Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

FIRST, an ad­mis­sion: there are quite a few un­worn items hang­ing for­lornly up one end of my wardrobe, with sale tags still at­tached.

Pris­tine pieces in­clude a shirt bought at such a dis­count that burn­tor­ange and brown stripes seemed an at­trac­tive combo, and jeans so cheap I kid­ded my­self drop­ping two sizes would be easy.

Yep, I am a to­tal sucker for an ap­par­ent bar­gain.

So a dec­la­ra­tion I was ab­so­lutely smitten with the Ford Fi­esta CL prompted know­ing nods from my part­ner, who as­sumed its low price coloured my judg­ment.

There’s no dis­put­ing this lit­tle rip­per is value for money. The base model in­cludes air­con­di­tion­ing, CD sound sys­tem, power steer­ing, elec­tric win­dows, two airbags, anti-skid brakes and re­mote lock­ing.

More im­por­tantly, though, the Fi­esta is a great drive.

The peppy 1.6-litre en­gine made buzzing around in­ner-city op shops and vin­tage stores even more of a joy than usual.

The CL ac­cel­er­ates bril­liantly, cor­ners neatly, and has a par­tic­u­larly nifty gear­box.

It’s slim shape slips into the squeezi­est of park­ing spots, mak­ing me wish I could do the same in those use­less skinny jeans!

There’s a bit of a blind spot when re­vers­ing, though.

Thought­ful touches such as park­ing and in­te­rior lights that il­lu­mi­nate when you un­lock it add to the im­pres­sion of safety — great for women out late on their own.

As well as be­ing prac­ti­cal, this beauty is more stylish than its boxy com­peti­tors, with mod­ern curves in­side and out.

The dash­board is per­haps a bit too space-age — I strug­gled to fig­ure out the ra­dio tog­gle and an off-putting sprawl of other but­tons, but Gen Y would prob­a­bly get it.

The cheap fab­ric seat cov­er­ings and some plas­tic fit­tings on the trim are mi­nor quib­bles, though by no means deal-break­ers.

There’s ab­so­lutely no dan­ger this lit­tle num­ber will sit unloved in the drive­way of any bar­gain hunter — even if you do opt for the rather hideous metal­lic lime green colour they call ‘‘Squeeze’’. Likes: Fru­gal; well equipped; han­dles beau­ti­fully. Dis­likes: A full set of airbags and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol are $1000 ex­tra; nasty seat cov­ers; air­con­di­tion­ing is a bit limp.

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