Lovely colour, I thought, as I moved the metallic green car round to a more suitable parking slot. They say that ignorance is bliss but that's not how it felt as I frantically fiddled with the heater on autumn's first really chilly evening. After a couple of minutes I abandoned the effort and turned the fan off, aware that I might not be concentrating fully on the road!
Once I got home I discovered the problem – the heater was not working, just cool air expelled at varying speeds, but not varying temperatures. The next day I rang TC Harrison, our local Ford dealer, which promptly booked it in and collected it from our offices a few miles away – simple.
But this unassuming little car had another surprise up its sleeve. A nice man from TC Harrison called to tell me when they would be returning the car but informed me they would need it back again as there was a recall on it. 'What does that mean?' I asked.
Three potential problems, I was told, would mean the car returning to the garage for a check on the digital instrument display, an airbag warning light and replacement of the diesel fuel filter. The last does not apply to our long-term test vehicle as it has a petrol engine.
But, I have to admit, I was surprised so rang the Ford press office. There was no official notification the office could present, but most certainly, the recall was necessary. As we go to press, we have had no communication from the garage.
Putting all that to one side for a moment, let me take you through the interior, which has clear and uncluttered dials, knobs and buttons, all fairly basic.
However, this model has remote controls on the steering column for the stereo, which is very convenient. The seats are comfortable for a short person such as myself, but I'd be interested to hear how my far taller colleagues get on. The gears are smooth and the steering responsive. However, at over 60mph the interior noise means you have to keep adjusting the audio system.
The basic model has standard features including twin front airbags, CD/radio, driver's seat height adjust, remote central/double locking, and remote tailgate release. The price for this would be under £10,000.
However, our test model has a few added extras – alloy wheels, six-disc CD player, anti-lock brakes, security pack, roof spoiler and metallic paint. All this pushes the car's price up to £11,495, but I would happily do without the roof spoiler at £225, the metallic paint at £275 (even though it is a very attractive deep green), and the security pack at £200.
Ford claims a combined fuel economy of 42.2mpg but as the car has only been here a few days we have yet to fill it up with petrol. A few more details for the number crunchers among you – power is 78bhp at 5,700rpm, torque is 96lb-ft at 3,500rpm, 0-62mph takes 13.2 seconds and top speed is 104mph.
CO2 emissions are 158/km, which equates this year to a lowest benefit-in-kind tax banding of 15%. However, the bandings are due to tighten up in the future so by 2004, the car will have moved up into the 17% bracket.
In financial terms, this means a 22% taxpayer will have to cough up £31.61 a month for the privilege of having the Fiesta as a company car, rising to £35.82 by 2004.
Company car tax bill 2002 (22% taxpayer): £31.61 per month