Driving tastefully in a modern hot hatch
Can you find soul in an inexpensive modern car?
If you have a passing interest in the Petrolicious YouTube channel, which any self respecting car enthusiast should, then you know that the cars that they feature are older and often very rare. There is a reason for that. Ordinarily, the car is just a device to get you from point a to point b efficiently, very few get to be art. The ones that do are often from high end manufacturers like Ferrari and Porsche or homologation specials from Renault and Ford. I don't have the means to own one of these legends so I merely drool after them on my computer screen. Can you get that same sense of perfection and taste from a modern car?
I grew up watching my dad work on his 1967 Firebird with a 400ci engine and a M-22 rock crusher transmission. I would eventually own a few fast cars myself, to include a 1972 Chevrolet Nova and a 1987 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. I worked on those cars all the time, they were cranky, they were temperamental, they had soul. I could tell when the humidity was all wrong and the carburetor in the Nova would be cantankerous. I could feel the slightest hint of a boost leak in the T-Bird. Those cars felt alive, they were engaging, something that designers today seem hellbent on tuning out with all of their electronic wizardry.
One particularly chilly and damp morning, I was having a spirited drive. I Hit a patch of fresh asphalt in a long, sweeping curve; it was the first time I'd been able to make the tires squeal even a little. And to my surprise, I felt every slip, grab and twitch right through the wheel. What manner of sorcery was this? The car handles brilliantly, often with more grip than you have nerve on a public road. The brake pedal tells you exactly where the tires are locking and slipping, the gear lever makes you feel like those videos where they dub firearms action sounds over the shifts. This car feels alive, and drives with the sort of eagerness that begs you to push harder, just a little bit faster. It makes you feel like you are the center of the action, not just a detached being that needs to be looked after by the on board electronics. The Fiesta ST has all of that, of course. but none of it is overbearing. You barely notice it at all.
Being an American, I like big V8's, grunt and solid rear axles. I also like the classics, those soulful rides that take us beyond just commuting. We've been forced to watch from afar while everyone else got the best models of a car only to be given a watered down version of the real thing. A pittance, really. I lusted after the Escort Cosworth RS. Why are we just now getting a Civic Type R? Imagine my joy when I heard that Ford was bringing us a real hot hatchback, right from the European design offices and at full strength. All the automotive reviewers were singing it's praises. Not only has it earned it, I think that it will be one of the future classics that Petrolicious will feature in due time.