1 Apr 2004
As chunky as its curvy Ka predecessor wasn’t, the Fiesta finally flung Ford back into light-car contention in Australia.
The model dates back three generations to 1976, when it took on European babies like the Renault R5 in the burgeoning light car/supermini class.
Subsequent generations in 1988 and 1995 never made it locally, but Ford Australia finally deemed the Fiesta suitable for us when it acquired a larger 1.6-litre engine and conventional automatic transmission.
New from the ground up, the German-built three and five-door hatchback (in base LX, sporty Zetec and luxury Ghia) rivals the class-leading Honda Jazz and Mazda2 for driver enjoyment, quality engineering, comfort and style – and is priced to also give the Hyundai Getz 1.5 and Holden Barina babies a run for their money.
The Fiesta and Mazda2, by the way, are closely related underneath.
Central to the Ford’s widespread appeal is a lusty (if a little loud) 74kW/146Nm 1.6-litre DOHC 16V four-cylinder engine, motivating a chassis that sits at the top of its class for steering, handling and ride comfort attributes.
A driver-adaptive four-speed auto doesn’t detract from the dynamic pleasure, even if the slick-shifting five-speed manual is the preferable gearbox.
Spacious, comfortable and versatile, the WP Fiesta outclasses the (Spanish-made) VW Polo and offered a more complete package than either the Citroen C3, Renault Clio or Peugeot 206.
High praise indeed for a baby Ford, and one that deserves to succeed in Australia. It’s also a worthy successor to the underrated Ka.