Isn’t she lovely?
Fiestas are doing it for themselves. The new Ford isn’t exclusively for women, but they are the ideal market, writes NEIL McDONALD
SHE’S called Antonella in Europe, Christina in North America and May in the Asia-Pacific region. She’s 24 and a thoroughly modern woman.
She’s also the type of person Ford reckons is the ideal target market for the new Ford Fiesta.
Rather than run away from the fact the Fiesta’s core buyer is female, Ford has embraced it.
However, it is quick to point out that its newest light-car star will not appeal only to women but men and empty-nesters.
Despite embracing the sisterhood, Ford executive director (global small cars) Marin Burela expects the sports models — Zetec in Australia — will have a strong following from men.
‘‘The car really has universal appeal,’’ he says. ‘‘It is a significant landmark in Ford’s history as the first Fiesta to be developed for customers around the world and as the template for the company’s future generations of global vehicles.’’
Burela says that when work started on the newcomer four years ago it had to meet specific social and emotional targets.
‘‘Getting a visual, emotional pull up front was critical with the new Fiesta,’’ he says.
Ford is so confident about its newcomer it plans to launch Fiesta in North America in 2010, a continent mostly known for its love of gasguzzling pickup trucks.
Three and five-door Fiestas arrive here in January with either 1.4-litre or 1.6-litre Duratec four-cylinder engines driving the front wheels.
Three models will be available, the entry CL, mid-range LX and range-topping sports Zetec model with the 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT four cylinder.
The LX will come only as a fivedoor and the CL and Zetec will be available in three and five-door guises.
The 1.4-litre Duratec four develops 71kW at 5750 revs and 128Nm at 4200 revs and the 1.6-litre TiVCT gets 20 per cent more power than the outgoing engine.
It now develops 88kW at 6000 revs and 152Nm at 4050 revs.
Zetec models are expected to get sports seats and suspension, body kit, 16-inch alloys and front and rear spoilers.
Other standards may include keyless entry and a start button, Ford’s human machine interface, airconditioning, anti-skid brakes and MP3-compatible CD stereo.
A ‘‘safety pack’’ including elec- tronic stability control and curtain airbags is expected to be optional.
Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead McAlary says prices should be close to the outgoing model, which should mean a sub-$16,000 price for the CL three-door and about $20,000 for the Zetec five-door.
At launch the Fiesta will have a five-speed manual. A four-speed auto arrives about March.
Based on the Verve concept car shown at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the seventh-generation hatch shares about 20 per cent of its hardware with the Mazda2, as part of Ford’s global product-development system.
But Ford engineers modified the suspension, steering and dynamics.
Though both cars were developed side-by-side, the Fiesta gets Ford’s DNA.
Like the current crop of Aussie and European Fords, the Fiesta uses Ford’s kinetic design language, with the signature bulging wheel arches, trapezoidal grille and slimline head- lights. The interior gets a classy, European feel.
Designers have taken inspiration from the latest mobile phones for the car’s centre console and upper dashboard controls.
Apart from the two side air vents on the dashboard, its hard to pick any visual commonality.
The Fiesta and Mazda2 share the same MacPherson strut front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension but the Ford is tuned differently.
Even the rear muffler has been reengineered to provide a sportier exhaust note.
Ford vehicle engineering manager Dieter Schwarz says the bushings, spring and damper rates at the rear have been retuned.
‘‘Because the car is stiffer than even the Mazda2 we’ve been able to provide a more compliant ride without any handling trade-off,’’ he says.
The Fiesta has shed about 40kg but added in 10kg in sound insulation and extra safety features.