The ECOnetic version shows Ford's Fiesta Van at its greenest. Steve Walker reports.
In Ford parlance, ECOnetic means green. That's green as in environmentally-friendly, not coloured so as to blend into a leafy glade, a crowd of Martians or virtually any room round at the Incredible Hulk's house. As we know, green is the thing to be in the motoring world at the moment, partly because it's good to be kind to the planet, partly because it's good to be seen to be being kind to the planet and partly because a green vehicle is also a cheap one to run. With commercial vehicles typically covering far higher mileages than their privately-owned counterparts, these benefits are magnified, so a van like the Ford Fiesta Van ECOnetic should theoretically go down a storm.
Ten Second Review
The 85.6mpg economy and sub-90g/km emissions will be enough to convince many businesses of the Fiesta Van ECOnetic's worth. Also counting in the favour of this efficiency-optimised model are its sparkling driving experience and vibrant design. The ECOnetic comes at a premium but will pay for itself if operators cover high enough mileages.
The premise behind ECOnetic isn't complicated. Ford takes one of the more economical vehicles in a particular model range and takes steps to make it even more so. These usually include engine and gearbox modifications and tweaks to the aerodynamics. The resulting ECOnetic-badged model is the greenest car in the range. So it is with the Fiesta Van ECOnetic. It's a Fiesta Van with modifications and its roots in the latest version of the enduringly popular Fiesta supermini. As a commercial vehicle, the Fiesta's strengths are less in its carrying capacity and more in its low running costs, stylish design and compact dimensions, so if you don't have huge loads to carry, it could be just the ticket.
Power for the Fiesta Van ECOnetic comes not from the smallest engine in the range but from the largest. It's the same 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi unit that's found in the ECOnetic version of the Fiesta passenger car and with 94bhp on call, it's no slouch when you ask it to pick up its heels. Modifications to the engine's calibration and an increased top gear ratio for the five-speed gearbox bring the fuel economy advantages and there's a gearshift indicator light on the instrument cluster that prompts you when its time to change up for optimum efficiency. The headline figures are 85.6mpg combined cycle economy and 87g/km emissions which will be music to the ears of many business users. On the road, there's little to touch the Fiesta Van in its particular part of the commercial vehicle segment. Its balance, grip and swift responses to steering inputs make it a pleasure to drive and the sporty feel is very much in evidence even in this economy-focused model. We particularly like the 'Stall Prevention' feature, designed to help in low speed manoeuvres by altering the engine's ignition profile and preventing that embarrassing stalling moment when there's a queue of traffic behind you.
Design and Build
The Fiesta Van's sleek exterior styling is actually enhanced in the ECOnetic model. The suspension is lowered to enhance aerodynamics but it has the side effect of drawing the car closer to the road for a more purposeful stance. The aerodynamic wheel covers are less aesthetically pleasing and these are fitted to 14" wheels shod with low rolling resistance tyres. The styling of the Fiesta will win it many admirers and operators looking for a compact van that will cut a dash on the city streets will like the wedge-shaped front end as well as the curvy rear. The cabin is similarly avant-garde in its design, with a dashboard control interface based around that of a mobile phone and a clever choice of quality materials. A payload of around 500kg isn't huge but it gives car-derived van buyers a competitive option for transporting their wares. The rear side windows of the Fiesta supermini are replaced by solid body-coloured panels and the rear passenger seats have been removed to provide a load box area of 1,000 cubic litres. There's a maximum useable load length of 1,296mm, a maximum load box width of 1,278mm and a height of up to 806mm.
Market and Model
Pricing for the ECOnetic version is at the top end of the Fiesta Van range but operators will recoup a little bit of their extra outlay with every mile they cover through the ECOnetic's superior economy. All models come with a body-colour roof spoiler, electric door mirrors, electric front windows, an adjustable steering column, a stereo radio CD player with MP3 connection and steering wheel mounted audio controls. ABS brakes with brakeforce distribution are standard as is ESP stability control. One innovation that will appeal in the commercial world is Ford's Easy Fuel capless refuelling system. This prevents 'mis-fueling', or the costly practice of putting diesel in a petrol powered vehicle and visa versa, by preventing the wrong type of fuel pump nozzle from fitting down the filler neck.
Practicalities and Costs
In terms of practicality, as we've said, you won't be buying a supermini-derived small van if interior space is everything. That point made, it's also worth saying that In terms of practicality, as we've said, you won't be buying a supermini-derived small van if interior space is everything. That point made, it's also worth saying that this Ford does at least enable its owner to make good use of the space that is on offer. DIN-compliant tie-down hooks are standard but if you forget to use them - or simply can't - then a half-height composite bulkhead is standard to prevent loose items from sliding forward and joining you in the front. Running costs are always of great interest to business users and they're essential reading for fleet managers who see slight differences in these figures compounded over a whole fleet. The ECOnetic manages 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of just 87g/km but there's more to operating costs than simply fuel economy. This Ford offers lengthy service intervals and the option of either a 12-month/unlimited mileage warranty or a 3-year/60,000-mile dose of Ford Protection Plan - though a long trawl through the small print might be needed before you can identify the one that best suits you. A 12-year anti-perforation guarantee goes a long way to reassure buyers of Ford's faith in their product's capacity not to fall foul of Mr rust and if all goes to plan, the 1-year breakdown cover will be surplus to requirements. When it comes to insurance, the Fiesta van also performs admirably.
Going green might be the thing to do in the passenger car market at the moment but in the commercial vehicle sphere, it has the potential to be even bigger. Ford's Fiesta Van ECOnetic is one of the models best placed to cash in as operators crunch the numbers to determine the most cost-effective way to get their particular job done. The best thing about this efficiency-optimised Fiesta is that it forces none of the compromises you might expect on operators. Being a supermini-derived van, it can't carry the big loads but performance is more than adequate, the handling is superb and if anything, it looks even better than the standard model. Because it's priced higher than the less efficient Fiesta Vans, low mileage businesses might not be able to make an ECOnetic model pay but the further you drive, the more this super-economical Fiesta will massage your firm's bottom line.