CLEAN GREEN & MEAN
Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic sets new standards for emissions and fuel economy amongst small cars. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
No other small car can match Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic when it comes to green credentials and low running costs. Thanks to various eco-upgrades and the introduction of an Auto-Start-Stop system, the headline figures are a CO2 showing of just 87g/km and a combined fuel economy figure of 85.6mpg. It's all enough to make a mockery of some other makers' 'eco' model efforts.
Ford may not have been first on the eco motoring bandwagon but they're certainly pushing it forward now. This Fiesta ECOnetic represents the summit of their achievements in this respect, with a set of running cost returns you might expect from a super-frugal hybrid. The idea is to offer a compelling choice for consumers who are increasingly concerned about CO2 emissions.
One of the key reasons behind this Fiesta's outstanding fuel economy actually lies in the fitment of a feature you'll find on all current Fiestas, Ford's clever electric power steering system, EPAS. Going this route was one the engineers were loath to take: many previous electric systems after all, had a reputation for giving back all the driver feel of a PlayStation and it was important that this car retained its reputation as the enthusiast's choice in the supermini class. Ford though, were confident that they could do better - and in any case they needed to. Achieving the sub-100g/km target set for variants like the ECOnetic would require the kind of fuel-saving assistance offered by the electric steering concept. Moreover, it was clear from customer feedback that the heavy steering feel of the old Fiesta's traditional hydraulic power-assist system when parking and around town could not be repeated. The EPAS system delivers its fuel savings by operating only when steering assistance is required and deactivating when not, thereby reducing the power it consumes from the engine and the fuel it requires. This compares favourably to a traditional hydraulic pump, which operates continuously once the car's ignition is engaged. As for steering feel, well 50,000kms of development road work went into making sure that the set-up offered a new standard for steering systems of this type. The result on the move isn't perfect but it will satisfy most potential buyers, who'll like the direct feel, the way the system copes with road camber changes and the tighter 10.2 metre turning circle.
Design and Build
So how exactly has Ford been able to steal such a march on rivals, nearly all of whom claim to be able to sell us 'green' versions of their small cars? Probably, the short answer is that the Blue Oval has made a bit more of an effort. Other makers do little more than fit a set of skinny tyres and throw in some low viscosity oil to create their 'eco' models. Ford go a little further. There's a lower ride height for example, the Fiesta ECOnetic borrowing the sporty Zetec S model's lower suspension, which improves aerodynamic efficiency. There are aerodynamic improvements too with wheel deflectors and aerodynamic wheel covers. The EPAS fuel saving power steering system plays its part. And of course there are the inevitable fuel-saving low-rolling-resistance tyres in economical 175/65R14 profile. More recent versions of this model have gone further still adding an Auto-Start-Stop system, revised gear ratios, engine upgrades, an 'eco' driving model, smart regenerative charging and improved efficiency of the air conditioning, cooling fan and alternator. Otherwise, it's the usual seventh generation Fiesta package. The trendy 'kinetic' styling creates a dynamic look, even when the car's stationary. That's not a recipe for class-leading interior space - and so it proves - but what's on offer should be quite adequate for most. There's reasonable, if not outstanding, stowage space, the boot capable of swallowing 295 litres (or 979 litres with the seats folded) and ingenious storage areas abound throughout the cabin, including charging points for mobile 'phones and MP3 players.Otherwise, it's the usual seventh generation Fiesta package. The trendy 'kinetic' styling creates a dynamic look, even when the car's stationary. That's not a recipe for class-leading interior space - and so it proves - but what's on offer should be quite adequate for most. There's reasonable, if not outstanding, stowage space, the boot capable of swallowing 295 litres (or 979 litres with the seats folded) and ingenious storage areas abound throughout the cabin, including charging points for mobile 'phones and MP3 players.
Market and Model
Ford is now offering a wider range of trim choices with this car - Edge, Zetec and Titanium. With the one engine on offer, there's the usual choice of either three or five doors. In case you're wondering about the premium for an ECOnetic model over a standard 1.6 TDCi Fiesta, the ECOnetic model is actually the cheapest way into this engine (with a normal Zetec 1.6 TDCi costing around £800 more). Equipment-wise, all the basics are there. That means ESP, ABS, air conditioning, power steering, electric windows, an immobiliser, front, side and knee airbags, a CD player with wheel-mounted controls, central locking and electric, heated mirrors. There are nice touches too: we particularly liked the EasyFuel cap-less refuelling.
Cost of Ownership
The ECOnetic Fiesta comes only with one engine choice. You won't be shocked to learn that it's a diesel but you might be surprised to find that it's the more powerful of the two units that Ford offers with this car. Under the bonnet lies a specially calibrated version of the 1.6-litre, 94bhp Duratorq TDCi engine featuring a complicated longer final-drive-ratio that I won't trouble you with. What's more important are the running cost results, headlined by that 85.6mpg combined fuel economy figure and the 87g/km CO2 return. For comparison, a Fiesta 1.4 TDCi, with 15bhp less, manages 68.9mpg and 107g/km. You see then, the differences that the ECOnetic tweaks make. Key amongst these is the introduction of an Auto-Start-Stop system to cut then engine when you don't need it, say waiting at the lights or stuck in traffic. A no-maintenance, coated Diesel Particulate Filter (c-DPF) is also fitted, designed to regenerate automatically during normal driving conditions. We've heard stories in other cars of DPFs clogging up during prolonged urban use, so bear that in mind if you're not able to blow the cobwebs out on a dual carriageway every so often.
The Fiesta ECOnetic sets a new standard for small car running costs, it's as simple as that. It's astonishing that such a relatively simple package of improvements can have such a profound overall effect. With the new standard set, it'll be interesting to see how long it takes the opposition to catch up.