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Ford Fiesta Tuning tips

"Fiesta = A festival or holiday = Fun!"

Fiesta tuning

The Ford Fiesta is one of fords most popular cars.

Its production run has lasted since 1976 with no end in sight.

Designed as a convenient run around town car, it came with a wide variety of smaller engine sizes.

From a tuning point of view you really need to get an engine of 1.4 litres or greater and preferable a 1.6 or more for the best results.

With the arrival of the XR2, the XR2i tuning firms started producing turbo kits for the Fiesta which pushed the power to 125bhp. (Considering the low weight of these early cars they are still able to keep up with more modern cars with bigger engine power.

Tuning tips and articles Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums
There is a dedicated following of Fiesta tuners from the classic XR2 to the modern ST.

It may have been to avoid denting sales of the early hot Escorts but power was certainly not a major selling point of the Fiesta. Eventually Ford relented and released the RS turbo with 135bhp. We now have the stunning ST models to play with showing just how far the Fiesta has come since the early days of the MK1.

From 1999 to 2002 there were no hot versions on offer. Eventually ford released the ST Fiesta with the 2.0 Duratec engine pushing out power of 148bhp culminating in one of the best Fiestas produced so far.

Engine swaps are popular choices of modification for Fiesta owners with most utilising the XR2i and RS turbo engines on older models or even the modern Duratec units. A number of conversions have been done with Escort engines too including an ambitious Cosworth conversion!

Handling is one thing that really needs a little attention on most models, only the hot hatches have uprated suspension and are good at corners. A stiffer spring and damper and lowering of 35mm will really do much to improve handling. (The handling of the ST model is actually very tight from the factory though!)

Handling modifications are usually high on the agenda for the Fiesta tuning projects. We suggest that you look for some performance suspension parts and lower your car by around 30-35mm. More than this will generally require arch work - especially on the performance models which are already equipped with lower and stiffer suspension.

Watch out for really stiff suspension, as it impairs the cars grip causing it to bounce over the road surface rather than gripping it.

When it comes to car tuning you always get a percentage gain so start off with a powerful engine to start with to maximise your tuning investment.

Ford Fiesta Tuning modifications.

Peak power is all well and good but if you want a truly driveable car it will need a wide power band and lots of low down torque. Don't get misled by manufacturer claims of big peak power gains, they don't tell the whole story, it is the torque or power band you need to focus your attention on. Fast road cams will also make quite a difference to the power characteristics of the 1.6 and 2.0 engines. 

Fast road cams offer one of the biggest performance gains as far as a bolt on part goes, but it is possible to ruin your ride by choosing the wrong profile. When pushing up the power you will need to pay attention to the fuelling. More power needs more fuel. Using uprated injectors and a bigger capacity fuel pump deals with the fuelling issue.

Ford Fiesta intake and exhaust modifications.

Let's move on to the engine intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. The cone filters or 'Induction kits' can work well on turbo engines where you are running large 40% plus power gains (providing they are fitted with a suitable cold air feed or air box), for the smaller Fiesta engines or modestly modified ones you should go with a sports panel air filter made from a high flowing medium.

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can find this will slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

Airflow through the head can be dramatically increased with some professional porting and polishing. These should match and be setup to take into account any other engine mods. A good fast road power clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never just hope that a standard worn clutch will cope. Remaps offer significant power gains on all turbo charged cars.

On NASP engines the benefits are doubtful. However a remap on a NASP engine will help unleash the potential if you have done a lot of mods. Adding forced induction will see big power gains but this is usually too expensive to be cost effective. Superchargers are generally easier to add than turbos. With a turbo the boost curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it hard to map. Superchargers however will give a boost which is proportional to engine speed so is easier to map. Decreasing the engines compression ratio will allow you to add forced induction, water injection may also help prevent detonation.

Ford Fiesta Wheel modifications.

Because alloy wheels are lighter they improve performance and they help to cool the brake disks. Large wheels tend to be heavy and the last thing you want is to increase the unsprung mass in your car, instead choose performance tyres and light weight wheels of a similar size to the OEM settings on your car.Aim to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the same as supplied from the factory. In all cases we do not recommend going above 16 inches.

It would be worth reading our unbiased Ford tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Induction kits and sports exhausts, although popular modifications, will do little to add power to anything less than a 1.6 litre engine. Even on larger engines the power gain offered is only noticable as you get up the rev range. A panel filter seems to give the best performance to cost benefit but any gains will be minimal. Getting the head gas flowed and ported and converting early models to electronic ignition and fuel injection are probably the best choices of modification around.

In an article like this we can only give an overview of tuning the Fiesta, especially since there are so many different models around. Join us in our Ford forum to discuss tuning options with other Fiesta fans and Fiesta tuners.

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