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

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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.

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