Alchemists used to try and transmute gold from base metals. Ford has been somewhat more successful in transforming a fairly basic three-door Fiesta into a low-cost enthusiasts’ car. It’s a mildly warm hatch but at just $22,990 the Metal truly is precious — which explains why there’s only a handful of the 250-vehicle allocation still for sale.
The Metal’s natural rivals are the Suzuki Swift Sport and Hyundai Veloster at $23,990. Both have sporty pretentions and more power/torque than the Fiesta can muster. With six-speed manual gearboxes, they are also quicker in a straight line and easier to hold in the peak rev range. The Swift in particular is a force to consider.
The chassis is as composed and the suspension keeps the wheels planted with an agility you can feel from the first turn but it doesn’t look as dramatic as the all-black Metal. No-cost gear on the Ford includes cruise control, reverse parking sensors, decent aircon and auto-folding side mirrors.
The Ford formula follows the successful Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ approach. Build a decent, well-suspended vehicle with enough power to give the car some zip without being an absolute handful and enough steering feedback to know where the front wheels are pointing in either case.
The 1.6-litre engine needs to be wound up tight between 4000-6000rpm to entertain the senses and overcome the gap between ratios in the five-speed manual gearbox. Uphill hauls can still catch it out but, like the Toyobaru twins, speed isn’t the ultimate thrill here. It’s the way it rides — and occasionally bangs — over ruts in the road; flawed but fundamentally fun.
The shame is the Fiesta Metal is only a three-door. A five-door model would have sat under the Fiesta ST and still given family buyers a sporty car to aspire to without being too edgy for everyday driving. Being the Euro-sourced WS platform, rather than the Thai-built WT version, it has softer plastics on the dash and the bits where elbows contact doors and a tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel.
The hatch is deep but not wide — good enough for a couple of small suitcases. Like most three-doors, the reach to the seatbelts is a stretch, but the front seats tilt and slid forwards to give the back-seat passengers a semblance of a dignified entrance/exit.
The Fiesta feels solid enough to merit its five-star rating. A driver’s knee airbag lifts the number of balloons to seven and there are the usual safety systems along with seatbelt reminders for both front pews.
You get what you pay for and it is the price that gives the Fiesta Metal such prowess. In absolute terms, it doesn’t rate. The suspension can clatter over undulations, the steering kicks over mid-corner bumps and there’s an occasional hole in the power delivery.
Cop all three in a row and owners will still be grinning at the car’s overall roadholding and capacity to be pushed around turns. In more mundane driving it is easy to manoeuvre, the accelerator isn’t hair-trigger sensitive and it doesn’t have the fuel consumption thirst of a hotter hatch.
Fun without being too frantic, the Fiesta Metal rewards driving inputs. It has already won fans as a new car and that reputation will only grow when it starts being resold as a used vehicle.
Ford Fiesta Metal
Price: from $22,990
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Crash rating: 5 stars
Safety: 7 airbags, ABS with EBD, TC, ESC
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 98kW/160Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Dimensions: 3958mm (L) 1709mm (w) 1481mm (h)
Thirst: 6.0L/100km, 140g/km CO2