Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta ST is dead. Too niche, says Ford - no one outside the UK cares about hot little superminis. For us, the hot hatch-hooked minority, this is sad news: the new Fiesta has a cracking chassis and could be a proper flier with a bit more power than the 118bhp of the top-spec 1.6-litre engine.

Enter Mountune, Ford's official tuning arm better known Stateside as Roush, who'll take your 118bhp Fiesta Zetec S and, in exchange for about £1,300, bump it up to a healthier 138bhp with a big new exhaust system and a bunch of ECU tweaks. It won't invalidate your warranty, but it will turn your Fiesta into a noisy little scrote; a coughing, snorting, phlegming little monster that'll have you tiptoeing from traffic light to T-junction with your hoodie pulled down low over your baseball headwear, eyes set to 12 o'clock, ignoring the disapproving headshakes from suburbia's newly deafened moral guardians.

It's a car completely lacking in subtlety in the noise department. So hell, you might as well bury the accelerator, wind it up to 4,000rpm and enjoy the howling, sonorous scream of a fat-piped, naturally aspirated little four-pot battering into the redline. It sounds great.

Unfortunately, though, you won't really be going fast enough to justify all the shouting. Though the Mountune kit cuts two seconds off the Fiesta's 0-60mph time, bringing it down to 7.9 seconds, it's still well short of the proper hot superminis, the Renaultsport Clios and the Corsa VXRs. Even the last-generation Fiesta Mountune - based on the 150bhp Fiesta ST - put out 180bhp, and this newer, bigger car is a full 42bhp down. The problem is the absolute paucity of torque from the Fiesta's naturally aspirated engine, leaving you languishing in the inevitable traffic-light drag race until the Fiesta works itself into a mental, thrashing fury at the top of the rev range.

Even then, there's barely the pace to exploit the chassis. However hard you push the Mountune, it still feels not-particularly-fast. Nicely balanced, yes, a bit lairier than a standard Fiesta, yes, but just not quite enough fun to be a proper hot hatch.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with small hatches being warm rather than hot. On a semi-rational level, the Mountune makes a whole lot of sense: it's no worse on economy or emissions than the un-Mountuned Fiesta Zetec S and, if you take advantage of Ford's deals, no more expensive to insure. But such is the noise the Mountune makes about its performance credentials that it really needs to be quicker than it is. More racket than rocket, then.

Sam Philip

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