If you need a supermini but would like a crossover, Ford's Fiesta Active might well suit. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Here's a Fiesta - but not quite as you know it. For those who kind of like the idea of a small SUV but aren't quite ready to take the plunge, the Fiesta Active might be just perfect. A few off road cues, some extra traction for slippery surfaces and efficient running costs will all make it tempting to those wavering on the brink of small Crossover ownership.
Just about every market segment seems to offer an SUV option these days and the supermini sector is no exception. Ever since the turn of the century, we've had superminis on sale with ruggedized exteriors - usually marked out by body cladding and a bit of extra ride height. Long-forgotten contenders that come to mind include the Rover Streetwise, the Volkswagen Polo Dune, the Citroen C3 XTR and, a little more seriously, the Suzuki Swift 4x4.
This Ford Fiesta Active is a slightly more serious effort than most of those: thanks to a multi-mode traction control system, it actually does have some 'off piste' ability for a start, though you'd be wise to limit that to rough tracks that aren't too arduous. Does this trendy variant make sense? Let's find out.
As part of our test, we took the chance to try this car on a slippery surface so we could sample this variant's selectable drive modes. There are three settings - Eco, Normal and Slippery. This car's rough-terrain capabilities are also enhanced by a slightly higher ride height and by the adoption of Ford's Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Hill Start Assist. Other changes include a 10mm wider track, suspension revisions and optimised front shock absorbers that feature a special hydraulic rebound stopper that smooths out the bumps or jolts you'd get over rougher surfaces. Fortunately, none of this has significantly detracted from the standard Fiesta's class-leading handling package.
Under the bonnet, the usual 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is offered with three different power outputs: 95PS in conventional form and 125 or 155PS with Ford's latest EcoBoost Hybrid mild hybrid tech. All these variants get a six-speed manual gearbox. If you want auto transmission, there's also a non-hybrid version of the 125PS 1.0T EcoBoost unit. The 1.0T turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant features advanced technologies including high-pressure direct fuel injection, Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing and an innovative offset crankshaft design for decent refinement. There's also a version of the brand's usual 1.5-litre TDCi diesel, developing 85PS.
Design and Build
The Fiesta Active model gets more distinctive looks than the standard version thanks to a rugged body styling kit with Active badging and styling cues. Plus there's rough-road suspension with increased ride height, roof rails, front fog lights and 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. Fiesta Active buyers also get to choose from more dramatic and dynamic colour schemes, and there's the option of a two-part panoramic sliding roof on the 'Active 1' and 'Active X' variants.
Inside, it's much as it would be in any normal Fiesta. The highlight as usual is the SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system enables drivers to control audio and connected smartphones using voice commands, or via the tablet-inspired 8-inch colour touchscreen. This is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring systems, so you can access your favourite handset apps on the centre-dash screen.
Rear seat passengers get decent legroom - there's 16mm more knee space than there was in the previous generation Fiesta - supported by new slim-back seats that are soft and offer great side-to-side support. This Ford's tailgate is wide for easy access to the boot, and improved storage for personal belongings is delivered with a large glovebox and a 1-litre media bin in the centre console.
Market and Model
There are two Fiesta Active variants - the 'Active Edition' amd the 'Active X Edition'. The 'Active Edition' is priced from around £20,500, with the top 'Active X' model from costing from around £22,500.
Equipment includes features like a rear seat belt minder, a rear centre headrest, auto headlamps, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Ford's Quickclear heated windscreen for faster getaways on frosty mornings. Passenger comfort aids include electric front and rear windows, rear privacy glass, driver seat height and lumbar adjustment and air-conditioning. Plus 'Active Park Assist' with brake interventions to prevent low-speed collisions when parking hands-free. Camera-driven safety kit includes lane-keeping technology and a Pedestrian Detection system that can even prevent collisions at night.
Many buyers will want at least to stretch to the 'Active X Edition' variant, which gets a B&O PLAY premium audio system with 360-degree sound and 10 speakers. This derivative also features cruise control, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a centre console with armrest and illuminated cup holders, plus a 4.2in TFT instrument cluster screen with traffic sign recognition.
Cost of Ownership
Ford's multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is satisfyingly frugal, delivering from 109g/km WLTP CO2 emissions (in 125PS EcoBoost Hybrid form, which also manages up to 58.9mpg on the WLTP combined cycle). The 85PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine can deliver a WLTP CO2 figure as low as 112g/km and up to 65.7mpg (WLTP combined). AutoStartStop technology is fitted to all engines to improve economy, with Active Grille Shutter for both petrol and diesel engines. Underbody aero shielding further reduces aero drag. An Eco button for manual transmissions adjusts engine and throttle settings to help drivers save even more fuel when desired. Smart Regenerative Charging enhances fuel efficiency by selectively engaging the alternator and charging the battery when the vehicle is coasting and braking.
