopes and twisty stretches.
We were snugly ensconced in the combined leather/fabric seats, and found a comfortable ride with the car’s firm yet well-sorted sport tuned suspension.
Fitted with 195/50 R16 tyres, the Fiesta handled impressively in tight road bends, and stayed well-planted when we took corners in a bit of spirited driving.
Power delivery is smooth, with lots of torque at low engine revs and sometimes we found it hard to believe that the car is propelled by such a small engine.
The car was far from lethargic when climbing steep uphill slopes with two large adult occupants.
If we had a complaint, it would be the lack of spicy turbocharged engine roar as the well-insulated cabin was a refined and quiet environment when we sped past Chiang Mai’s charming countryside scenery.
To sum it up, this is a very likeable compact car with its well-crafted interior, accurate electric power-assisted steering, as well as quiet and smooth ride quality.
We were told that the Fiesta EcoBoost is slated to be launched in Malaysia as a premium hatchback, with features such as seven airbags, in the first quarter of 2014.
Its retail price is expected to be between RM96,000 and RM99,000.