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Ford Fiesta 1.0l EcoBoost Zetec Powershift – Driven and Reviewed

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An automatic Ford Fiesta. My engrained reaction to this would usually be one of disdain, with just a splash of derision. Auto ‘boxes have traditionally been the reserve of the more senior driver and large, officious type vehicles, being driven by large, officious type people, in their large, officious type business suits, eating their large………you get the idea.

No more manual?

ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_gearstickAll this could be about to change, though. Many people within the industry have referred to their crystal balls and predicted that the manual ‘box and it’s vice-like grip on the on the market may be coming to and end. Advances in gearbox technology such as double clutches like this one here, and CVT have seen the clutch pedal become slightly less common, even in Europe where we’ve subtly sniggered for years at the USA’s anxious aversion to ‘driving stick’.

If Ford have got it right, this ‘Powershift’ Fiesta should be as good as any more diminutive automatic car, then. The engine is their much-lauded EcoBoost three cylinder unit in 100PS guise; a power source that seemingly knows no bounds and marches on in its mission to change the world. The manual variant of this car is a world-beater; the Fiesta is Britain’s top-selling nameplate and with good reason (read the review here). Great place to start, then, but by taking away the need to change gear, have Ford lost anymore of the Fiesta’s appeal in the process? ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_display

Refined and Smooth

The Powershift gearbox is refined enough; there’s no clunky, head-jarring up-changes, and it goes upwards from cog to cog with little fuss and in near silence. Higher gears are hung onto a touch too long when going back down through the range which takes a little of the fun out of cornering, but there is the option to change down yourself via a switch – this may detract from the point somewhat, though. Creeping slowly through traffic amplifies the nature of the three-cylinder engine, and there is a ‘put-put‘ feel under 5mph. Any quicker and the engine is as refined and characterful as usual, doing whatever’s asked of it dutifully. There’s even a ‘Sport’ mode available; select this and you’ll be amazed at how quickly 99bhp can propel what isn’t a tiny car anymore, whilst still giving a smooth ride.

Sounds Perfect!!……..

So, it’s business as usual with the trustworthy Fiesta, and you don’t even have to change gear yourself. Sounds too good to be true – surely every model will be this way from now on and the manual ‘box will soon become a thing of the past. Maybe not though – there are a couple of downsides to this added convenience.

………Oh

One age-old drawback of automatic ‘boxes was always the reduction in economy, and it still rings true here. Combined MPG drops from an impressive 65.7 to a slightly-less-so, 57.7, and CO2 rises from 99g/km to 114g/km. This, of course, takes the car into the realms of *shock-horror* paying VED, or road tax. Let’s put this into perspective here though; it’s still only in band C, which will lighten your purse by a measly £30 per annum, so nothing to lose any sleep over.

The addition of the auto ‘box isn’t the only reason for the Powershift’s drop in economy, though. The fact that it loses Stop/Start may not make that much of a difference in the real world, but it does affect things when the powers-that-be measure emissions. Ford themselves state that it’s not financially viable at this stage to add Stop/Start to the Fiesta but, for me, that’s not giving it a fighting chance. If the car proves popular enough, expect Stop/Start to suddenly appear further down the line.ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_red_side

The other slight issue comes down to the price. With the manual ‘box, the Fiesta EcoBoost 5dr in Zetec trim is available from £14,195 at time of writing. Opt for this auto, and you’ll have to part with a slightly dizzying £15,445; that’s a very expensive gearbox, especially when it’ll also incur the extra running costs I mentioned earlier. It’s still cheaper than some of the competition such as the automatic Clio, but once you start adding extras to this Zetec trim, the price could easily get a little silly. ford_fiesta_powershift_automatic_red_rear

 

 

Automatic gearboxes are becoming more popular, there’s no doubt about it. For now, though, I feel that it comes at slightly too high a price in this Fiesta, both in terms of outlay and driver satisfaction. If you really need or want a smaller auto, this Fiesta is still a good proposition, but you’d have to really need or want one to forego the pretty-near-perfect manual.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Fiesta 1.0l EcoBoost Zetec, Transmission – 6 speed automatic, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 99bhp, Torque – 170NM, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy57.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 112 mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £15,795 OTR, £17,390 as tested

For full details, go to; http://www.ford.co.uk

New Vauxhall Corsa – First Drive at UK Launch

How important is this?

Just to put into context how important the Corsa is to Vauxhall’s grand plan for the UK – in the last year, they shifted over 84K units – that’s more than the sum total of every model sold by some very respected manufacturers including Skoda and Fiat. Quite important then.

