Ride Shotgun with IAB through the Ford #HotWheels Experience

05/03/2012 - 07:02 | ,  ,   | Kaustubh Shinde

Ford India is indeed betting big on the Indian auto market. After investing USD 1 billion in their Chennai plant, the company is ready to invest one more billion in the Gujarat plant. Finances aside, the company is constantly conducting events and workshops to educate the Indian consumers about cars and driving.

One such initiative was the Ford India #HotWheels experience organized by the American automaker to educate the Indian audience about Automatic transmission.

Unlike the American markets where ‘AT’ or automatic transmission is the defacto choice, automatic transmission are not at all preferred by the Indian audience. Considering Ford India was all set to launch the Fiesta PowerShift (essentially a Fiesta with an auto box), Ford decided to conduct a pan India study with the help of TNS Global market research to find out what people think about Automatic boxes in India.

Surprisingly, Ford found that people in India have 5 myths in their mind about the AT variants. These are:

  • AT boxes are sluggish
  • They are not fun to drive
  • Fuel efficiency goes for a toss
  • They are expensive
  • They have a high maintenance cost

Ford claims that the Fiesta PowerShift will change people perceptions about AT boxes. Ford India further explains that Fiesta PowerShift will bust these 5 myths about the AT boxes in the following manner:

  •  AT boxes are sluggish

The Fiesta’s AT box is not the regular torque converter box that we have been used to. The Fiesta is the only car in its segment that uses a double clutch setup to shift cogs. Essentially there are 2 clutches – one for even gears (2,4,6) and one for odd gears (1,3,5). In regular gearboxes, the gears are swapped. However, in a dual clutch setup, the 2 clutches are swapped. Every time one gear is engaged, the second clutch keeps the next gear ready. This results in the least possible lag while changing gears.

  • They are not fun to drive

As the dual clutch set up is fast while changing gears and the Fiesta is blessed with superior handling prowess, Ford claims that the Fiesta PowerShift is more fun to drive than the manual.

  • Fuel efficiency goes for a toss

Ford has taken this myth quite seriously. They say that the Fiesta Automatic is more fuel efficient than manual variants although just marginally. Ford says that the manual variant gives 17 kmpl whereas the Powershift gives 18.96kmpl

  • They have a high maintenance cost     

As the Fiesta PowerShift has a dry clutch set up, Ford is providing a class leading 10 years or 2,40,000 warranty on the transmission.

  • They are expensive

At a price of 8.99 lakhs, it is the cheapest dual clutch automatic car in India. The next dual clutch car in India would be the Skoda Laura with a DSG gearbox.

However, simply making massive claims is not what Ford had in mind. Automatics are brilliant in city traffic and we all know it. The true test of an Automatic is whether it can provide good acceleration and bring some fun while driving. What better way to test the Fiesta PowerShift than on India’s first Formula 1 track – Buddh International Circuit. Ford India invited IAB to test the Fiesta PowerShift at the circuit and here is a pictorial review of the event.

After the presentation and safety briefing, 6 Fiesta AT models were waiting for us at the track ready to get burn some rubber

Micheal Boneham, President and Managing Director of Ford India, flagged of the event.

 Under the leadership of the pilot car (which surprisingly was a Diesel manual), all the Fiestas headed to the mighty Buddh.

Out of the Pit lane and on to the track, all set to see whether Ford’s bold claims hold any water.

After the third corner, comes the longest straight of the track. Perfect! For testing whether the dual clutch box can shift when the pedal touches the metal.

Exist the straight and on to a small set up of cones to test the ‘Creep Function’ of the Fiesta PowerShift. Essentially, it allows you to creep in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Some high speed cornering to check whether the Fiesta can live up to the tag of a ‘Driver’s Car’ and we come to the end of the track where there was another set up to test the other features of the car.

Fiesta PowerShift also comes with Hill Assist and Grade Assist functions which help you tackle climbs and slopes. Ford had prepared a small hill to demonstrate these features

Most Fiestas tackled the slope very easily. However, as the ramp was made from plywood, many struggled due to lack of grip and rolled down.

Once the experiments were over, we headed back to the pits and called it a day.

What did we notice?

  • Fiesta’s Automatic box is definitely one of the best gearbox in the market for the price.
  • When driving in D mode there is a fair bit of lag while swapping clutch.
  • However, when driving in L mode (essentially for hill climbs), the gearbox hold the revs much higher and shifts with fantastic urgency.
  • Downshifts on either mode are very laggy.
  • Paddle shifts are sorely missed. Especially when the competitor Honda City has it.
  • Superb engine roar after you cross 4000 rpm provide excellent drama at high speed.
  • The engine runs out of steam at 165-170 km/hr
  • The Hill Assist feature works perfectly. However, the Grade Assist is a bit notchy sometimes.
  • Fiesta’s DNA of a brilliant handling car is intact in the automatic as well.

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