I know how the new Fiesta drives. It’s agile, it has a grippy front end that turns in well, it has really absorbent damping and corners with clarity-packed, involving neutrality. The steering is also confident and direct, without being darty, snatchy or vague.
How do I know this? Have I had an exclusive first drive of the new Ford?
No. I sat in one at the British International Motor Show.
Now, you’re thinking, you’ve heard it all. Journalist forms road test from car he’s merely sat in? Shock-horror overload. Fear not, though. I’m not doing that.
Instead, I’m reflecting something that Ford spends massive amounts of time (and money) engineering into its cars. Namely, the ‘showroom feel’.
By carefully calculating the position of the seat, the pedals and the steering wheel, the height of the gearshift, the firmness and thickness of the seats and steering wheel, even the grade of the leather covering the wheel and the shape and finish of the gearlever, Ford can give all its cars a ‘signature’.
Switch between any Ford in the showroom, goes the thinking, and all exhibit the same intangible family ‘feel’.
The Fiesta is, thus, very much a Ford. And, as we know, Fords generally handle brilliantly, ride really well, have fine steering, lovely gearshifts and a general impression of fluid, friction-free motion. These impressions ‘stick’, so whenever I get in something that ‘feels’ like a Ford, these sensations spring to life.
I certainly did at the Motor Show, anyway, which is where all this really struck me.
It goes further, too. As all this is present in the Focus ST, which is fantastic, it means a Fiesta driver can test-drive one, be blown away – yet go back to their model not disappointed. OK, the power is less, the engine burble not quite as throaty. But all the sensations they felt in the sporty model will be there in the shopping hatch. And a similar control layout and driving environment ‘feel’ will underline this to them.
This is clever psychology at play, far beyond the scope of me. They’re canny, these car manufacturers…