Can a 13-year-old Ford Fiesta be a viable daily runabout?
Collecting a notionally clean and well-equipped ‘oldie’ to operate for a few months filled Iain Robertson with intrepidation (and nervousness), not least because his predominant experiences of the past 40 years have been with brand new cars.
My first surprise was using public transport (the train) to travel from my Lincolnshire home to London. The LNER First Class service was actually far better than I had expected and proved a point that not travelling ‘steerage’ would amortise the trip costs; all food and drink was completely free. As the first time in over 20 years that I have travelled by train in the UK, I was satisfied with seat comfort, the speed of the service (1hr 30m, from Newark to London) and the quality of the catering, all for less than £40.
Collected from Kings Cross Station by the good friend lending me the baby, three-door Ford, after a 40 minutes’ drive to the Heathrow side of London, I determined that I should set off immediately on the homeward-bound trek (less traffic, less hassle). The petrol tank was full, levels and pressures had been declared as okay, which left me to familiarise myself with the controls and pedal layout. At 11.00pm, in winter darkness, it was a staccato exercise…if only for a couple of miles.
The M25 (N) flowed well. I joined the M1 (N) because the A1 was closed (for an undisclosed reason). Little did I realise that around 68 miles of the multi-lane motorway were in single lane state…with speed restrictions ranging from 30mph to 60mph. I arrived home, 187 miles later, at 2.15am. It had been a trek. Fortunately, the car was running as sweet as nut, cruising comfortably and stably at an indicated 65-75mph where feasible, belying its 81,200 posted miles (an annual average of around 6,500, which suggests only short trips had been previous owners’ intentions).
Pleasantly weighted power steering, positive, all-square brakes, good tyre grip and decent suspension damping were immediate points earners. The multi-speed wipers and electric washers cleared the front and rear screens efficiently and, with both heated rear and heated front screens, allied to air conditioning, this Style trim Ford had been well-specified from the outset. The Visteon Ford in-car entertainment system works well and provides decent grade signal reception and sound reproduction and has a working CD player.
The first task next day was to refuel and clean the car. The 1.4-litre petrol motor had consumed 18.87 litres, which equates to 51.8mpg (£25.46, Shell V-Power). However, checking the oil dipstick revealed that it was in desperate need of some lube (two litres of Helix Ultra at £21.99 each). I also treated the car to a bottle of winter screen-wash fluid (£4.45). I shall need to keep a watchful eye on the oil level, as it is something with which I have been most unfamiliar over the years. The engine’s water temperature had been a constant 90-ish degreesC, without fluctuation on the drive homewards.
Leaving the valeting task to my local Latvians, I inspected the Fiesta’s bodywork for scars and wear marks and can report that, apart from a typical light ‘ding’ in the front bumper (which might be plastic repairable), the small, cross-hatched radiator grille has been cracked and would need to be replaced. Apart from that, it is a very clean and honest small car.
Its driver’s seat is notably comfortable, despite being better suited to a driver less than my two metres stature. You have to remember that Ford had invested heavily in seat design, as so many examples of its models (including Fiesta) were supplied to the public sector, for essential users; police and emergency services, nurses, midwives and local authorities). The Valencia, Spanish-built Mark 6 model (introduced in 2002; replaced by the Mark 7 in 2008) was the UK’s best-selling car throughout its life.
When new, the 1.4-litre Fiesta, which weighed just over one tonne, promised a top speed of 103mph, 0-60mph in 12.3s and around 45mpg. Fuel injected and naturally-aspirated, the engine developed around 80bhp (91lbs ft torque). With deference to its vintage, I shall not be testing its performance envelope, which also explains its return of a most satisfactory, almost 52mpg. Mechanically, the car is sound, its under-bonnet being typically grubby but showing zero signs of leaks and no drips below. This model Fiesta had a fine reputation for reliability, which is borne out by the example that I am using.
Overall, on my early experiences with the car, it appears to be in excellent condition, with no signs of the dreaded ‘tin worm’ and virtually rattle-free. Its retail market value is around £1,500.
Likes: Timelessly tidy styling, surprisingly zesty performance, outstanding fuel economy, good stereo, moderate comfort and excellent equipment level.
Dislikes: Slightly compromising driving position (driver is just too tall!), fiddly skinny profile ignition key, unfortunate front bumper blemish, cloudy headlamp covers and a slight rattle from a worn clutch thrust bearing.
Conclusion: With plentiful examples of this model Fiesta still in daily use, parts and servicing costs will be minimal. Total miles covered: 248. Total spend: £73.89. More in a month.