If you need a supermini but would like a crossover, Ford's Fiesta Active might well suit. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version.
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. Here's the improved version.
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 in 125 or 155PS forms with Ford's latest EcoBoost Hybrid mild hybrid tech. And you can have a non-hybrid 100PS version of this unit. All these variants get a six-speed manual gearbox. There's also a 7-speed PowerShift auto transmission option with the 125PS mHEV unit. The 1.0T turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant features advanced technologies including high-pressure direct fuel injection, Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing and an innovative offset crankshaft design for decent refinement.
Design and Build
The Fiesta Active is marked out by vertical grille bars and silver trim accents. Plus it gets more distinctive looks than the standard version thanks to a rugged body styling kit with plastic body cladding, Active badging and bespoke styling cues. There's also rough-road suspension with increased ride height; along with 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. Recent changes mirror those made to more standard Fiestas, so the bonnet's been revised, the nose of the car raised and the brand badge moved into the grille, which is flanked by restyled LED headlamps.
Inside, it's much as it would be in any normal Fiesta. So, in tune with the latest changes made to that car, there's a 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument display screen, which complements the usual 8-inch SYNC 3 centre infotainment monitor. It incorporates 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring - and can include a 575-watt B&O stereo and a rear view camera too. Storage for personal belongings is delivered with a 20% larger glovebox and a 1-litre media bin in the centre console.
Rear seat passengers aren't as cramped in the back of a Fiesta as they used to be; changes made in 2020 added 16mm more knee room, supported by slim-back seats that offer decent side-to-side support. This Fiesta's tailgate is wide for easy access to the 311-litre boot. If you're able to flatten the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest, you'll find that the revealed cargo floor ends up with quite a step in it, but the total capacity figure looks reasonable by segment standards - 1,093-litres.
Market and Model
Prices aren't much different to before, which means you'll probably be paying somewhere in the £21,000-£24,000 bracket for a Fiesta Active - there's a choice of 'Active' or 'Active Vignale' variants. 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.
Key additions on the options list include Matrix headlights, which block individual light rays to avoid blinding oncoming cars when high-beam is enabled. These headlamps can also adapt to bad eather and surrounding traffic. Safety-wise, an extra addition is 'Wrong Way Alert', which stops you turning into a road where you'll be driving against the traffic.
As usual on a Fiesta, you'll be offered some up-scale equipment options, examples including an openable panoramic glass roof. There's sophisticated safety too, including a Pedestrian Detection system that can even prevent collisions at night. And 'Active Park Assist' with brake interventions to prevent low-speed collisions when parking hands-free. As for standard equipment, even base models get features like air conditioning, Bluetooth, an 'Emergency Assistance' system and a 6-speaker stereo.
Cost of Ownership
The Ford Fiesta has garnered a reputation for being one of the cheapest superminis to run and this continues. In mHEV mild hybrid form, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit gets a lower compression ratio and a larger turbo and can be had in 125 and 155PS electrified guises. Plus the mHEV version is embellished by a beefed-up starter/generator driven by a belt at the front of the engine that stores the energy harvested when you brake or decelerate in a tiny 48-volt lithium-ion battery secreted at the back of the car. The 125PS 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid variant manages up to 56.5mpg and 113g/km - or up to 53.3mpg and 118g/km in auto form. The 155PS 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid variant manages up to 56.5mpg and 114g/km.
As for the warranty, well like all Fords, this one comes with a 36-month 60,000-mile package that also includes one year of Europe-wide breakdown assistance. On top of that, there's an anti-corrosion guarantee for 12 years. Ford also offers the chance to extend this cover - to either four years and 80,000 miles or five years and 100,000 miles.
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 covers you for two years and two services; and another that 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.
Nobody buys a small Crossover to go off roading but people do like the confidence that kind of car can give if, say, you're dropping off the main road on to a gravelly layby. Or you're negotiating a bumpy track up to a forest carpark. Buying an SUV just to deal with that kind of thing might seem a bit extreme when there's a simpler solution like this Fiesta Active on offer. It gives you much the same kind of capability without the usual SUV running cost deterioration and handling downsides.
Bottom line? If you want a more interesting breed of Fiesta, then getting Active might well be worth a thought.