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Ford's focus on Fiesta

Five at the front: Fiesta will initially be built only in five-door form, with a three-door version due in late 2002.

The all-new Fiesta is needed to fill the minicar gap left in the Ford line-up

27 Aug 2001

THIS is the newcomer that could spell mini-car salvation for Ford Australia.

The all-new Fiesta is set to make its international debut at next month's Frankfurt motor show and it goes on sale in Europe early next year.

Its local prospects are still unclear although Ford Australia president Geoff Polites recently said Fiesta was his preferred option to fill the void left in its line-up by the Festiva's demise earlier this year.

The Blue Oval has since been forced to rely solely on the Ka, which is hamstrung by being available only in three-door manual guise. It is also handicapped by a relatively low-tech pushrod engine that cranks out a modest 43kW.

Enter the new Fiesta - a handsome car that bears more than a passing resemblance to its lauded Focus sibling. It is claimed to deliver class-leading dynamics as well as generous levels of interior space.

Fiesta will initially be built only in five-door form, with a three-door version coming on stream in late 2002.

Engine choices in Europe will include the venerable 1.3-litre unit that powers the Ka, as well as more modern 1.4 and 1.6-litre units that produce 60kW and 75kW respectively. Three transmission options will be available, including a CVT auto.

But the hurdle facing Ford Australia will be to get the Fiesta here at a competitive price. The Focus and Mondeo were both rejected because they were too expensive and it is a possibility their smaller sibling may meet the same fate.

Logic suggests it would need to be priced from $17,000-$18,000 in order to take on five-door rivals such as the Holden Barina (from $15,990), Suzuki Ignis (from $16,490) and Daihatsu YRV (from $17,990). This could be a challenge unless the newcomer can be sourced cheaply from Europe.

Other minicar options available to Ford Australia include the Ikon - which is built in South Africa and India among other places - and a badge-engineered version of the new Mazda 121, due in 2003. But Fiesta is tipped to be the favoured option.

Measuring 3920mm long, it is the biggest Fiesta ever - gaining 89mm in length over the current model, 49mm in width and 97mm in height.

The all-new body has clear styling cues taken from the rest of the Ford range, with wheel arches borrowed from the Focus, and a rear end reminiscent of the Mondeo wagon's.

Ford says the new Fiesta was designed from the outset to have enough room for five adults and their luggage. Unlike some smaller rivals, the extra room in the passenger compartment has not been created at the expense of the boot.

A capacity of 285 litres with the seat raised and parcel shelf in place may not be class-leading, but Ford says it concentrated on overall usability rather than space.

The Fiesta will also spawn other variants, including the Urban Activity Vehicle - which is said to offer MPV-like cabin flexibility - and a 4WD-lookalike Multi Activity Vehicle.

A novelty in its class will be the availability of up to six airbags - front and side plus full "curtain" inflatable structures to protect occupants in rollover or side impacts.

Ford is confident the Fiesta will get a class-leading four-star rating in the NCAP crash test, even though a third lap-sash rear belt will be an extra-cost option in Europe.

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