REVIEW DATE: 05 Nov 2007
Ford's Fiesta Freedom Attempts To Make Modern Mobile Technology More Hands-Free Than Handful. Steve Walker Reports.
Is modern technology an agent of freedom, shrinking the globe with instant communications, furnishing us with 24-hour mobile information and entertainment? Or does it shackle us to our tiny bleeping boxes, reduce personal contact and provide sinister avenues for potential surveillance? It's an interesting philosophical point but while you ponder this thorny issue, I'll get started on all the gadgets you get with the Ford Fiesta Freedom special edition.
Are you the sort of motorist whose dashboard is littered with plastic mountings for your various handheld devices, a tangle of wires trailing down to form a giant electrical tumbleweed in the passenger footwell, or one for whom there never seem to be enough 12-volt power outlets to keep all your lithium ion batteries topped up? If so, you may like the concept behind the latest special edition Fiesta from Ford. In the modern age, it's perfectly usual for a driver to have a mobile phone, an MP3 player and even a mobile satellite navigation system in tow but the Fiesta Freedom has the capacity to condense these systems down, adding a hands-free dimension for improved safety, without sacrificing functionality.
Ford have linked-up with Vodafone to offer a comprehensive technology package with the Fiesta Freedom. The car features Bluetooth wireless technology and voice control for the MP3-compatable CD stereo which has an auxiliary input for MP3 players to be directly plugged into. Buyers who want to can then sign-up for an exclusive Vodafone contract costing £25 per month which gets them the Nokia N70 G3 mobile phone complete with Tom Tom Mobile 5 satellite navigation technology. The phone comes with a cradle in the car so you can make calls or use the sat nav system while driving but you can also have all the functionality of the handset in your pocket at all times. Ford are valuing the Fiesta Freedom's free technology package at £800.
"The Fiesta Freedom offers a great opportunity for technophile motorists to unclutter the inside of their vehicles"
Externally, the Fiesta Freedom hints at the technological showcase that lies inside with a collection of styling accessories. It features 15" alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, front fog lights, a 'Freedom' badge on the tailgate and body-colouring for the bumpers, heated mirrors and tailgate handle. In addition, buyers receive remote central locking, remote tailgate release, electric front windows, a leather steering wheel with aluminium trim and silver trim for the dash. The package is available in the three or five-door bodystyles with 1.25-litre or 1.4-litre petrol power and prices start from £9,990. Only 2,500 Fiesta Freedom models are available and with a choice of 12 paint colours means that exclusivity is further enhanced.
The engine choice is an interesting one with not as much as you might imagine between the 1.25 and 1.4-litre powerplants. They're closely matched in terms of power with the smaller unit developing 75bhp and 79bhp from the 1.4. The 1.25-litre engine isn't particularly quick with a 13.6s 0-60mph sprint and a 101mph top speed but the key number for many will be the 47mpg average economy. The 1.4 is £300 more expensive model for model but it's quicker with a 12.3s sprint and a 104mph top speed. The engine also turns in a 45mpg average economy figure which is virtually as good as the 1.25 and the two engines are equally hard to split on CO2 emissions - 142 and 147g/km are the figures for the 1.25 and 1.4 respectively. The one you go for will depend on how highly you value the 1.4's superior performance.
As with the old-shape Fiesta, this car is a great handler - and it may well bring out the Colin McRae side to your character, assuming of course that you've got one. The steering's great, the grip impressive and the body roll well controlled. That may sound irrelevant if all you want to do is tootle to the shops and back but should you ever be in an emergency, having a car that changes direction easily, controllably and predictably could just make the difference between having or avoiding an accident.
While we're on dynamic excellence, the ride is also very good, one of the things that makes this a small car you could quite happily use on longer journeys. To that end, the spacious cabin will be a boon. Though its not the largest in its class, you can (just about) seat five adults in reasonable comfort, thanks not only to the surprising width but also thanks to more knee-room at the rear than some cars from the next class up. There's a good luggage capacity too (of 284 litres or 10 cubic feet) arranged in a shape to optimise usable volume for longer items like foldable baby buggies.
Large rear doors and that impressive rear seat roominess mean that installing a child seat in the back won't prove the usual Olympic challenge. Although the backrest of the rear seat is split for increased versatility, unfortunately the seat cushion itself isn't. While we're carping, it would also have been useful if someone at Ford had thought to include an interior boot release catch (though there is one on the key fob).
Drop into the height-adjustable driver's seat and you'll be greeted with a dashboard that adopts many of the quality conventions of the Mondeo range, and that's good news. For those who enjoy tracing the lineage of the design, the Mondeo's interior designer was poached from Volkswagen - and it shows. It's easy to see where cost has been excised from the Fiesta, competing as it does in a class where margins are utterly cut throat. Some of the fascia plastics could be nicer to the touch, there's a lack of cupholders and storage spaces aren't too prevalent.
The Fiesta Freedom offers a great opportunity for technophile motorists to unclutter the inside of their vehicles and for those who don't know our iPods from our elbows, it's a relatively straightforward way to catch-up with the latest developments in one fell swoop. MP3, Bluetooth, satellite navigation and G3 Mobile technology in one automotive package, we could be talking about the latest executive saloon but this unassuming Fiesta is having a darn good go at democratising technology.
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