What’s new?

New_Vauxhall_Corsa_3_door_front_yellowErm, a lot. Every body-panel, everything forward of the A-post – including a new range of engines, and most of the interior. Vauxhall haven’t just tarted up an old model with this one, there’s some real effort and thought gone into this New Corsa. They’ve continued with the 3dr and 5dr options and their very different body shapes and target markets; the 3dr, or ‘coupe’ has a more sloping roofline which does eat into the rear headroom slightly, and is aimed at 25-35 year olds; the 5dr is the more sensible option and is expected to find homes on the driveways of 45-55 year olds who may be downsizing. Apparently, one of the major faults highlighted by the JD Power Survey in the previous Corsa was its propensity to come over all tropical and steam-up. To combat this, Vauxhall have made a heated front windscreen standard across the range. They have been listening.

Looking good

New_Vauxhall_Corsa_5_doorAs I said, every single body panel is new on this model; it’s still obviously a Corsa, and very much part of the Vauxhall family, a fact down in no small part to some features that have been borrowed from its siblings. There’s the striking ‘blades’ that run along the bottom of the doors – they’re found on both Adam and Astra. There’s the split front chin that widens the whole look of the ‘face’ – that’s taken from the Cascada. Vauxhall have quite cleverly borrowed from themselves to formulate what’s a cutting edge look whilst being instantly recognisable.

Life on the inside

New-Vauxhall_Corsa_interiorEverything’s been shifted from a vertical approach to a horizontal slant inside the New Corsa. There’s the ‘ever-so-of-the-moment‘ piano black plastic available, sweeping across most of the dash, with a flash of colour inserted that differs from spec to spec. The central touchscreen is lifted straight from the Adam – no bad thing as it’s easy to use and allows options or ‘apps’ to be added at relatively low-cost – just like a smart phone. The heater controls are slightly clumsy and aren’t quite as cutting edge as the rest of the dash, but gone is the cheap plastic steering wheel from Corsas of old – in its place is a chunky, tactile leather affair that’s far more satisfying, although the position of the steering column stalks require some hand repositioning to operate, which isn’t ideal. It’s easy to get a more low-slung, involving driving position than in previous Corsas, if that’s your kind of thing. What isn’t easy is getting the seats to provide optimum comfort, and the taller driver may find long journeys a touch taxing.

On the road

There’s quite a few engine options in the New Corsa, a few of them having been carried over from the previous generation. There is a 1.3 Diesel available, but the emphasis is undoubtedly on petrol power, and in particular that slightly left-field genre of engine that’s seemingly sweeping aside all laid before it – the three-cylinder. We road tested the 1.4l 4 cylinder and the turbo-charged 1.0l triple in 115ps guise, and it’s the latter that wins through on many levels. GM have by no means missed the boat with three-cylinder engines and haven’t either rushed one out or outsourced from another manufacturer, what they seem to have been doing is biding their time and making sure theirs picks up where others left off and improved the recipe.

It might not be quite as efficient as Ford’s EcoBoost unit (57.6mpg vs 65.7mpg), but by adding something called a balancer shaft, the engine is so smooth at both idle and high revs that it’s almost unrecognisable as a three-cylinder. Change-up indicators are frequently over-optimistic and can result in some shuddering as the fun is drained from your driving experience; not so with this clever little power-plant. Vauxhall claim that 90% of its maximum torque comes in at 1500rpm, and it’s all available at just 1800rpm. What this means in the real world is that you can keep your driving style nice and relaxed with the minimum of gear changes, safe in the knowledge that the car will pick up speed with hardly any fuss. New_Vauxhall_Corsa_3_door_rear_yellow

The Corsa’s new chassis components have altered the handling and ride over the last model, and in certain aspects it’s all very grown up. The suspension soaks up bumps admirably but the whole car does have a tendency to bounce and rebound over more uneven, changeable surfaces. On the other hand though, put the New Corsa on a motorway  and it feels far more comfortable and competent than a B-segment car has any right to; it’s more B+ than B. The electronic power steering still feels a touch wooly at times with not quite enough feedback and weightiness, but it’s surely the simplest of tasks to alter this when sportier models such as the VXR and Sting R are released further down the line.

If you are considering the New Corsa, it’s definitely worth knowing that Vauxhall have dropped their prices by an average of £1500 compared to the outgoing model. Perhaps more pertinently, this makes it roughly £1000 cheaper than the equivalent Fiesta.

By Ben Harrington

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