Review and road test of the Ford Fiesta (1989 - 1995)
SMALL AND SENSIBLE
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
A small car for people who don't like small cars. That's how Ford marketed this generation of their evergreen supermini, the Fiesta. In its 1989-1995 guise, the slogans were justified - this was an accomplished vehicle and even today, it's capable of putting a smile on your face.
Ford's entry-level small car has remained a first choice for Britain's private buyers since 1990 and so the market is awash with used models even if the earliest examples are feeling a bit tired these days.
Models Covered: 3 & 5dr hatch: 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 turbo diesel [Azura, Classic, Classic Quartz, Classic Cabaret, Popular Plus, L, LA, LD, LXD, LXi, Si, SX, Ghia, XR2i, RS1800, RS Turbo]
The Fiesta has had a long and fairly complicated evolution that goes back to the Seventies. The models dealt with here are the Third generation cars (the first shape that offered a five-door option) dating from April 1989 to mid-1995.
These cars are called Mark III and had a selection of existing and updated engines. Base model cars used 1.0 and 1.1-litre engines. A new 1.3 appeared in late 1991. There was also a 1.4 and even a fuel-injected 1.6 for the XR2i. Other sporty models included the RS Turbo (notable for its multitude of fog and driving lights) and the manic RS1800i - a real boy racer. A 1.8-litre diesel and automatic versions with both 1.1 and 1.3-litre petrol engines completed the line-up.
What You Get
Choose a good one and you should get reliable transport that can be easily DIY maintained for sensible money. The third generation cars lack the class-leading handling of the later models but are nevertheless an acceptable drive by the standards of their day. Basic models tend to be just that but from LX upwards little niceities like tinted glass and a sunroof appear while the Ghia has central locking and electric windows.
What to Look For
Engines are, on the whole, reliable, but watch for signs of wear, particularly on 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6s. Excess smoke on start-up is a give-away. The cam-belt needs to be replaced every 30,000 miles on the older 'CVH' 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines as it may break and lead to very expensive repairs.
Rust can be a minor problem on some cars as build quality varied quite a bit on the earlier models. Check the bottom of the doors, boot, front valance and the bonnet's leading edge. Water leaking through the sunroof and boot also affected some early cars so have a look for staining on the headlining and boot carpet.
(approx based on a 1993 Fiesta 1.4 CFi) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £75 and an alternator should be close to £100.
Brake pads are around £25 a set, a replacement headlamp is close to £50 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £40. A full exhaust is about £80 and a catalyst is about £200. A starter motor around is around £90, front wing is around £60, a windscreen about £70, a tail lamp about £30 and a catalyst about £200. Front dampers are around £55 each and rears around £50 each.
On the Road
The '89 to '95 Fiesta, unlike the later models, didn't set the world on fire with class-leading handling. It was competent, safe and predictable to drive but not really much fun unless, perhaps, you were behind the wheel of the more sporting versions. Still, the mainstream engines pulled well and the dashboard and controls were well laid out.
The third generation Fiesta (post-`89) is a good all-rounder - no question about that. Arguably, it's the best little small car of its era if you take into account those cheap part prices and the vast choice offered at affordable prices.
Ford Fiesta (1989 - 1995) review by JONATHAN CROUCH