Long-term test (Introduction): Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCi Trend
Looking for a diesel-powered B-segment hatchback in South Africa? You currently have just two choices: the flagship Mazda2 and the Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCi, offered exclusively in Trend specification. Volkswagen no longer offers a TDI-badged Polo, while Hyundai’s i20 has also long since eschewed compression ignition. A sign of the times (in Europe, at least), I guess.

Unlike its self-shifting Japanese rival, the oil-burning Fiesta employs a six-speed manual transmission which requires fairly frequent stirring to keep the rather refined, four-cylinder unit in the meaty part of the rev range. Thankfully, the cog-swapper is suitably slick, while its unusually tall top ratio is best reserved for relaxed highway jaunts. With a modest 63 kW, this engine offers a little more power than its 55 kW forebear but peak torque has interestingly fallen 10 units to 175 N.m.

Of course, the upshot of combining a small turbodiesel mill with long gearing is the potential for stellar economy. The Blue Oval brand claims this power- train sips a measly 3,3 L/100 km, which would make it the most frugal conventionally powered (sans electric assistance) new car in the local market. While we certainly don’t expect our real-world figure to match Ford’s claim at the end of six months in our fleet, I’m confident the running costs will be some of the lowest we’ve seen in recent years; the consumption figure will no doubt fall once we hit the open road.

Since Ford SA has scrapped the base Ambiente trim level on the Fiesta, this Trend specification effectively forms the entry point to the line-up. That said, it’s hardly lacking in kit with items such as a 6,5-inch touchscreen (running the brand’s much-improved Sync3 system), 16-inch alloys, automatic headlamps, rear parking sensors and six airbags as standard.

Priced at a smidgen more than R300 000, the 1,5 TDCi Trend derivative slots neatly into the middle of the range. It’s worth noting that just R4 000 more buys you the flagship 1,0 EcoBoost Titanium manual with extra equipment – a larger touch- screen, a posher sound system and bigger wheels – as well as a livelier powertrain that allows enthusiastic drivers to exploit the top-notch chassis.

That said, these two derivatives do appeal to vastly different buyers. While the Fiesta line-up is decidedly mainstream, the diesel variant talks to a far smaller pool of potential owners. But, with the unrelenting price of fuel, that audience is likely to grow and the Fiesta is well placed to take advantage of this. I simply can’t wait to find out just how frugal it can be.

After 1 month
Current mileage:
395 km
Average fuel consumption: 5,88 L/100 km
We like: low running costs
We don’t like: polyurethane steering wheel

Long-term test (Update 1): Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCI Trend

While the seventh-generation Fiesta shares its underpinnings with its predecessor, their cabins are worlds apart. This latest model gains a much-improved facia ditching its forebear’s button-festooned centre console in favour of a touchscreen (measuring 6,5 inches in the case of our Trend model) running Sync3 infotainment software. 

Although the facia’s layout and retention of physical buttons for frequently used functions are appreciated, the overly basic trip computer screen in the instrumentation appears out of step with the rest of the cabin. 

After 2 months
Current Mileage: 
1 411 km
Average fuel consumption: 
5,74 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 2): Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCI Trend

In what feels like a mere blink of an eye, the Fiesta has scurried to the halfway point of its stopover in the CAR garage. Surprisingly, I’ve become increasingly fond of its diesel engine despite initially feeling it was too short of breath. 

Of course, I slipped behind the wheel of the Ford towards the end of my time with a certain German SUV’s silky smooth, petrol V6, which no doubt coloured my impressions of the Blue Oval’s four-cylinder oil-burner. Yet, the more I pilot this polished hatchback, the more my driving style adapts to suit what is a fairly unusual powerplant for this segment. In short, I’ve now become accustomed to the quirks of both the small-capacity diesel mill – strangely, it does without the stop/start system employed by the petrol Fiestas – and the long-legged, six-speed manual transmission that connects it to the front axle. My warming to the Fiesta’s under-bonnet oily bits had me thinking: how many potential buyers of vehicles with fairly unfamiliar powertrains write them off after only a short test drive? 

It’s only lately I’ve become truly adept at keeping the 63 kW TDCi mill humming away in its narrow power band; riding the wave of torque from the bottom of each gear when negotiating slow-moving traffic and taking full advantage of the tall sixth ratio once the tarmac ahead has cleared. The result? A further improvement in fuel economy, despite the Fiesta spending the majority of its time creeping along Cape Town’s notoriously congested road network. 

So, what’s the moral of the story? If you’re considering buying a vehicle quite dissimilar to your current car, spend as much time behind the wheel of the potential purchase as you possibly can (jump from dealer to dealer, if you must) before making a decision. 

After 3 months
Current mileage:
 2 552 km
Average fuel consumption: 5,26 L/100 km
We like: improvement in fuel economy
We don’t like: lack of hidden storage compartments

 

Long-term test (Update 3): Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCI Trend

While the Fiesta’s Sync3 infotainment system (now boasting the option to integrate Waze) is one of the slickest in the segment, I have unearthed a rather annoying quirk. Each time I connect my (admittedly decrepit) iPhone via Bluetooth, the system automatically hikes the smartphone’s ringer volume to maximum. Since my phone is often set to silent, this isn’t much of a problem. But if (or, more accurately, when) I forget to manually drop the ringer volume, my alarm wails at full blast early the next morning. This has made me somewhat unpopular with my wife. 

 

After 4 months
Current mileage:
 4 363 km
Average fuel consumption: 4,99 L/100 km

 

Long-term test (Update 4): Ford Fiesta 1,5 TDCI Trend

The average buyer probably doesn’t give much thought to where they plonk their bottom each time they slip in behind the wheel. Seats are seats, right? Well, not really. The Trend-spec Fiesta’s slim-back driver’s perch, for instance, is particularly soft, which renders it terrifically comfortable on fairly short trips (the pay-off, though, is a little less support than you might hope for on longer journeys). Furthermore, the pilot’s pew can be dropped pleasingly low, which together with ample adjustment on the steering column and a height-variable seatbelt, makes it a cinch to dial in the ideal driving position. 

After 5 months
Current mileage:
 4 853 km
Average fuel consumption: 4,83 L/100 km