If you need a supermini but would like a crossover, Ford's Fiesta Active might well suit. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Here's a Fiesta - but not quite as you know it. For those who kind of like the idea of a small SUV but aren't quite ready to take the plunge, the Fiesta Active might be just perfect. A few off road cues, some extra traction for slippery surfaces and efficient running costs will all make it tempting to those wavering on the brink of small Crossover ownership.
Just about every market segment seems to offer an SUV option these days and the supermini sector is no exception. Ever since the turn of the century, we've had superminis on sale with ruggedized exteriors - usually marked out by body cladding and a bit of extra ride height. Long-forgotten contenders that come to mind include the Rover Streetwise, the Volkswagen Polo Dune, the Citroen C3 XTR and, a little more seriously, the Suzuki Swift 4x4.
This Ford Fiesta Active is a slightly more serious effort than most of those: thanks to a multi-mode traction control system, it actually does have some 'off piste' ability for a start, though you'd be wise to limit that to rough tracks that aren't too arduous. Does this trendy variant make sense? Let's find out.
As part of our test, we took the chance to try this car on a slippery surface so we could sample this variant's selectable drive modes. There are three settings - Eco, Normal and Slippery. This car's rough-terrain capabilities are also enhanced by a slightly higher ride height and by the adoption of Ford's Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with Hill Start Assist. Other changes include a 10mm wider track, suspension revisions and optimised front shock absorbers that feature a special hydraulic rebound stopper that smooths out the bumps or jolts you'd get over rougher surfaces. Fortunately, none of this has significantly detracted from the standard Fiesta's class-leading handling package.
Under the bonnet, the usual 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is offered with four different power outputs: 85PS, 100PS, 125PS and 140PS, allied to a six-speed manual gearbox. This turbocharged three-cylinder unit features advanced technologies including high-pressure direct fuel injection, Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing and an innovative offset crankshaft design for decent refinement. There are also two versions of the brand's usual 1.5-litre TDCi diesel, developing either 85 or 120PS.
Design and Build
The Fiesta Active model gets more distinctive looks than the standard version thanks to a rugged body styling kit with Active badging and styling cues. Plus there's rough-road suspension with increased ride height, roof rails, front fog lights and 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. Fiesta Active buyers also get to choose from more dramatic and dynamic colour schemes, and there's the option of a two-part panoramic sliding roof on the 'Active 1' and 'Active X' variants.
Inside, it's much as it would be in any normal Fiesta. The highlight as usual is the SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system enables drivers to control audio and connected smartphones using voice commands, or via the tablet-inspired 8-inch colour touchscreen. This is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring systems, so you can access your favourite handset apps on the centre-dash screen.
Rear seat passengers get decent legroom - there's 16mm more knee space than there was in the previous generation Fiesta - supported by new slim-back seats that are soft and offer great side-to-side support. This Ford's tailgate is wide for easy access to the boot, and improved storage for personal belongings is delivered with a large glovebox and a 1-litre media bin in the centre console.
Market and Model
There are three Fiesta Active variants - the 'Active 1', the 'Active B&O PLAY' and the 'Active X'. The 'Active 1' is priced from just under £18,000, with the 'B&O PLAY' variant priced from just over £19,000 and the top 'Active X' model costing just under £20,500.
Equipment includes features like a rear seat belt minder, a rear centre headrest, auto headlamps, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and Ford's Quickclear heated windscreen for faster getaways on frosty mornings. Passenger comfort aids include electric front and rear windows, rear privacy glass, driver seat height and lumbar adjustment and air-conditioning. Plus 'Active Park Assist' with brake interventions to prevent low-speed collisions when parking hands-free. Camera-driven safety kit includes lane-keeping technology and a Pedestrian Detection system that can even prevent collisions at night.
Any buyers will want at least to stretch to the 'B&O PLAY' variant, which gets a distinctive black roof with black roof rails and matching electrically operated and heated door mirrors, plus a B&O PLAY premium audio system with 360-degree sound and 10 speakers. This derivative also features cruise control, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a centre console with armrest and illuminated cup holders, plus a 4.2in TFT instrument cluster screen with traffic sign recognition.
Cost of Ownership
Ford's multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is satisfyingly frugal, delivering from 105g/km CO2 emissions. The 85PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine can deliver a CO2 figure as low as 96g/km. AutoStartStop technology is fitted to all engines to improve economy, with Active Grille Shutter for both petrol and diesel engines. Underbody aero shielding further reduces aero drag. An Eco button for manual transmissions adjusts engine and throttle settings to help drivers save even more fuel when desired. Smart Regenerative Charging enhances fuel efficiency by selectively engaging the alternator and charging the battery when the vehicle is coasting and braking.
What else? Well we'll tell you about servicing, which on all engines is required every two years or 18,000 miles - whichever comes first. Two pre-paid servicing plans are available; one that costs £340 and covers you for two years and two services; and another that costs £550, is transferrable to future owners and covers three years and three services. Maintenance bookings can be done online through the 'My Ford' portal. This is part of the 'Ford BlueService' scheme that wraps up all of the care and maintenance of your car into one bundle that includes a free 30-point 'eCheck' of vital parts and highlights any work required with a red, amber and green traffic light warning to rank items that need attention in order of importance.
We've never seen a Fiesta like this before. But then the Fiesta has never previously had to face a threat as significant as that posed by the current dramatically expanding small SUV sector. This is the Blue Oval brand's response. It'll be interesting to see how buyers react.
So there you have it. For sure, this isn't a perfect package, but this is a Ford that's fashionable, properly priced and well-connected. Which leaves us with... well what? Perhaps the realisation that if you want a more interesting breed of Fiesta, then getting Active might be worth a thought.