4 It has a legacy to live up to

CAR (UK) - - Analysis -

FORD HAS shifted al­most 4.5m Fi­es­tas in Bri­tain since 1976, mak­ing it the UK’s most popular car since records be­gan. As a na­tion we love our Fi­es­tas. Even when, in those grim mid­dle years, we prob­a­bly shouldn’t have. There was noth­ing par­tic­u­larly in­no­va­tive about the Širst Fi­esta. It fol­lowed the tem­plate set by the Fiat 127 and Re­nault 5, them­selves merely im­prove­ments on Is­sigo­nis’s orig­i­nal Mini, but it quickly be­came Bri­tain’s favourite su­per­mini, and dragged into the mod­ern era a Ford still ped­dling rear-drive sa­loons that looked like they were drawn by a four-year-old. A mildly up­dated sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion car ar­rived in 1984 and again sold well, but Peu­geot’s 205 was a far bet­ter su­per­mini. No sur­prise then that 1989’s Mk3 Fi­esta was a clear 205 copy­cat, at least in looks. Un­for­tu­nately it was noth­ing like as good to drive. A prod­uct of the malaise years that also gave us the phoned-it-in Mk5 Es­cort, the Mk3 Fi­esta was al­most as bad, try­ing to pass o• turgid en­gines and joy­less han­dling in a 205-a-like shell. Even the fast ones were rub­bish. ‘An­other du• fast Ford’ screamed our XR2i road test cover line, and adding a turbo for 1990’s RS only made mat­ters worse. But in 1995 some­thing in­cred­i­ble hap­pened. Hav­ing put driv­ing kicks Širmly on the agenda with the 1993 Mon­deo, Ford tweaked the Fi­esta’s sus­pen­sion and dropped in bril­liant new 16-valve Yamaha-de­vel­oped Zetec-SE en­gines. Apart from now look­ing like the emoji for ‘I’ve just walked in on my par­ents hav­ing sex’ it was im­proved al­most be­yond recog­ni­tion. And in that mo­ment Ford had laid a win­ning frame­work of zesty han­dling – plus sub-par pack­ag­ing and Tran­sit-qual­ity cabin plas­tics – that would un­der­pin ev­ery Fi­esta for the next 20 years. The Mk5 of 2002, big­ger and heav­ier, but also slower, was a solid e•ort, if no game changer. But its suc­ces­sor was. As sharp of suit as it was of chas­sis, the sixth Fi­esta put the badge on the top of the sales charts and it’s been there ever since.

The idea was right from day one, so they’ve stuck with it for 40-plus years

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