Unexceptional Classics

Unexceptional Classifieds: Ford Fiesta Mk4 Encore

by Antony Ingram
28 October 2022 3 min read
Unexceptional Classifieds: Ford Fiesta Mk4 Encore
Photos: eBay

Price: £4995
Mileage: 9800
Condition: Deserving of an Encore
Advert: eBay

Well, farewell Ford Fiesta. You had a good run, most of it at the top of the UK sales charts. If you didn’t learn to drive in one, then someone you know probably did, and you won’t need six degrees of separation to find yourself a Fiesta owner in the UK – there’s probably one parked within fifty yards of wherever you’re currently sitting.

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Naturally, the first thing most of us did when hearing the news was look for a cared-for example in the classifieds, but while industry colleagues were trolling the upper end of the market for the best ST they could find, we’ve set our sights rather lower, on perhaps the first Fiesta that was at the top of the sales charts on merit, rather than simply cost and convenience: the Mk4.

The late Richard Parry-Jones is oft-quoted as the man who transformed Ford in the 1990s, and the evidence is plain to see: Ford’s products went from strong-selling also-rans to strong-selling class-leaders.

Speaking to Modern Classics magazine in 2018, Parry-Jones explained that Ford’s sales were shifting towards retail and away from fleet in the 1990s, so Ford itself had to focus on quality over simply cost. ‘In a mass-market car you have so many cost constraints,’ he told the magazine. ‘You have to be innovative without using exotic parts.’

RPJ was a strong believer that even regular, non-enthusiast buyers could tell when a car drove well, and after the Mondeo scored a direct hit, the Fiesta was next on the list. While in many respects evolutionary from the Mk3, the Mk4 was a car transformed – tighter, more fluid and more engaging to drive than the car it replaced, through time-honoured methods like increasing stiffness in components that demanded it, and reducing friction in those that didn’t need it. And no exotic parts required.

That said, the Mk4 Fiesta’s talents were best expressed in the newly-introduced 16-valve, Zetec-engined models, which revved as freely as they steered. But it’s a sign of just how right Ford got the car that even at its most basic – such as the 59bhp, 1.3-litre ‘Encore’ model you see here – it’s still a great car to drive.

1997 Ford Fiesta Encore engine

While we’ve not driven this car to prove it, your author did once own a 1998 Ford Fiesta Finesse, a special edition based on the Encore with just a few more bits of kit. So I’ve spent a lot of time staring at those tachometer-less dials and wiggling that long gearlever with its simple plastic gaiter.

What the old Kent-derived, pushrod Endura-E loses to the Zetec in smoothness and top end power, it more than makes up for in low-revs torque, and with pushrods there’s no cambelt change to worry about either. As for the trim level, my Finesse had a few mild improvements over this Encore – and when I say mild, I mean metallic paintwork and a sunroof, basically – but the Mk4’s rounded cabin design, three-spoke airbagged wheel and shapely seats mean it never felt like the bargain-basement car the old Fiesta Populars used to. Ford even managed to make the basic stereo cassette look interesting.

Our classified car does lay the base-model on thick, with white paint and unpainted bumpers, though it’s nice to see the original Ford wheeltrims present and correct – a hint of the sub-10,000 mile tally on the odometer.

Mine started failing MOTs regularly before I sold it, but the history of this car looks saintly by small, cheap car standards – evidence of corroded brake pipes and worn suspension bushes here and there, but nothing of great concern. Like those occasional inexplicably un-rusty examples you find of the Ford Ka, there’s probably no better way to prevent corrosion than starting with a car like this and keeping it religiously clean.

At £4995 it’s not quite up to the £8440 a 3-door Encore would have cost in 1997 (just under £15,000 in 2022 money) but with so few about in good condition now – and with Ford’s decision to can the popular model going forward – perhaps we’ll see even more love for the Fiesta at next year’s Festival of the Unexceptional.

Read more

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What could have been: The hot Healey Fiesta
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