|Intro||Looks||Practicality / Spec||Engine / Performance|
|Driving / NVH||On track||Fiesta Zetec S Vs ST||Options / Verdict|
For the last Track Attack event of 2015, the folks at Three Sisters treated us to the full circuit…Christmas had come early!
Today we traded our viewfinder for a steering wheel and went head-to-head in a track battle with our friends Petroladdict to see who had the best daily drivers!
Ford vs Skoda, Zetec S vs vRS, Petrol vs Diesel…
I’m not going to lie – I’m not a morning person. It takes me forever to wake up and I’m usually a zombie up until about lunchtime. The prospect of a Sunday morning drive helps though, and there are very few reasons why I’ll voluntarily get out of bed early!
Mind you, the first and last time FWM went on track was back in 2012; around a fairly large Anglesey circuit, and in someone else’s rare Vauxhall VX220 – something you’d definitely not want to bin on your first go!
Needless to say, it was pretty good fun. But the thought of tracking my own car ever since has always left me feeling uneasy for two reasons: the cost of a half / full day session (+ brakes & tyres), and the fear of binning my beloved motor after watching too many people do it on Youtube!
After visiting Three Sisters Race Circuit a couple of times though as a spectator, their ‘Pay as you Go’ setup seemed pretty much perfect for those wanting to dip their toe with an inexpensive stint on-track; a bit like an ‘Arrive & Drive’ equivalent with Go-karting.
The track is a short, handling circuit too meaning that daunting feeling of trying to remember the layout dissipates quite quickly; you can just pay for your 10 laps, have your initial briefing, and then join the queue!
Since it was the last event before Christmas (and for the year), the Full Circuit was opened up for those on the Track Attack. Those wanting to Drift still got to use the usual Perimeter layout.
The full 3S circuit:
Ford vs Skoda, Zetec S vs vRS, Petrol vs Diesel…
Having these two warm hatches together was going to be interesting. When the Fabia vRS was initially launched, the headline 130PS figure was enough to trouble the hot-hatches of its time. Nowadays though, these outputs have become less of a big deal, making their own way down into the sub-hot hatch crop – how times have changed!
Why “Petrol vs Diesel?”
When the Fabia vRS was a diesel-only offering back in the day it proved to be a pretty leftfield choice, attempting to combine hot hatch performance with low running costs. Other manufacturers tried to follow suit but, for the UK at least, it was a combination that took its time to find a noticeable customer base. Small-capacity, turbocharged petrol engines became all the more popular too in the midst of this, and since they’re sold under the same marketing ethos, it was worth seeing which managed the best balance.
On paper, the Fiesta produces 10PS more than the Fabia, but there’s also a discernable -74ft lb torque deficit. Being petrol, the Fiesta’s redline is typically higher but the Fabia’s huge slug of torque kicks in far sooner.Having discovered a little earlier that the Fiesta was marginally quicker in a straight line, it was time to delve into their chassis’ and see what these two offered on the track.
We went out in the Fiesta first. Despite spending those initial laps learning the track and exploring the responses of the car, it didn’t take long for the Zetec S chassis to build confidence. The small engine / high torque combination meant that it didn’t bog down either if I cornered in too high a gear.
There’s plenty of grip, a fluid chassis and just enough power to have some real fun. Sure, you might always want for more straight-line performance but for a track novice such as myself, it’s probably just as well I’m not covering ground too fast either. The change in tarmac surfacing on Paddock Bend adds to the mix, and before long it was time to have a play with some left-foot braking and lift-off oversteer.
The steering is still a bit too light for my liking but it’s a small niggle. A slightly higher rev-limit and louder soundtrack wouldn’t go amiss too but I’m concentrating too much on the track for these to be a distracting bugbear.
Session finished, and we hop into the Skoda.
It’s soon evident you’re running on compression-ignition; it’s still pretty quiet in the cabin, but a bassy grumble and a bit of vibration filtering through at idle just exacerbates the sensation of a big diesel squeezed into a small supermini.
All that midrange can make you feel pretty relentless – you’d have to Mountune a Fiesta ST to beat the 229ft lb – and whether you’re in a (damp) straight or corner exit, that torque can easily squeal the tyres in second gear.
The lack of rev’s do make themselves apparent by the first corner exit but in all honesty, the 1.9-litre PD engine does rev out quite well for a diesel – yes, it may be beside the point considering all that muscle lies within the mid range, but at least it doesn’t sound like death when doing so!
Short-shifting to keep in that mid-range proved to be effective for corner exits.
The Fabia’s chassis feels a little softer but it didn’t prove to be as wallowy as I’d initially percieved. Body roll is the most noticeable factor here and, unsurprisingly, it feels more nose-heavy. While the Fiesta manages to resist understeer when pushing on, the Fabia tends to push wide. The rear didn’t feel quite as mobile as the Fiesta’s too but it undoubtedly felt composed and altogether, gripped very well… mind you, it was only later revealed that Petroladdict had treated the vRS to a set of sticky winter tyres, which wouldn’t have helped!
So where does this leave FWM?
With a less sporting setup, neither of these cars possess that slight mischievous character you’d instinctively get from today’s hot-hatches. Neither sound particularly loud (no diesel clatter jokes please), and neither pull particularly hard, but this doesn’t detract from the fun. Today, outright speed wasn’t a priority here; a decent chassis to maintain speed was and neither car felt out of place. Both were planted and capable, and both suffered from brake fade towards the latter half of their stints.
While the Fabia vRS performed admirably, the Fiesta’s lighter nose and refined chassis really shone. Mind you, despite the Fiesta having the edge on the track, I’m in no doubt that a well-driven Fabia vRS will be a bitch to shake off here too. I prefer the Fiesta’s more playful chassis, but while I’d be dicking about with it illiciting lift-off oversteer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Fabia claw it’s way ahead.
Not bad, considering the 10 year age difference…
Obligatory Stats Table:
|0-62mph||Power (PS)||Torque (lb ft)||Max. Speed (MPH)|
|Fiesta Zetec S 1.0-litre (140)||9.0||140||155||125|
|Skoda Fabia vRS 1.9TDI PD||9.6||130||229||128|
Nissan SX, Mazda MX5 + BMW 3 Series drift!
Such smoke, such noise…. how many cars?!
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**You can find Petroladdict here