Ford Fiesta Automatic Review – Experience on Cruising at Buddh International Circuit F1 Track

Once Ford India launched their Fiesta Automatic Power Shift, they gave us a chance to experience the All new Fiesta power shift automatic on the F1 race tracks at Buddh International Circuit. Our ABI (AutoBikeIndia) team reached our capital Delhi by morning 9 Am and around 11, we were into our Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida.

Initially we were asked to register ourselves using our facebook/twitter usernames and to display our original driving license to the registration crew. After all the formalities, we were taken in to a brief presentation by Mr. Michael Boneham (the President and Managing Director at Ford India) and Mr.Nigel E.Wark (Executive Director for Marketing, Sales and Service at Ford India) of Ford India pvt ltd. We even had the race tracks explained at a slide, to ensure the safety at the track is at a maximum level.

Ford India brought their 5 All-New-Fiestas for that event. We were divided in to 5 per group and given a team names accordingly. There will be one pilot car which they insisted/instructed – not to overtake that vehicle on the track. Before presenting the key to me, a team of members asked to sign something (which I thought, it was an autograph- but hell no! it was an undertaking responsibility thing on a stamp paper!!!).

From the exterior, the new Ford Fiesta automatic is no different from it manual variant. As soon as the ignition started, the all new Fiesta came in to life with complete silence (indicates petrol!). The cars which were brought are all top notch variants of the Fords AT’s.

So, with a deep breath and clear vision (though we were forced to wear a helmet inside the car as a part of safety precautions) Already started to get a feel like a NASCAR driver – I held the steering a little firmer as if am about to race!!

As soon as the flag waved off, we started to drive the vehicle with a big grin over our face – as we were driving on an International race circuit! Keeping myself low, I started to drive the vehicle on the track with confidence increasing together with the RPM. I felt, the steering and the dynamics of the vehicle were very good even when I tried to negotiate corners at good speeds.

After a few seconds we reached a 1.2 km straight stretch where we did somewhere around 160+ on the vehicle, within a few more seconds’ corners started appearing ahead. Without nervousness, I tried pushing the car with a speed above than the normal cornering speeds to check what this vehicle has got. Surprisingly, it was very good to see how Ford has come up with good dynamics.

The race track was customized to 6-real world scenarios of driving. Even there were cones arranged on the middle of the track to simulate city driving conditions with twists at a lower rpm level. We were even introduced to a temporary ramp to check the vehicle’s hill assist and grade functionalities outside the track.

The tuning of this 6-speed power shift gearbox, the mapping and additional software assistance that has been introduced in to the power control unit ensures the fuel economy at an optimal rate. Ford officials are claiming a slight increase in the fuel economy than its manual avatar and an overall nine percent gain than the conventional 4 speed automatics.

The Ford engineers came up with a solution which the normal AT’s are struggling still to achieve. They eliminated the torque-converter and the rest things which abide the same in order to achieve a better power flow and a weight reduction of around 13kgs! Apart from the weight savings, the engineers have also introduced some algorithms to the power control module to ensure the power flow is at an optimal level under city driving conditions without shedding an extra drop of fuel.

This power shift gearbox is equipped with closely set gears – more eager to shift up and save fuel, though it holds the gear all the way near the red line – 5800 to 6000 rpm. Hit the throttle and it happily takes you to a higher gear without a frill.

The only thing I noticed is the lag in the downshift when driving at a lower rpm range. It might have been better if they have provided a paddle shifter to it, which is available in its competitors Honda. However, the Ford research result shows that only very few percent of people driving AT’s use paddle shifter’s very often.

The gear shifts are much quieter which you barely feel and also the level of refinement being offered is very good. Shift quality is very impressive and the power flow is quite steady as the gears are being shifted smoothly. There are other important add-on to this gearbox which includes first in segment Hill assist and Ford’s grade assist system. It also has a creep-forward function which I felt like a boon for city driving! The creep forward function lets you to move your car without even applying any leverage over the throttle (bumper to bumper traffic). The Hill launch assist which comes with this gearbox helps to maintain the brake pressure for about 2 to 2.5 seconds (optimal time to move your feet from brake to throttle) to move forward on a Hill stations without the risk of vehicle rolling backwards.

So, on the whole this Power shift is a sensible additional to the lineup of Fiesta. People who wanted to go for an AT should also consider this vehicle before jumping in to a conclusion. Unfortunately, this gearbox is developed especially for the 1.5 litre Ti-VCT petrol engine; an Auto for the diesel variants won’t be available.

Filed in: Drive Smart, Ford, Four Wheelers, Road Test, User Reviews Tags: ,

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