New Ford Fiesta Automatic : First Drive

The Fiesta's getting an auto box. Not just any auto box though - this is Ford's PowerShift Technology and in the current list of C-segment automatics, this one's pretty much like magic!




When a car company thinks about changing the game in a segment that’s already crowded with some of the best players in the market, there’s not really too many options to pursue. That’s when all the PR speak and advertising gimmicks come in and we’re sold products that are just the same as everything else but made to sound like they’re not. Now Ford could have very easily walked down that path with the Fiesta and taken the easy way out. But this is where respect for the Blue Oval kicks up a few notches – because they’ve really come down and changed the game. Voice controls, radical design and a truly international product is what the Fiesta has been ever since it was launched earlier this year, but with this new variant that shifts gears on its own, Ford has simply made its move and left it up to the competition to figure out why they didn’t think of this in the first place.





This may sound like just another Ford Fiesta with an auto ’box, but it’s much more than that because the Ford Fiesta AT truly is a game changer. The guys from Dearborn call it PowerShift Technology but what it essentially is, is a dual clutch automatic transmission. Until now, the luxury of having two clutches on auto ’boxes has been the domain of bigger, more expensive cars and Ford seems to have taken a bold step in not compromising the fun-to-drive character of the Fiesta with some old-hat 4-speed auto tranny. The moment you encounter the 6-speed dual clutch feature in the brochure, first impressions are bound to be good. But there’s more to PowerShift Technology than just two sets of friction plates.



Ford Fiesta Automatic Cabin



Contrary to the traditional ‘torque converter in hydraulic transmission fluid’ set-up, the Ford Fiesta uses dry friction material facings which essentially means a truckload of savings in weight and power losses thereby instantly increasing efficiency. Add to that numerous micro-chips that record and adjust every bit of functioning and it amounts to loads of techno babble that you’d need a post doctorate in automotive engineering to understand. But what it translates to in real world terms is an automatic transmission that adapts to the mode of driving you’re mentally in. Depending on how fast you depress the accelerator pedal, PowerShift will react accordingly and adjust gear shift rpm. All this while, since there are lesser moving parts in the transmission itself to take care of since the hydraulic pump is absent, it also amounts to more fuel economy.


Ford Fiesta Automatic Gearbox




Then you notice the little button on the side of the gear stalk that activates the Grade Assist system which essentially keeps the car in lower gears – enabling better torque while going uphill and providing engine braking while driving downhill. Use it in a nice set of twisties though and it doubles up as a Sport mode and makes the Fiesta insane fun! Then there’s Hill Start Assist and an ‘L’ mode that prevents engine speeds from falling below a certain rpm – for whatever situation you may need to keep the car slotted that way. Ford has in fact engineered PowerShift very intelligently and factored in a slight bit of slip for smoother gear shifts, a creep-forward function to ease in tight traffic conditions and parking and neutral coast down which essentially frees up the clutches under deceleration for better fuel efficiency and to give the feel of a normal automatic tranny.



Ford Fiesta Automatic First Drive 2



All the technology aside, what PowerShift does for Ford is not only bump up the Fiesta’s brownie points higher, but also gives owners the luxury of better fuel efficiency and lower maintenance. But what we’re really impressed with is the fact that the 6-speed PowerShift Technology on this dual clutch gearbox compliments the Fiesta’s driving appeal and in fact takes it a notch further. If there ever was an auto ’box that the Fiesta’s 1.5-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine should have been mated with, it is this. Dearborn has got it perfectly right in terms of the ideology and implementation. Question is, will it be priced right when it is finally launched in some time? That’s one answer we’ll have to wait and watch for, but one thing’s for certain, the Ford Fiesta has strengthened its position as one of the best driver’s cars available around the Rs 10-lakh mark. Full marks to Ford!