Drive this humblest of Fiestas for even a few minutes, and you know it’s been engineered by people who like driving, and like driving on British roads in particular. The steering wheel is tactile and chunky, with no slack in its connection to the wheels, while the brake and accelerator are perfectly positioned for a cheeky spot of heel ‘n’ toeing. In the Clio, which has an otherwise faultless driving position, the accelerator is set down a couple of inches, requiring dexterous monkey-feet to balance brake and throttle simultaneously.
What do you mean, no one drives city cars like that? This is a white-knuckle, tread-shuffling speed test, and we are not ashamed to discuss heel ‘n’ toeing. Nor handling. On identical tyres, there’s more front-end grip in the Fiesta than the Clio, which noses wide if you bung it in a tight corner where the Ford clings on. Again, this is comparative stuff: against, say, the VW Up, the Clio does a fine job of quelling the traditional FWD tendency to understeer. (Of course, for the purposes of this odd, skewed little test, more grip isn’t necessarily better. Anyone who’s mercilessly ragged an under-tyred hire car along a Mediterranean mountain road will know there’s much entertainment to be found in managing rampant understeer, in calculating exactly how much pace you can carry through a corner without sliding off the far side and into the briny deep. I have fond memories of a shagged Daewoo Matiz with 180,000km on the clock, bald Chinese remoulds all round, a Croatian coast road and a very close shave with a pack of wild pigs, but that’s a story for another time.)