Long-term test: Ford Fiesta SportVan - October 2010

Date: Friday, October 01, 2010

Having lived with a Fiesta SportVan for the last twelve months we can categorically state that it is the most fun van we have ever had the pleasure of living with for an extended period.

Okay, it’s not exactly the biggest load-carrier on the road, but it’s ideal for the cut and thrust of the modern urban environment as well as being totally at home on the motorway. Something brought home to us in a dramatic fashion earlier this year.
When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull erupted in April a member of the team was due to spend a couple of weeks in Southern Spain to celebrate a family member’s 75th birthday. The flights were cancelled at the last minute, but help was at hand in the shape of the Fiesta.
Ferry tickets were bought, Ford e-mailed the documentation and off he set. Two weeks and 5,000km later he was back in the UK, the trip in each direction having taken two days. The Fiesta had sat at 130kph for hour upon hour uncomplaining and the really good news was the fuel consumption; an average of 47mpg.

 

Diesel Delight

Fiesta SportVan is available solely with the Dagenham-built 1.6-litre TDCi Duratorq common rail turbodiesel under the bonnet. Maximum power hits the mark at 4,000rpm and it develops 204Nm of peak torque at 1,750rpm. The official CO2 output is rated at 110g/km and the front wheels are driven via a five-speed manual gearbox. There is currently no six-speeder or a semi-auto ‘box.
Suspension is MacPherson struts at the front with dampers, springs and an anti-roll bar, and a torsion beam arrangement at the rear with springs and dampers. Ride height is lowered on the SportVan, the springs and dampers are stiffer and it rides on five-spoke 16in alloy wheels fitted with low profile 45 tyres.
Brakes are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. All Fiesta Vans feature ABS as standard, but the top-of-the-range SportVan also has ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) which incorporates traction control. It’s an option on the rest of the range.
The standard power steering is electric rather than hydraulic and with 2.6 turns lock-to-lock it offers a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 10.2m.

 

Load Area

No one is going to buy a Fiesta Van for its capacious load abilities, but with a load length of 1,296mm, width between the wheel boxes of one metre, 1.0m3 of space and a gross payload of 490kg it’s on a par with the competition. Four sturdy recessed load tie-down rings are supplied and the load floor is covered in a fitted, rubberised mat. Anyone requiring a bigger load cube will have to look at the next size category of van, ably represented by the likes of the  Citroën Nemo and Renault Kangoo Compact.

 

Cab Comfort

Opting for SportVan variant brings a few extra useful toys to the party, on top of the remote central locking, electric windows, heated and folding door mirrors, heated windscreen, front fog lamps, trip computer and auto wipers/headlights found on the Trend.
On top of this you get a leather-trimmed steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and voice control for the radio/CD (MP3) player — all models feature remote controls on the steering wheel — manual air conditioning, knee/side airbags, in addition to the standard driver and passenger airbags, and an active headrest for the driver, a colour-coded body kit which includes a rear roof spoiler and last, but not least, sports seats.
The last items proved to be a real boon on the Spanish dash. Twelve hours behind the wheel can take its toll if the seats aren’t up to the job. Thankfully the sports seats fitted to our long-termer provided bags of support, including good lateral hold. A superb driving position also played its part.
For a van of this size the in-cab storage is not bad. There’s a big, segmented drop-down glovebox, half-length bins in the doors and mouldings next to the handbrake to accommodate a couple of drinks and a small bottle of water.
A single 12v power socket sits just in front of the gearstick and next to it there’s a 3.5mm AUX IN socket to plug in an iPod or MP3 player.
Something else that came in really handy on the Spanish jaunt.
However, Fiesta really could do with two power points as standard; one for the TomTom and one for the iPhone. Using a socket doubler is an untidy solution.

 

On the Road

The short gearstick is positioned well off the floor to minimise the distance from the steering wheel and the ’change quality is slick, positive and well weighted.
As should be expected the ride is on the hard side, but this is not a negative as it means the SportVan’s handling is significantly sharper than that of the standard models; not that it’s bad, it’s just a little on the soft side. Ride and handling will always be a compromise, but we like Ford’s approach on this van. The lowered suspension and stiffer springs mean that SportVan corners flat with little body roll and combined with the low profiles endow it with an amazing amount of grip.
The electric power steering is one of the better systems we have come across, but it still lacks the ultimate feedback and weighting of a hydraulic system, although turn-in is sharp and positive.
If anything, the braking system goes way beyond what is necessary for a van of this weight and performance. They are quite simply stunning.
One area that is streets ahead of the previous model is noise levels. Ford has made huge advances in all areas of noise suppression and it makes the latest Fiesta a pleasure to drive over long distances.
The positioning of the controls and instrumentation is ergonomically sound and we particularly welcome Ford’s approach to the size of the
controls for the infotainment system. They are designed for adults, not kids.
There are a few neat convenience features which deserve a mention. The rear wiper activates automatically when reverse is selected, Ford’s EasyFuel capless refuelling system means that the wrong fuel can’t be put in the tank and the auto rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights, although not essential, are well worth having.
The door mirrors can be programmed to fold in automatically when the central locking is activated and we applaud the fitment of auto activation of the hazard lights under heavy braking.
The only two optional extras fitted to our long-termer were metallic paint and reversing sensors at £250 each. The latter are a bit unnecessary on a van of this size for that money.
Overall fuel consumption during the year averaged out at a tad short of 50mpg, but if driven slightly less enthusiastically, or if a sixth overdrive gear was supplied, somewhere in the mid 50s should be possible.
Like all Fiesta Vans the SportVan comes with a three-year/60,000 miles warranty. The SportVan falls into insurance category 2E. Service intervals are set at 12,500 miles; a bit disappointing, but not that unusual.

 

Verdict

What a cracking little van and we’re missing it hugely. If the payload and load space are sufficient don’t hesitate. You will not be disappointed. 



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