I read so many car reviews online that I thought I’d attempt one myself, however as the number of cars I have actually driven can be counted on one hand I am going to go back to first car I ever drove…well second actually, but the first I actually owned.
At the tail end of the 1980’s Ford’s product line up was starting to appear pretty dated against many of its competitors; fleet favourite Sierra had been a revolutionary design when it had first arrived on the market but was still RWD and facing the much more modern Cavalier and 405. The Escort had a similar problem, and the Fiesta had barely been changed since its introduction in 1979 and also lacked an all-important 5dr option.
Revealed in late ’88, the Mk 3 had a much more modern design (although suspiciously similar to Peugeot’s successful rival, the 205), and whilst critics bemoaned the fact that the cars underpinnings were very similar to its aged predecessor’s the car went on to become extremely successful and sold several million over its 8 year production run.
I was given my 1995 1.1 Fiesta a mere 14 years after it had rolled off of the production line, but given its somewhat curvaceous shape and cheery bright red paint work it appeared pretty modern and ready for duty. Inside was a little less contemporary; hard and scratchy plastics appeared abit worn and the heater/fan controls could quite easily be pulled off-not that I tried but the knobs did not appear to have been attached with any sort of glue. My biggest gripe was the lack of a working radio; as a base spec model I assume that the car was not produced with one, and the aftermarket one in the dash did not work (something which helped contribute to the cars untimely demise…more later). Seats were pretty shapeless too but ride comfort seemed pretty good from what I can remember and the boot was large compared to many contemporary superminis I have travelled in.
Handling prowess became a characteristic of subsequent Ford models, yet the Mk 3 Fiesta was never praised as much as its rivals in regards to how it drove. However as a first time driver it seemed pretty tidy, even though it lacked power steering! Performance however was pretty painful…a 1.1 litre engine with a mere 50bhp is never going to be a drag racer, much less so when loaded up with family, friends or uni supplies. Top speed is cited as just 89mph…which surprises me as I must have reached nearly that speed on my jaunts up and down the M1/M6 in those care free days when petrol cost under £1 a litre. On the note of fuel economy, I cannot say that I ever bothered to calculate any figures but realistically 35-40mpg was easily achievable as the car was a feather-weight even with such a tiny powerplant.
In terms of negatives the car had quite a few notable ones, but probably more related to my car in particular and its age than anything which might have put any original buyers off. The red paintwork stayed pretty clean, but non-metallic reds have a tendency to discolour in sunlight and even with my T-cut applications, the rear 3/4 of the car always looked abit shabby. Rust is another commonly cited problem with older cars and it came to no surprise that there were several spots of it around the car, especially around the fuel cap (a common issue on these cars apparently). Finally, my car appeared to be missing a seal around the driver’s door…and although it did not let in any water it did mean a high level of road noise, which when combined with the unrefined little engine made motorway speeds pretty unenjoyable.
Ultimately it was this last issue which helped contribute to the death of the car. When it was given to me (gratis) by a family friend, I was warned that the car had a thirst for oil and as a result I always had to carry a bottle of oil in the boot, to my annoyance. I evidently did not listen to the advice to regularly check the oil level after completing a long journey, as on the 17th of November 2008, in rainy Monday morning rush hour traffic on the M6, the engine ran out of oil and died. I might have been able to hear the warning signs had I not had my headphones in…my new iPhone did not have speakers loud enough to drown out the road noise at 70mph and so I stupidly chose to listen to with headphones anyway. It was put on an AA truck and taken to a garage in Stoke where I was able to say one last goodbye…the car was beyond economical repair and so after a mere 10 months of my first car I was back to taking public transport (for a couple of months anyway).
I guess alongside a rather rose-tinted review of a near 2-decade old car, I am trying to implore any readers to look after not just their first car, but any that they might own, so that they do not look back in regret to their ownership experience. On that rather maudlin note I’m going to leave this post here!