Soon after being handed the keys, I had the experience of hearing what can only be described as gun shots when dropping a friend off after a relaxing evening. Despite both of us diving for cover, we soon realised it was the exhaust which had blown and not exercises at the nearby RAF base.
The next day the car was shipped off to TC Harrison in Peterborough, where it was quickly repaired and returned, sounding like new.
While it was at the garage, the plastic gearshift surround, which incorporates two cup holders, was repaired where the plastic fixtures that keep it in place had snapped – not a good indicator of high build quality. The exhaust was covered under warranty, while the services of Autoglass had to be requested to repair a crack in the windscreen – the result of a stone thrown up by a passing vehicle.
In spite of its run of bad luck, I have enjoyed driving the Fiesta and particularly admire its simplicity. There's no satellite navigation, no digital readout displaying lots of information and no need to frequently consult the manual to find out how various systems work, which makes a refreshing change on our long-term fleet.
The dashboard controls are easy to reach, especially useful when travelling at high speeds, a problem I find with some of the latest electronic controls in certain cars. I particularly liked the handy stereo controls on the steering column.
As for the actual driving, once up to speed, the 16-valve 1.4-litre model runs smoothly, but it did seem a little sluggish getting there and personally I'd prefer something with a little more get-up-and-go.
However, when I wasn't hurtling up the A1 on my daily route to work, the Fiesta was great at nipping round town, taking traffic jams, winding roads and shopping trips all in its stride.
Fuel economy is almost reaching the official combined figure of 42.2mpg – our model is currently returning 40.4mpg and it's also good news on the residual front with values increasing on last month.
Retaining a reasonable £3,525 – 38% of its original cost – compared to £3,450 and 35% last month, the Fiesta is easily keeping in touch with rivals such as the Citroen C3 1.4 LX on £3,250 and 37%. Adele Burton
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer):£26 per month