What else? Well we'll tell you about servicing, which on all engines is required every two years or 18,000 miles - whichever comes first. Two pre-paid servicing plans are available; one that costs £340 and covers you for two years and two services; and another that costs £550, is transferrable to future owners and covers three years and three services. Maintenance bookings can be done online through the 'My Ford' portal. This is part of the 'Ford BlueService' scheme that wraps up all of the care and maintenance of your car into one bundle that includes a free 30-point 'eCheck' of vital parts and highlights any work required with a red, amber and green traffic light warning to rank items that need attention in order of importance.
We've never seen a Fiesta like this before. But then the Fiesta has never previously had to face a threat as significant as that posed by the current dramatically expanding small SUV sector. This is the Blue Oval brand's response. It'll be interesting to see how buyers react.
So there you have it. For sure, this isn't a perfect package, but this is a Ford that's fashionable, properly priced and well-connected. Which leaves us with... well what? Perhaps the realisation that if you want a more interesting breed of Fiesta, then getting Active might be worth a thought.
By Jonathan Crouch
This seventh generation Fiesta grew up a bit but it didn't lose the youthful, eager feel that endeared previous generation models to so many supermini buyers. Beneath the smarter styling lies some clever user-friendly technology - and cabin quality that'll make down-sizing into one of these less of a chore. This is how you right a best seller. Let's check out early MK7 models as a used proposition.
[petrol] 1.1 Ti-VCT, 1.0 EcoBoost, 1.5 EcoBoost / [diesel] 1.5 TDCi
What's been the world's most significant car in the last half a century? This is our nomination, Ford's Fiesta, which in 2017 was rejuvenated in MK7 model guise for a fresh generation of buyers.
The figures speak for themselves. This supermini was first launched back in 1976 and by 2017, over 17 million models had been sold, 4.5 million of them in the UK. Which is why, at the time of this MK7 model's launch, to keep up with demand, a Fiesta was rolling off the Cologne production line every 68 seconds. In this country, we bought more than a million examples of the previous MK6 model, which was launched in 2008, and by 2017, had been our market's best selling car for the last eight years. Forget 'Mondeo man'; we are, in short, a nation of 'Fiesta folk'.
It's an astonishing success story, particularly given that prior to this seventh generation model's introduction, the only area in which Fiesta models had really excelled was in driving dynamics - usually one of the less important attributes for supermini buyers. You'd certainly have expected that if Ford were going to continue this sales dominance, at least in our market, greater efforts would be needed. Given that, it was somewhat surprising in 2017 to be presented with a seventh generation model that looked so similar to its predecessor. Don't be fooled. The Blue Oval brand changed virtually everything here - and we mean almost everything. Out of around 2,500 parts that are needed to create a Fiesta, only about 200 were carried over.
The bodywork was completely new; so was the suspension - and as a result, the driving dynamics are even better than before. There was also a brand new interior fashioned with much higher quality. And buyers got a fresh era of media connectivity and camera-driven safety technology. There was also a much wider choice of derivatives than before, with hot hatches, a super-luxury 'Vignale' version and even a 'Fiesta Active' Crossover model in the mix. This was, in short, on paper at least, a thoroughly well thought out piece of supermini development. The MK7 Fiesta sold in this Form until 2020, when the range was updated with mild hybrid power. But it's the earlier 2017-2020-era models we look at here.
What You Get
Everything changed here - but almost nothing was different. If you know anything about this car, then come face to face with it, that might be your first perspective on this seventh generation Fiesta's design - it was certainly ours. Ford certainly could have done something radically new; indeed, in many ways, they did. Dimensionally, after all, this was actually quite a fundamentally altered product, 70mm longer, 13mm wider and 20mm lower than the previous MK6 model, plus virtually every constituent part of the car was different. You can see though, why the brand wanted the look and feel of this supermini to stay much the same. The company's European Design Director Joel Piaskowski said he wanted to evolve the styling in a way that would make it more contemporary without losing the essential 'Fiesta-ness' that customers love. That's what was delivered.
Cabin quality was what let down the previous model, with its cheap finishes and confusing button clutter. In contrast, with this MK7 model, there are flush, seamless surfaces, soft-touch plastic coatings and neat splashes of chrome, plus it was all very well screwed together by the factory in Cologne. Other than that, the first thing you'll probably notice is the infotainment system that sprouts in free-standing form from the top of the centre console. The screen options vary depending on the model or options you choose - there are 4.2, 6.5 or, as in the case of top variants, 8.0-inch sizes, all featuring pin-sharp graphics, logical menus and fast processor speeds.
And in the rear? Well, if you come to this car fresh from ownership of the previous generation model, then it's likely that you'll view Ford's greater efforts in this part of the cabin in a positive light. There is, after all, 16mm more knee room than there was before, plus the seats are softer and offer greater side-to-side support. Should you be trying a Fiesta having sampled a more spacious supermini rival though - and there are plenty - you'll probably be a little less inclined to be quite so generous.
