How old were you 2002? I was ten, going on eleven. The Queen celebrated her Golden Jubilee and the foot and mouth crisis was coming to an end. Meanwhile, I was care free playing cops and robbers with my friends in the playground and I was prettified of catching cooties from girls.
During all this carnage, the humble Ford Fiesta reined supreme in the supermini segment and we all knew someone who owned one.
Present day, I took my modern car into a very small local garage to have a new part fitted and was given an old Fiesta as a courtesy car for a few hours. Lucky me.
2002 FORD FIESTA FREESTYLE 1.25L 5 DR
I was given the keys to a 2002 Ford Fiesta Freestyle. This bad boy was powered by a 1.25L engine that produced 73 horsepower and had a top speed of 104 MPH. Nervous and excited to try something ‘new’, my first impression was how small it looked. Superminis of today are considerably bigger due to safety rules and regulations. This Fiesta, however was microscopic.
The first thing I noticed was that old car smell. It’s a bit like the scent you get in a museum, with a mechanical pong on top. The seats are small and they sit high up inside the tiny cabin. Perhaps everyone was smaller back in the early noughties?
As expected, the interior was very basic but the few things I did have were easy to reach and operate. This model was retrofitted with an aftermarket stereo which helped modernise the cabin a little.
The engine start up was much louder than expected. There’s no keyless start here, you pop the key into the ignition and the car rumbles to life. Modern engines give off a high-pitched whine as they start and then tick over almost silently, this was the complete opposite.
Driving this small Ford was memorable. It had a five-speed manual gearbox which was actually quite easy to use but once again, felt completely different to one found in a modern car. However, gear stick travel was so long that I could recite the alphabet between shifts.
Building speed up from first to second gear was the hardest part as the little engine found itself screaming in agony. Once I worked up the gears and was on the power, it got easier and a little smoother.
The car rides on a very soft set of springs, like it’s driving over a giant bowl of jelly. I got this little 1.25L engine up to 70 MPH on the motorway only to hit a slight bump in the road which made the car feel like it was going to veer off into a tree. That being said, the squishy ride was great fun in the corners, where the car felt exciting due to its uncertainty.
Once the car was settled on the road, tyre roar and wind noise became a problem. It was so loud that even turning the stereo up didn’t help.
But it held its own on the road and I found myself managing to overtake traffic (just about). Back in 2002, Ford claimed a 0-60 time of 12.7 seconds but I’d say it was around the 20 second mark today. This isn’t bad considering it’s 17 years old and has done over 35,000 miles.
Braking in the Fiesta was terrifying. In a modern car, the brakes are quite sensitive and only require a little pressure to slow down however, in the Fiesta you need ALL of the brakes all of the time. There’s no gentle braking here. Your foot goes down hard to stop, even at slow speeds. Thankfully, it only weights 948 KG so it does stop eventually.
Driving an old(ish) car once again wasn’t as bad as I remembered. The Fiesta drove like an eager, albeit clumsy baby elephant. The worst bit was trying to figure out how many bottoms have sat on the drivers seat before me.