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Car reviews - Ford - Festiva - Trio 1.3 3-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Nice Mazda-inspired instrumentation, hatch versatility
Room for improvement
Everything else

Ford logo7 May 2003

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

FORD's Festiva was launched in Australia belatedly in October, 1991, six years after its international debut.

Built in South Korea by Kia and based on the original 1985 Mazda 121, the WA series Festiva established a presence in the Barina class for Ford.

But it was not until the 1994 WB series that Festiva sales started to escalate rapidly.

This curvy Festiva was styled to recall the much-loved Laser "bubble-back", a market leader in the model's halcyon days of the 1980s.

Like the Hyundai Excel, it is the base three-door Trio model that pulls price-sensitive buyers into a Festiva.

Cars such as the Trio and Excel are cleaning out the used car market as budget buyers stretch themselves to own a new car, often of arguable quality and refinement, instead of a well- equipped low kilometre unit like a late model Corolla or Honda Civic.

Sure, a Trio or Excel's three-year warranty is appealing but a mechanic's report and regular servicing offsets the risk of problems in a better driving, higher quality used car. Furthermore, owners may avoid the sting of savage depreciation.

The Festiva has never been a pacesetter in its class.

Dynamically, the roly-poly Festiva is let down by uninspiring handling dominated by understeer around corners while the steering is slow and heavy, and the ride a little bouncy.

The 47kW, 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine endows the Festiva with only average performance and fuel economy, especially if the Trio is fitted with the old-fashioned and inefficient three-speed automatic transmission option.

Festiva Trios are three-door hatchbacks with the wheelbase a legroom-stealing 80mm shorter than in the five-door hatchback.

There is room inside for four adults in reasonable comfort.

Although the fittings look and feel cheap, the dashboard layout is nicely presented.

The basic instrumentation is professionally executed and the steering wheel feels nice. The boot space is acceptable.

In manual versions, shorter people may find the gear lever set too far back for comfort.

Trio's equipment levels are sparse. The lack of power steering is a notable omission but later Trios may come with air-conditioning thanks to a massive price war with rivals.

Festiva passengers sit up high, exacerbating the impression of body roll. The benefit is good all-round vision afforded by the big windows, which helps make a Trio easy to park. But noise from the drivetrain, tyres and body means refinement levels are well eclipsed by others in Festiva's class.

There is no escaping the fact the Festiva and most of its rivals are built down to a price.

Owners report a myriad of squeaks and rattles from new, betraying build and material quality that trails most of the Japanese and European competition.

Mechanically, the Festiva is simple and somewhat reliable. Festivas are known to suffer from engine rattles when cold. This is easily rectified using 10W-30 engine oil in lieu of 15W-40.

But the long-term longevity of cut-price economy cars is open to debate. A thorough mechanical and body check-up is strongly advised. Consider only low kilometre, well maintained, gently driven and regularly serviced Festivas.

Keep in mind many new buyers are young and/or first time motorists on a budget who may be not be clued up in regard to proper car care.

The WD-series Festiva, released in January, 1997, featured new headlights, bumpers, grille and tail-lights and minor alterations to trim. More trim changes heralded the last of the series, the '98 WF model.

Hyundai's purchase of Kia forced Ford to sever its ties to the Festiva. It was replaced by the unsuccessful (but far better) Ka from 1999 to 2003. In 2004 the WP Fiesta, made in Germany, proved to be a much worthier light car for Ford.

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