Cars & Motorbikes

Charged Light Brigade - engine downsizing and turbocharging (Part 2)

2/16/2014 10:50:04 AM

While each of these looks a bit upswept, it’s really the engines (and transmissions) that are key to these little rippers, all being turbocharged and direct fuel injected, except for the Barina which gets port injection instead but slightly more in the way of displacement (1.4 to the 1.2 Polo and 1.0 Ford). Only Barina gets a conventional auto; the other two have twin-clutch units.

Fiesta interior seems a tad dated now, and a minor buzz in the dash didn’t inspire confidence.

Fiesta interior seems a tad dated now, and a minor buzz in the dash didn’t inspire confidence.

Outputs for the Ford and Holden aren’t too dissimilar, the Barina good for 103kW and 200Nm (from 1850rpm), while the Ford with its tiny tot motivator manages almost as much power (92kW) and the same amount of torque (on overboost) from 1400rpm. Nominally, it creates 170Nm claimed. The Polo TSI used to run with a 77kW/175Nm engine, but had a price tag starting with a three, so the rejigged version with less boost peaks at 66kW and 160Nm. It’s therefore the least potent here, but doesn’t run away with the economy prize; both this and the Fiesta have claimed combined fuel use figures of 5.3L/100km. The Barina, with its bigger engine, has quoted mean fuel use of 6.5L/100km, manual or automatic. Not helping its cause is kerb weight that’s at least 100kg more than the other two (1276kg vs. 1150 for the Fiesta and 1155 for the Polo). But Holden has done the most to get the best out of the potential here, with lots of sporty alterations. Only the Polo gets more serious footwear, with 215/45R16s.

Practically speaking, all three have hatches good for just under 300L of luggage, and split folding to enlarge upon that.


Polo has the classiest interior featuring soft touch plastics but you do pay for that

Polo has the classiest interior featuring soft touch plastics but you do pay for that

Numerically, you will find the Polo trailing the field, but not by much. It doesn’t feel that heavy and nor is it. With excellent torque production from low revs it has an ease around town no different from that of its slightly more potent forebear. Upshifting before 2000rpm it slopes around as effortlessly as the others in the suburbs. It’s only on the dragstip that you’ll notice it’s a second slower to 100, but there’s little in it for the overtake, the lighter weight of the Ford and VW just shutting out the Barina. The smallest engined of the trio is the quickest on both counts we measure, just dipping under 9.5sec in the 0-100 stakes, to the Barina’s 9.54sec and the Polos 10.5sec time. Only the Ford makes it into the sixes for the 80-120 overtaking time.

On road, the Fiesta is feistiest, though it didn’t initially appear that way. The car we drove seemed green on day one, but warmed to the task as the kays rolled by. Eventually we understood what all the hype was about. The engine note doesn’t drone like with so many triples. There’s not much to hear here, helped by a tall top gear; 100km/h is 2250rpm, similar to the Polo’s 2000rpm whereas the Barina is using up 2500rpm, partly explaining its greater thirst. The Ford’s transmission has an S option which is handy, but its side-mounted rocker switch MS button is a pain to use, as is Barina’s. The S lever position is enough in both anyway.

Barina RS interior appeals with funky instruments, leather-like seat coverings and smart app-based MyLink system

Barina RS interior appeals with funky instruments, leather-like seat coverings and smart app-based MyLink system

Give us the twin-clutcher of the Ford or VW any day over the slower-shifting conventional auto of the Barina. But what isn’t so sporty about the Fiesta is brake performance, power easily bested by the other pair with discs all round. It is a cheap oversight, like the ergonomically vexing wand controlling the various trip computer functions. Barina and Polo brakes are much better, a good match for performance.

Each of these sport minis hauls around town at almost impossibly low revs, the Barina least happy in sixth. There’s a touch of lag, but in none is it problematic.

For sheer speed, Fiesta feels best. You often find yourself going bit quick, unexpectedly becoming cop bait. That’s because it pulls well from anywhere, though is best from 4000-6000rpm. The Barina RS functions well in the midband (3000-4000rpm) which is handy because the engine gets a bit rowdy above 4500rpm and is all but done 1000rpm later. Both the direct injection engines will use over 10L/100km if pushed but you can exceed that by 50 per cent in the RS, because of its greater capacity, and more basic fuel injection system.


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