Ford Fiesta Buddh Track Day
Ford Fiesta Track Day – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Ford India conducted the Fiesta Hot Wheels event at the Buddh International Circuit, which gave us a chance to witness the all new Fiesta PowerShift Automatic at its limit. This is not the first time the American automaker has taken to the track, with the company doing so previously for the Ford Fiesta 1.6 at the Chennai track. Now we have always maintained that the Ford Fiesta is a very sharp handling car (our review of the Fiesta Automatic), which pleases the driver at every turn with its point and shoot behavior. We did a couple of laps of the Fiesta on the Buddh International Circuit and came out mighty impressed, both with the Fiesta and India’s only Formula 1 track.

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This is not the first time, we have taken to the track. A couple of months ago, Dr. Javeid drove the Mercedes E63 AMG on the Buddh International Circuit (you can read all about it here). This time around, when Ford invited me to witness the Fiesta on the same circuit, I could not contain my excitement. I quickly powered on the Formula 1 2011 game on the PC and started learning the circuit and the racing lines. After landing in Delhi, it was a huge wait before I could get behind the wheel. The Buddh Circuit is quite far but the roads leading to the track are well made and makes the journey less tiresome and quick.

Ford started off with a small press conference, where the company re-iterated its commitment to the Indian market. The company talked about the eight new products by 2015, $2 billion investment and the expansion of service network. They then told us about how the Ford Fiesta PowerShift Automatic is a touch above the rest in its segment, this was something we were waiting to verify on the circuit. It was about time and we signed our decelerations and were ready to vroom.

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After strapping the seat belts and wearing the helmet, we were out on the track. I had two stints in the car, the first in D mode, while the second in L mode. Driving in D mode, the Fiesta’s dual clutch gearbox shifts gears without any urgency, ensuring mileage does not go for a toss. While in L mode, the gearbox senses urgency and shifts down to the lowest possible gear to ensure maximum torque is available to the driver. Driving in L mode is a hoot, and we are wondering why Ford does not call it the S mode.

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Initial part of the track, I was on half throttle to see how the gearbox was shifting and how the torque was being produced at low RPM’s. This also helped me make a decent gap (from the person running in front of me) before I put the pedal to the floor in the later half of the lap to unleash all 110 horses and 140 Nm of torques from the 1.5-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine. This 6-speed dual clutch (DPS6) responds to throttle input very well and shifts as per your need. As I approached the third corner, I was aware about the 1.2 km stretch which lay ahead of me. I braked early, carried the speed and floored the Ford Fiesta to the floor and boy she responded with some urgency. The revv limiter started to bounce at a little over 6500 RPM and before I knew it, I was doing 160 km/h on the straight (see below video for that). Post 140 km/h, progress becomes slow and once the Fiesta hits 160 km/h you are approaching the next corner already.

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Performance of the 1.5-litre engine is very good. There is ample thrust for day to day driving but when you are out on the track, power is never enough. Post a certain point, power starts trailing off and this has been done in the interest of fuel efficiency, which again is class leading at 16.97 km/l (as per ARAI), which is the highest for an automatic car measuring more than 4-meters in length. The manual Fiesta returns 17 km/l, which means both the automatic and manual are on par as far as fuel economy goes. Steering is quite light at low speeds and the Fiesta now features a electric power steering. This weighs up quite decently at speeds but does not give as good a feedback as the hydraulic unit.

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Ford also created a city driving situation on the track, wherein one could use the creep function. There were cones positioned in such a way, which helped to test the sharp handling of the Fiesta. Marshalls were standing with red and green flags so you could stop and move again, using the creep function. The creep function enables a driver to slowly move forward in congested city traffic without having to dab the accelerator to move ahead. Instead, the driver only needs to apply brakes and leave them to creep ahead. This just makes it easier to drive in peak time city traffic, where speeds seldom exceed 5 km/h.

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This led to the last section of the track, which was a bit technical. I got a chance to witness the high speed stability and handling of the Ford Fiesta. With the pedal floored, I was cornering at speeds in excess of 100 km/h (mind you these were not sharp corners but more like one corner leading to another). The Fiesta was quite predictable and the ESP ensured you don’t spin, but the car had severe under-steer with the tyres screeching in protest. It would slide at times but mostly front-end under-steer prevented the Fiesta to go any faster at sharp turns. The suspension felt slightly soft and this is something which can only be witnessed on the limit. The track surface is very smooth along with the fantastic suspension ensured the ride quality was amazing. The brakes are very sharp too and performed extremely well even at times when I stood on the brake pedal.

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Before we entered the pitlane, we went through a special incline and decline situation created by Ford, wherein we could use the Hill Launch Assist and Ford Grade Assist. These systems ensure easy driving on inclines and declines. The Hill Launch Assist enables the brakes for 2.5 seconds on inclines once you leave the brake pedal. This helps the driver to shift his foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal, thereby preventing roll back. Traditionally you engage the hand brake, revv a bit and dis-engage the hand brake to prevent roll back. The Ford Grade Assist on the other hand lets you drive down a decline without having to apply the brakes by enabling engine braking. You can simply activate this feature via a button on the gear lever. In traditional vehicles, you end up pumping the brakes in such situations.

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Automatic cars are known to be high on maintenance and we have heard so many stories of dual clutch gearboxes giving away after certain kms. The Fiesta’s PowerShift gearbox on the other hand is said to be absolutely trouble free and Ford claim that it requires absolutely zero maintenance for 2,40,000 kms or 10 years (which ever is earlier). This amount is almost the life of a car, so in essence what Ford is saying that you will never face any issues with the Fiesta Automatic’s transmission. Ford says the transmission is sealed for life and the reason for this is the dry clutch, which does away with the need for heavy torque converters and energy-draining oil sumps.

The price difference between the top of the line Fiesta Titanium+ manual and PowerShift automatic variants is a mere Rs. 27,000/- (ex-showroom, Delhi). Factor in the advantages offered by this dual clutch gearbox over other offerings in the segment (the Verna AT is a single clutch 4-speed gearbox and is priced the same [Rs. 11.42 lakhs on road, Mumbai] as the Fiesta Automatic). A diesel Fiesta with a PowerShift gearbox would create an instant hit for Ford but from the economic point of view, it doesn’t justify the investment. Till then, the Fiesta PowerShift Automatic is easily the best Automatic petrol car you can buy in India below Rs. 15 lakhs and that too by a long margin.

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In case some one spun off, red flags were immediately deployed and the above vehicle comes to the rescue.

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With the red flags still deployed, we waited at the pit exit to unleash the Fiesta on the track.

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Ford Fiesta On The Track

Whats Cool

  • Excellent gearbox, smooth and fast shifts
  • Revv happy and roary engine
  • Good handling
  • Sharp brakes

Whats UnCool

  • Power starts to trail off after a certain point
  • Understeer at the limit
  • Lack of paddle shifts

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