Friday 27 April 2018

It's a matter of taSTe with Ford's spruced-up Fiesta

More bling, more zing but it costs more

'Tasty option on the supermini menu': Ford Fiesta
'Tasty option on the supermini menu': Ford Fiesta
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

When I order fish and chips (sorry the topic of food never seems to be far away from me these days) or a steak (and chips) or a plain sandwich, I don't want a whole load of fussy bits and pieces added to make it look good or detract from the main event or, more relevantly, hike up the price. Just give me the food, plain and simple.

That's the sort I am and have always been. Why complicate matters if the ingredients are good enough on their own?

Lord, it maddens me, all this fussiness that's crept into even the most basic things.

I get annoyed with some car companies, too and their endless messing around with frills that I think do little, really, for a car.

I mean heated steering wheels for God's sake. Are they serious?

Leaving aside a few icy periods this year (exceptional and infrequent by historical standards surely) have we become such softies, such slaves to 'luxury' that we need our hands warmed by the steering wheel?

I've been thinking some companies have lost the run of themselves coming up with what Ford, for instance, call ST-Line (not mad-hot-hatch ST) editions of their cars.

Basically, these are pretend/wannabe performance motors: they might get sport-tuned suspension (the Fiesta on test this week does anyway) and there are all sorts of badges and touches proclaiming them to be things of wonder.

Up to now I've ignored or railed against such extravagant extras. But I think I'm going to have to adjust my tune and tastes a bit.

The thing is, you see, every time I raise the subject, the car people insist there is huge demand from people for such exotically enhanced models. And it's growing. Nearly every company says that.

I've been doubtful because I suspect they make more profit on such cars. But the evidence of demand is overwhelming, regardless. I also feel PCPs are playing a decisive role in the trend because, in the overall scheme of things, such frippery costs a mere few euro extra on your monthly repayments.

So you can have your cake and eat it (as well as your heated steering wheel).

Of course these extras cost more regardless of how you are paying; it just doesn't seem to come to that much every month. In the Fiesta's case, the extra one-off cost starts in excess of €3,000.

But to be fair - and I have to admit, I'm only coming around to conceding on this now - you can get some decent stuff.

Certainly in the case of the Fiesta, you get a noticeably more powerful engine, nicer, sportier seats and extra bits and pieces that if you were to add separately, I reckon would far outstrip the collective premium charged.

So I have to eat a few (just a few) mouthfuls of (plain, hold the mayo) humble pie and curb my urge to foist my perceived silliness of frilliness upon you.

I was swayed big time in doing so by a few key elements in the Fiesta ST-Line model.

Now, I happen to think the Fiesta is the Volkswagen Polo's main opposition but isn't as well priced at entry level (though Ford argue it's better equipped).

I also think in small ways it lets itself down with cheap plasticky bits and pieces on some versions.

And I wasn't going to bother driving this specced-up version just because they're making a big fuss about it, but matters construed that I did.

And I'm glad because it brought several things, including buying trends, sharply into focus.

The 100PS 1-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, 6spd box and sportier suspension are the key elements in the ST-Line making it worth the effort and probably the extra few grand.

I was impressed I must say. Not by the frippery but by the dynamic drive.

This is not a hot hatch by any means - slightly tepid I would say - but for anyone who enjoys a bit of pep in their driving and a sense of dynamism from their car, this could deliver quite enough without spending silly money on something on which you'd risk penalty points.

I zipped around town a lot in it as well as several heavily-laden M50 trips. It was nippy, sure-footed, comfortable, roomy enough and always had more to offer. I did enjoy it a lot. And that's the key.

The basic Fiesta is a nice car but this puts an entirely new layer of driving difference into proceedings.

Yes it had a heated steering wheel among its options packs and a tad excessive ST badging for my liking. But as a smart, dare I say 'upmarket' motor, the ST offers a tasty option on the supermini menu.

FACTS & FIGURES

Ford Fiesta 5dr ST-Line 1-litre petrol, 100PS, 6spd, €180 road tax.

ST-Line spec: Apple Car/Android Auto, 6.5ins touchscreen, SYNC 3, two USB sockets, six speakers, Thatcham alarm, 17ins alloys, sport suspension/seats, special body kits, DRLs, sports pedals, front fogs/cornering lights, black headlining, ST-Line wing badges, rear spoiler. Options: Easy Driver pack (rear-parking sensors, etc); Comfort Pack (heated front seats, steering wheel), Driver Assistance pack: pre-collision assist, adaptive cruise.

Basic Fiesta starts: €16,650. Entry price ST-Line: €19,850. Model tested:€21,550. Plus options: €22,850.

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