Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fiesta is here

I finally took delivery of my new Ford Fiesta 1.6SXI last Saturday. It has been a long journey that started way back in 2004 when having come back from Australia, Vidya and I were decided on a car. In those days, we were staying in Mangalore and our options were a little limited due to the limited number of dealerships. Having owned the original Santro, I was set on buying a C segment car and had almost finalized on the Baleno which had just been relaunched. Somehow, I allowed myself to be talked out of it by one of my “friends” who convinced me that the cost of ownership and service would be too high. We finally ended up buying a Santro Xing. I have no complaints with the Santro, but whenever we go on a highway trip, I think wistfully about how much better it would have been in a Baleno.

Anyway, cut forward a few years. In that time, a lot has changed. With Mukund's arrival, we feel the need for a larger car, especially for outstation trips. I wasn’t too particular about it being a sedan or large hatch. So, I set about looking for various options in the 6-8l bracket. The cars I shortlisted were

1.Hyundai i20

2.Fiat Grande Punto

3.Honda City

4.Maruti SX4

The first one to be eliminated was the City. It was way outside my budget. I didn’t even want to take a test drive, because I know that none of the other cars would match up in terms of performance or refinement and I would always be thinking of what I was missing by not buying the City. Maybe at some other time, but right now the big H was out of reach.

I test drove the i20 twice. I loved its looks and the general interior quality. But the power and performance of the 1.2 l engine was disappointing. With 3 of us on board, it struggled with the acceleration. This was addressed to some extent with the diesel, but I wanted a petrol engine, as the premium for a diesel engine is not funny. They do have a 1.4l petrol version, but it only comes with the automatic transmission. So, the i20 was out as well.

Next up was the Grande Punto. I had a lot of expectations from this car. When I saw it in person, it was a disappointment. The interior space was limited and I felt that the quality of the interiors was not up to the mark. I test drove it right after launch, so the time in it was limited, but even in a brief drive, it made a very good impression. But, the quality and lack of space was a definite deal-killer. While at the Fiat-Tata showroom, I briefly looked at the Linea, but having read enough reports on how the 1.4 petrol was underpowered, I decided to hold on for the 1.6 launch.

The final car that I test drove was the SX4. I was extremely happy with the car, it looked good, handled well, had adequate power, good ground clearance etc. Then I learnt that a facelift was imminent and decided to wait it out.

I’d left out a few cars from my list for a number of reasons

Indica Vista: space inside was massive, but boot was too small, plus there was no version with airbags. I wasn't very happy with the interior quality as well

Swift Zxi: never liked the looks of the car

Aveo: one of my favourite cars lookswise, but again airbags were not available.

Fiesta: felt that it was a little too small, not much of an upgrade space wise from Santro.

So, there I was in September, without a car and in waiting mode. Waiting for the new SX4 to be launched. Then I met a friend of my wife, who’d come over with his family. I knew that he had bought a petrol Fiesta a couple of months back and was curious to find out the thinking behind his decision. I went down to have a dekko at his car. The cabin did look small, but seemed big enough for my needs. I then took the car for a small drive and was bowled over by its power (though I couldn’t really test it out as it was in the running in period) as well as its poise on the road (or what remains of it in HSR Layout). Then came the clincher, he said that as employees of a Ford supplier, he and my wife were eligible for special supplier pricing, which was almost 70K less than the regular price.

That piqued my interest and I decided to explore more. I started out naturally at my favourite timewaster automobile site team-bhp and found a world of really passionate enthusiasts who were totally in love with the Fiesta. Satisfied, I called Lathangi Motors for a test drive. I took a 15 km drive through the ORR and some of the service roads and came back totally impressed. This was followed by another round of test drive, this time with Vidya and Nisha. Ultimately, everyone was onboard that it was a good buy.

But there was still the decision on whether to go with this or wait for the SX4 to be launched and then decide. I thought about it a little bit and felt that it was just a case of putting off the decision. They were not comparable pricewise (SX4 is 8.6L OTR, I was getting Fiesta SXI for 7.5L OTR), plus SX4 would likely be even more expensive when it is relaunched. So, the Fiesta it was, a decision made not just with the heart but with the head as well.

What I liked about the car

- Looks (some may say that Fiesta looks dated, but it has a classic feel to it, especially side on, it looks very proportionate unlike other cars in its segment

- Engine power

- Ride, felt really composed over the bumpy HSR roads

- Handling

- Interiors on the SXI, those leather seats are awesome

- Loaded with airbags, ABS, chrome everything

Things that could be better

- ICE, having got used to USB/Bluetooth on my current setup, it is like going 2 years into the past. Still the sound quality is good

- Glove box space felt a little small, but I’ll know only after sustained use

- No dead pedal

Totally dissatisfied with

- Indicators, why they are on the left in a made-for-India car is beyond me

- Chrome side view mirrors (ugh)

I booked the car on Oct 12, expecting to get delivery in 2 weeks time. It was a tough choice on the colour, the white (taxi), silver (already had a silver Santro), platinum (the most common colour), morello (purplish tinge)today, red (too bright) and black (tough to maintain) were eliminated and I went for the sea grey having never seen a car in the colour. The delivery took a little longer than expected and when it finally arrived, I wasn't all that thrilled with the colour, somehow it seemed a little lighter than I expected. But I wasn't prepared to wait for another month and gave the go-ahead to register it.

We picked it up on Saturday evening, did a small pooja at the Anjaneyar kovil near our house and brought it back. Unfortunately, it was raining throughout and the car got a little messy, so I couldn't take the photos that I had planned on Sunday. That will have to wait for the cleanup this week.

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