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Auto gearbox is far too eager to please

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

29 June 2009
Ford Fiesta 1.4i Style+ Auto

What is it?

This is the new Ford Fiesta fitted with a Durashift automatic transmission, which exists because the company estimates one in ten small car buyers want a self-shifter. It is exactly the same transmission as fitted in the previous generation Fiesta, and is only available with the new 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine.

The Durashift auto uses a hydraulically controlled system of clutches and is managed by its own electronic control system called Transmission Control Module (TCM). Ford says TCM is able to read the amount of pressure being applied to the fly-by-wire throttle and will adjust the gear changes depending on driving style.

That means that under enthusiastic driving the gearbox will change later and faster, while it will switch cogs earlier if only a small amount of throttle is being used. By moving the lever to the right there is also a Tiptronic-style manual selector.

The auto Fiesta comes in three different levels of trim - Style+, Zetec and Titanium – with the Style+ version we tried coming with a few goodies like heated windscreen and air-conditioning.

What’s it like?

It’s no secret that the new Fiesta is a good car and the auto version has the same blend of funky styling inside and out, questionable blue dashboard aside. Considering the car’s futuristic interior the auto’ lever itself looks perhaps a tiny bit dated, or at least a little sober in this environment.


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The Fiesta rides well for a small car and is immediately comfortable thanks to a good driving position, so the thought of letting the gearbox do the work automatically is not immediately unappealing.

Unfortunately, after a few miles what should be a relaxing experience becomes the opposite. The four-speed auto changes smoothly but seems far too eager to drop a cog at the faintest whiff of throttle. Sneeze and it will change down two gears.

As the 'box doesn’t have a “sport” setting, and the Fiesta isn’t exactly a fire-cracker (0-60mph in 13.9 seconds), it seems like a sportiness has been engineered in to make the car more lively.

Hold the throttle down without kickdown and intriguingly it will hold the car to, and on, the rev limiter. Often the ‘box will change down into a gear leaving the engine spinning at an noisy 5500rpm. All this seems to be against the nature of having an automatic, and especially against the nature of those in the market for an automatic Fiesta.

Often with autos with manual modes it is best to leave them in “D”, but this is often not the case with the Fiesta. It doesn’t change particularly quickly but on many roads progress will be smoother when you are doing the work yourself.

It will also allow you to wring a bit more enjoyment out of the excellent chassis set-up, which strikes a good balance between lively handling and a pliant ride.

Ford says the new Fiesta’s lighter body, around 40kg less than the car it replaces, means the auto-equipped car still delivers an admirable 43.4mpg and a CO2 rating of 154g/km.

Should I buy one?

If you want a Fiesta and an auto ’box then yes, because this is the only one. However, the car would work better with more power and a less change-happy nature, and perhaps it would be worth considering the seven-speed VW Polo 1.4 as an alternative.

Ollie Stallwood

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Join the debate


29 June 2009

I said it when autocar ran the story about this car being released and I'll say it again:

Why haven't Ford paired the autobox with the 1.6 petrol? The North American Fiesta is the 1.6 with an autobox - so standardise the range, save money. The 1.6 would be faster, torquier and generally better - while if you look at the manual car it barely uses any more fuel than the 1.4. It would cost a fair whack more to buy, but partly because Ford refuse to sell the 1.6 as anything but "Titanium" and "Zetec S". A 1.6 zetec (manual or automatic) would be an instant hit...

29 June 2009

Wonder what happened to the automated manual they had in the last Fiesta? I thought that it was going to be extremely difficult to meet emissions regs with conventional small automatics in the future.

1 July 2009

It should be noted that the 2011 Fiesta for the North American market will NOT use the Durashift automatic. It will instead use a dry-clutch version of the new Powershift dual-clutch transmission; indeed, Ford is setting up a new assembly line with Getrag's assistance to build this new transmission at a plant not far from Ford's planned Fiesta assembly line just outside Mexico City.

1 July 2009

[quote Sacto8221]It should be noted that the 2011 Fiesta for the North American market will NOT use the Durashift automatic. It will instead use a dry-clutch version of the new Powershift dual-clutch transmission; indeed, Ford is setting up a new assembly line with Getrag's assistance to build this new transmission at a plant not far from Ford's planned Fiesta assembly line just outside Mexico City.

Ah, thank you - I had not seen that. So... in 2011 will we get the 1.6 with the powershift transmission? Ford knows it makes sense...

31 May 2013

lovely model. i drived this car 2 years. highly recommended (used model is cheap currently)

24 May 2014
This brand new Ford is overall a good car. In this car more attention given to its transmission part and I think it is a auto implementing nature car. I am saying this because as I have read that the transmission control module which is also termed as TCM is able to read automatically the pressure that is being applied to the fly-by-wire throttle and can adjust the gear depending on the driving style. So, these German cars are really going to be user friendly day by day. But, yes this does not mean that the user friendly cars do not need any maintenance. They do need maintenance as well as servicing else they can behave worst. There are several German auto repair center we can find out but, our German car needs to be served by the best repair center possible. So, it is we the car owners have to decide where our beautiful friend gets proper repair and servicing.

5 June 2014
New Ford Fiesta is the new branded car that is completely having new look as well as it has all the facilities in it. People prefer German car because of the look and the proper look is updated with the well developed parts. Now Ford automobile also updated the luxurious parts in the Fiesta and it is coming to market in a look. The manual servicing of this service also very simple and you can do it properly. If you are facing problem in your BMW car then visit to any of the servicing center and resolve the problem.

10 June 2014
Ford is one of the most popular auto brand names among others. It is basically known for its modern features and specifications; so here we have found a new invention by Ford Fiesta. "Ford Fiesta 1.4i" is basically known for its fair performance, better mileage; so among small cars we have found Ford Fiesta is quite enough popular now days.

2 July 2014
In auto industry, every car company lunch the new model cars with good look. Ford also lunch a new model car with new technology and features, they make the changes in all things with good look.

28 August 2014
Ford is a brand making many cars with latest features using advanced technology. Recently the company has launched a new model Ford Fiesta 1.4i. It's a car having petrol engine with a unique facility of automatic transmission. The car gives more efficiency & performance. The car requires regular checkup & maintenance for better running of the engine.

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