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.

See our video which provides a complete introduction to Ford Tuning, it contains some tips on performance and handling modifications.

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

Engine Mods

There is a dedicated following of Fiesta tuners from the classic XR2 to the modern ST.

This list of the stages and kits are usually installed by our members, decide how far you wish to go in your tuning project before you get going.

Getting the best modified modifications for your planned usage of the car is vital. Stage 3 motor sport mods just don't work well on the road hard to control in slow traffic.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your car. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best mods for your Fiesta

  1. Lighter flywheels - a lower weight flywheel will significantly improve the engines rev changes. Not always suitable for all Fiesta engines.
  2. Fiesta Suspension - Upgrading your suspension greatly enhances your Fiesta road holding and cornering. Coilovers and Bushings are the usual go to mods
  3. Flowing and porting the Head - Head work will get air flowing into the engine while removing turbulence or restrictions.
  4. Braking Mods - Stopping your Fiesta needs to be near the top of your Mods list.
  5. Turbo upgrades - Adding a turbocharger is the most significant way to raise the intake air supply, allowing you to utilize more fuel and make higher power. It is one of the most expensive mods it does provide the largest gains.
  6. ECU Tunes - A Remapped Fiesta ECU offers the most advantage for the money, aftermarket ECU upgrades, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  7. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but we strongly suggest they be fitted by someone who knows what they are doing and it is often hard to find a suitable cam near you but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft for you.
  8. Air Induction and Exhaust Upgrades - Please be warned on their own these mods will NOT ADD PERFORMANCE for most setups, but they will enable you to enhance power after other upgrades by lessening the restrictive flow.

Fiesta Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Sports exhaust, Lighter flywheel, Alloy wheels, Panel air filter, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm), Remap.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Fast road cam, high flow fuel injector, fuel pump upgrades, Power/Sport clutch, Ported and polished head.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Competition cam, Engine balancing, Sports gearbox, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves).

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!

Fiesta Handling/Suspension upgrades

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!)

We would go to a maximum drop of 30 - 41 on most models. You risk rubbing on the arches if you go lower than this.

Upgrades to the Fiesta's suspension and handling

One of the most popular reasons for modding your Fiesta suspension is to enhance its handling. In spite of this, we repeatedly witness the same mistakes over and over again.

Look out for adjustable coilovers which enable you to adjust the suspension height and this allows you to fine tune your cars handling.

Is there anything I should bear in mind while deciding on suspension upgrades for my Fiesta?

Improvements to the bushings

What factors should you consider when setting up and selecting your suspension bushings if your Fiesta is also used as a daily driver?

The suspension components of the Fiesta may be connected to the car's chassis through bushings, which are rotatable rubber mounts. These rubber ones will wear out as they wear out.

By replacing new OEM rubber bushings, you may greatly improve your vehicle's performance.

Because the polyurethane bushes are firmer, the ride may be a bit more harsh, but they will last longer and maintain the handling.

Increased vibration and play may also hasten the decay in other suspension parts.

A new set of polyeyurothane bushings will help to lessen the excessive play associated with rubber bushings.

Some poly bushings are hard to locate, but most will find the primary mounts readily available in their areas Often, custom Fiesta polyeyurothane bushings may be manufactured to your requirements.

A frequent misconception is that the best setup would be a non-adjustable suspension system that lowers the vehicle by 60mm purchased from a franchised component shop.

Vendors may assert that their Fiesta suspension kits are compatible with any or all of the Fiesta model years.

For a vast variety of vehicles, a 'one size fits all' approach is obviously incorrect.

How low should you go on the Fiesta?

When it comes to road vehicles, the maximum suspension drop is 30 - 41 mm, but when it comes to cars that are factory fitted with lowered springs, the maximum suspension drop is 21 mm, according to TorqueCars.

These tolerances may be drastically reduced if the wheel size is changed. Even with 16 or 17-inch wheels and conventional suspension, lowering the vehicle may create a a slew of issues.

While the fact that the Fiesta being lower allows for less air to travel underneath it may aid in stability, the ultimate goal should always be to enhance handling. When lowering the springs, it is critical to use the proper shocks that match all round.

Fully adjustable suspension allows you to fine tune the handling of you Fiesta dramatically enhancing your drive.

Adding bigger discs and better performance pads can make for radically improved braking.

Bear in mind that motorsport brake pads will be noisy and will need to be really hot before they are effective.

On your regular commute to work the brakes are occasionally used so won't be all that effective so specify brake pads which don't need to be really hot.

Power Mods and Upgrades

Improving the handling for lots of DIY modders first priority in your Fiesta tuning project.

Good suspension tweaks that dramatically improve handling for the Fiesta include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe in or out on the front wheels. Toe in for stability, or Toe out to improve cornering. It would also pay to improve the brakes, by adding larger discs and or higher friction pads..

We suggest that you fit motorsport suspension and lower the car by 22mm - 37 mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with motorsport 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.

You really need to keep as much low end power as you can and aim to achieve a wide power band rather than a narrow top end power spike.

In this article we shall give a limited introduction to the best upgrades for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance part.One of the best mechanical performance parts you can do to your NA (naturally aspirated) engine is to fit a fast road camshaft .

The exhaust and intake durations play a large part in your cars power band, but be careful here, getting this wrong can upset the idle and make the car difficult to drive in traffic. You'd need to follow a camshaft upgrade with other mods and finish with a remap to fully realise your gains.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to ramp up the fuelling.

Using higher octane fuel is another option if you find you are suffering from pinking or premature ignition on your Ford project after fitting other uprated upgrades. Uprated injectors will enable you to supply sufficient fuel to the engine.

Uprate the fuel pump to cope with the extra fuel requirements of your tuned Fiestas uprated injectors.

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 NA (naturally aspirated) engines the benefits are doubtful. However a remap on a NA (naturally aspirated) 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 noticeable 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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