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.
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.