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The Ford Fiesta is one of Britain’s most iconic cars, and it continues to top the leader board in sales within the UK.
In 2014, the Fiesta officially became the best-selling car of all time in Britain with Ford announcing it had sold 4,115,000 cars in the last 38 years, overtaking the previous record holder, the Ford Escort. Ford meanwhile maintains that the Fiesta has led the small car segment for 27 years of its 37 year life.
Manufactured since 1976 and now in its seventh generation, Trusted Dealers takes a look at the history of one of Britain’s best loved cars.
In 1973, the oil crisis became a catalyst for car manufacturers to up their game, but Ford was already developing its first Fiesta car, a small frugal model designed to appeal to the wider market. And so launched the original Ford Fiesta, and it was a huge success with the public. In fact, by 1980 more than a million cars had sold. Buyers could choose from a range of specifications from the basic Spartan model to the Popular, the Ghia and finally the top spec Supersport. But it was the XR2 which attracted the most attention, sporting a 1.6-litre engine it opened up the doors to the boy-racer generation!
The second-generation Fiesta came out in the summer of 1983 and on first impressions, it didn’t really shake up the formula too much. The front end sported a rounder face and the interior was much improved, but the dimensions remained the same. One of the main additions to the Fiesta Mark II was the addition of the first Fiesta diesel engine – a 1600cc model adapted from the Ford Escort. There was also a vast array of special edition cars to include the Firefly, Dash, Finesse, Festival, Holiday, Bonus, Olympus Sport – whatever your preference, Ford made sure they had designed a car to suit just about everyone! Not to mention the second generation XR2 which set new standards for the 1980s such as a 96bhp 1.6-litre CVH engine (previously seen in the Ford Escort XR3) and a five-speed gearbox.
The third version of the Ford Fiesta greatly differed from its predecessors. Unveiled at the end of 1988, the new car was based on a whole new platform . It was larger, with revised engines (the diesel was enlarged to a 1.8-litre capacity) and suspension was much improved – there was even a five-door version available. Buyers were certainly keen to get their hands on one, so much so that Ford shifted over one million models in the first two years of production. The new model also included three sports variants, an 8v and 16v XR2i, a RS Turbo and an Rs1800, which effectively formed the new family of Zetec engines.
Launched in 1995, the fourth generation Fiesta was Britain’s best-selling car from 1996-1999. The MK4 Fiesta was heavily revised from its predecessor to include a new range of Zetec-SE engines available in 1.25-litre and 1.4-litre variants as well as the 1.8-litre diesel slightly modified and marketed as the ‘Endura DE’. It included a new suspension system which dramatically increased its handling capabilities as well as major changes to the chassis. The RS1800 and RS Turbo models were not carried over to the updated Fiesta range.
The Mark V Ford Fiesta is actually very similar to the Mark 4 but with a minor facelift aimed at giving the car a more edgy look, and transforming the rather dowdy looking 4 into something that more closely resembled the newer generation Ford Focus. A Zetec-S was introduced to the line up to fill in the hot hatch void, which came complete with a cool bodykit, 101bhp, Puma brakes and heightened suspension.
The Mark 6 more closely resembled the Ford Fiesta of today’s era – it was announced on April Fool’s Day in 2002 and was more sophisticated than ever before with ABS and airbags as standard across the range. Marketed as a ‘world car’ the Fiesta was built to appeal to the global market and sold as far afield as Japan, Australia, India, and South America. It remains the best-selling generation of Fiesta to date, thanks to a selection of cars to suit all tastes including a new Zetec-S and ST, whilst even the base models remained fairly quick. Added modern day luxuries such as leather seats, air-conditioning and Bluetooth were all offered on the Mark 6 – the Fiesta was really hitting its peak, until…
The latest generation Ford Fiesta, the Mark 7, in comparison to the first generation, is a stark reminder of how far the automotive world has advanced in the past 40 years. The original model was built to appeal to buyers looking for a minimalist, compact, economical small family car. Today, the Fiesta still offers two of these traits, but it is far from simplistic, boasting standard equipment such as ambient lighting, keyless entry and USB ports, all designed to make life as easy as possible for its owner. In order to remain on top, Ford has had to move with the times, but the changes have done very little to damage its reputation, moreover it continues to be one of the world’s most appealing cars.