Finally, the boot. That extra body length allowed the cargo area to be 17-litres larger than it was before, with this MK7 model rated at 292-litres for both bodyshapes. That figure is only average by class standards, but if you're able to flatten the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest, you'll free up one of the better total capacity figures in the class - 1,093-litres.
What You Pay
We'll base pricing on the 5-door body style that most customers choose. The 3-door body shape (only available with base trim or with the top ST model) saves you about £450. Pricing starts with the normally aspirated 1.1-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine, which, with a base 'Style''-spec model, will cost you from around £7,200 for an early .17-plate MK7 model, with values rising to around £8,800 for an '18-platye car, Add around £700 more for mid-range 'Zetec'' trim. You'll probably prefer a model with the 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine; prices start from around £8,600, which gets you a '17-plate 'Zetec'-spec model, prices then rising to around £10,100 for an '18-plate model. Add another £800 for mid-range 'Titanium' trim. The 1.5 TDCi diesel prices from around £8,000 in 90PS form, with base 'Style' trim on a '17-plate, with values rising to around £9,150 for a later '19-plate car. The Fiesta ST hot hatch prices from around £13,500 on a '17-plate with base 'ST-2' trim, with values rising to around £19,200 for a later '20-plate car; add around £900 for plusher 'ST-3' trim.
What to Look For
As usual with a supermini, check the interior for child damage. And with top-spec versions, check the alloy wheels for scratches. Look for any dents, dings and scratches to the panelwork. And ensure that the clutch engages smoothly and that the car goes into gear easily. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is fitted with a diesel particulate filter, but this may be clogged up if the previous owner hasn't completed too many highway journeys.
There's one key product recall you need to know about. Some Fiestas built from 15 May 2019 to 17 June 2019 were fitted with steering columns that weren't up to specification. Cars affected had to have the whole column replaced to prevent potential future issues.
(approx based on a 2018 1.0 EcoBoost 100PS - Ex Vat)
An oil filter is in the £7-£9 bracket. An air filter costs around £11. A pollen filter costs around £9-£23. A rear outer lamp costs around £60. A wiper blade is in the £3-£14 bracket. A rear brake discs cost in the £15 bracket. A front brake pad is in the £16-£40 brackets; rears are in the £16-£27 bracket. A radiator is around £180.
On the Road
Variations on the Fiesta theme may come and go, but before driving any version of Ford's definitive supermini, there's one thing you almost always tend to know for certain: that it'll be a great steer. This time round, the Blue Oval brand has sought to retain that traditional Fiesta attribute, yet at the same time, introduce a standard of ride quality closer to that delivered by arch-rivals like Volkswagen's Polo. The feel you'll get from this Fiesta depends quite a lot on the variant of it you choose. That's because two quite different chassis configurations have been used across the range, with a firmer set-up used for the various sporty 'ST' models and a softer one featuring elsewhere in the range on the cars the majority of customers will end up with. On such mainstream versions, this car isn't quite the sharp, eager thing we remembered from before, but it can still offer a level of handling joie de vivre that's beyond anything its competitors can manage. That's thanks to improved steering, a lightweight body that's usefully stiffer in this MK7 model and an effective torque vectoring system that helps you get the grip down in the corners.
The effect of all of this is dialled up to a useful degree if you opt for one of the sportier 'ST-Line' models, Fiesta variants that are more stiffly-sprung, yet which still enjoy most of the benefits of the suppler all-new suspension set-up that's responsible for a vast improvement in ride quality. Engine-wise, all the volume petrol units are three cylinder in configuration, the line-up propped up by a 1.1-litre Ti-VCT powerplant offered with either 70 or 85PS. Most customers stretch to the 1.0T turbocharged EcoBoost engine, available in either 100, 125 or 140PS guises. We'd recommend the volume 100PS derivative, which can be had with an auto gearbox option and in manual form, is capable of 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 97g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). Elsewhere in the line-up, 1.5-litre engines dominate. There's a 200PS petrol unit in the ST hot hatch. And diesel buyers get 85PS and 120PS 1.5 TDCi options that focus on frugality and will be of particular interest to customers of the 'Active' Crossover derivative that widened the appeal of the range.
The Ford Fiesta has always been a vehicle the British public has warmed to, but the truth is that before this seventh generation model arrived, supermini buyers chose this car either because it was great to drive or because they'd been offered a deal too good to turn down: there wasn't really another reason to buy one. This model changed all that, smarter to look at, smarter to sit in and smarter to operate.
A smarter choice all round then? Many will think so. This may not be the largest car in the supermini sector but in just about every other respect, it's an ultra-competitive proposition. There's an unpretentious quality to it and a focus on providing the things that really matter to small car buyers - the fun handling and affordable asking price Ford has long delivered to them in this segment, but also the low running costs, strong safety provision and low emissions that are equally important in today's market. And it's all been done with a polish and self belief that we've never seen from a Fiesta before. In short, this is, more than ever, a small car that supermini buyers simply can't ignore.