I decided I wanted an ND in 2017. I’d been looking for a ‘good’ Mk2 to replace the one I owned, and it gradually dawned on me that I might spend a long time looking.
A local dealer had taken in p/x a 2 year old 1.5 Sport Nav, that I put a returnable deposit on before it was available, after driving their demo car. In the meantime I booked back-to-back test drives in their 1.5 and 2.0 demonstrators, to see if I would be buying the right one. It’s hard to shake off the idea that more power must be better, but the some of the reviews were saying the 1.5 was the star.
It hadn’t escaped me that the 1.5 has pretty much the same weight, power and performance as the Mk1 1.8.
I drove the 2.0 first, knowing that it might put the 1.5 in its worst light. It wasn’t a perfect comparison, the 2.0 was a Sport Nav (sport suspension and LSD), the 1.5 a SEL Nav. I did a half-hour circuit around mainly quiet country roads.
I liked the 2.0. Maximum power is largely irrelevant, but I could feel the extra lug through the gears of the higher torque compared with the 1.5 I had driven previously. I had enjoyed using the revs on the 1.5, which probably led to me hitting the limiter just as I was enjoying trying to do the same with the 2 litre.
Then the 1.5. In some ways the difference is negligible. 99% of driving isn’t anywhere near the limit, and the 1.5 despite its lower torque is flexible enough - but if you are bimbling at 2000 rpm, taking off quickly probably means dropping down one more gear than in the 2 litre.
Pushing on a bit felt very little different in terms of power and speed - looking at the speedo however showed that where I had been doing 60 in the 1.5, I was doing 70 in the 2 litre. Perhaps the performance benefit of the sports suspension, or, put another way, the extra compliance, and perhaps roll, of the standard suspension in the 1.5 makes it feel faster. The 1.5 handled the broken surface of one particular bend better than the 2.0 - one of those patches where there are shallow holes in the top layer of tarmac. The 2.0 felt to be skipping sideways a bit, the 1.5 just absorbed the unevenness.
The most noticeable difference was in the higher red line of the 1.5. That on its own I think would have swung it, but I also liked the ride a bit better on the 1.5. I can’t claim to have detected any difference in the balance, neither had noticeable understeer and both had more than enough grip on the dry road.
I’m sure psychology came into it somewhere, but I felt I enjoyed the 1.5 no less than the 2.0, and that really gave me no reason the prefer the heavier, faster car. I had also picked up a couple of speeding tickets not long before and not having a car in which I would be going 10mph faster seemed a sensible idea (not that owning a separate car purely as a toy can ever really be justified as sensible). And perversely I suppose, I like the fact that it has to be actively driven. I have an automatic diesel car for lazy motoring.
So 1.5 it was, and I was happy not to be left with any lingering doubt. When the p/x 1.5 came in, it was a bit too knocked about for me and I ended up buying a 6-month-old 1.5 Arctic. I haven’t regretted it at all, and I plan to keep it until I have to be craned in and out of it.
Would the ND2 have changed my mind? Probably not - I don’t need the speed or the bragging rights. In absolute terms, the 1.5 is a fast car if I want it to be. The fact that a Fiesta ST will out drag it is irrelevant, and if anyone wants to race me at the traffic lights, it’s “after you, Claude” from me. I’m too busy enjoying myself.