Granted a maroon and slightly battered Fiesta would not be most peoples’ idea of exotic motoring, but with 400ccs and six valves on the Fiat, it was a good start. Despite its poverty spec ‘Encore’ trim, my Fiesta arrived with the much lauded 1.25 Zetec engine, which was originally developed by Yamaha.
With a modest power output (75bhp and 74Ibs/ft of torque) the wee hatchback was never going to be a Nurburgring special, but what it lacks in grunt it makes up for in delivery. The free revving engine spins sweetly and refuses to sound harsh even as it nears the red-line.
Encapsulated by a body freed from the burgeoning weight of modern safety features, the power-plant hauls the car to 60 in under 12seconds and acceleration is adequate up to 80mph, the car finally maxing-out at 105mph, or 115mph depending on wind speed and gradient.
The combination of light body and small engine also means the Fiesta is more than willing to corner. Despite soft suspension and a smooth ride, the car refuses to engage in roly-poly antics except when a succession of quick bends brings about the inevitable pendulum effect.
Its old school steering, unburdened by power assistance, may be tiresome when parking in a tight spot, but on the open road it communicates in a way modern power assisted cars can’t compete with.
You can enter the corner confident in the grip available and assured by the front-end’s resistance to under-steer. Lift off and the tail will happily arc round, but stamp on the throttle (correct gearing is crucial) and the little hatch bites in and pulls itself out of the corner goading you to try harder next time .
The only fly in the ointment is the lack of ABS. Misjudging entry speeds to corners can result in minor excitement as the car ploughs straight on accompanied by clouds emitted from the bargain 14inch Polish rubber, its saving graces being you’re never going that fast and Polish rubber doesn’t cost that much.
When not trying to emulate junior WRC, the Fiesta makes a relatively relaxing companion. Cruising happily at the speed limit carrying five people close to comfortably, tyre roar and wind noise both make their way into the cabin, but it’s nothing the standard two-speaker cassette deck with retro fitted iPod convertor can’t handle. At a steady cruise it’ll easily attain 40mpg. That and the £800 initial outlay makes this proper budget motoring.
The downside of the sub £1000 price tag is fairly obvious and also fairly abundant: faults. Despite the aforementioned ‘poverty spec’ what can go wrong on the Fiesta, needless to say, has.
Meaning: none of the door locks open from the outside, bar the boot’s (good fun in the rain), the stereo has developed a particularly ingratiating tendency to turn on and up to full volume completely independently, the rear wash wipe isn’t particularly keen on working, the boot leaks, the handbrake’s pretty slack (a WRC style blast down some forest tracks probably didn’t help here) and it’s currently crippled by a complete lack of clutch.
How much of this can be attributed to poor build quality is hard to say given the car’s long and latterly hard life, but I can only imagine a Volkswagen Polo have fared better.
Despite my relationship with the Fiesta reaching its twilight years, it’s not set to end too soon. A quick look at current used prices, makes the outlay for a broken clutch seem far more palatable than scrapping. Be sure when she’s back on the road, Auto-Journals will be the first to know.