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Ford considers Fiesta

Fiesta a favourite: Artist Bernie Walsh's impression of the Fiesta.

Decisions, decisions. Ford Australia is considering the new Fiesta as its next light car contender

21 May 2001

FORD Australia is moving closer to deciding its next volume entrant in the light car segment and the vehicle you see here is one of the favourites to get the nod.

It is the next generation Fiesta, due to be unveiled at September's Frankfurt motor show.

The newcomer is scheduled to go on sale in Europe around May, 2002, albeit initially only in five-door guise. A three-door will follow towards the end of next year.

It is competing against the next Mazda 121 which is due in 2003 as well as some other possibles such as the Ikon, which is built in India and South Africa.

"There are some exciting options," a Ford insider said.

"The Fiesta and 121 are viable options and they are some of a number of options that are open to us." The contenders were reviewed at a regular product meeting at Ford's Campbellfield headquarters last Thursday, attended by company president and CEO Geoff Polites and sales and marketing boss Bruce McDonald. It is believed no final recommendation was made.

"There's a couple of very, very good looking prospects there and it was a very positive meeting from that point of view," the insider said.

"There is some excellent stuff coming through." Following the recent demise of the South Korean-sourced Festiva, the Ka is Ford's lone contender in the entry level stakes. But the funky minicar is languishing in the sales race with just 626 sales to its credit until the end of April. By comparison, the segment leading Hyundai Accent notched up 7083 sales over the same period.

The biggest challenge in getting the Fiesta here would be to land it at the right price. Ford Australia was forced to say no to the new Mondeo and Focus - postponed at the very least - as the two Euro-sourced cars would have cost too much.

Not surprisingly, the Fiesta draws many of its design cues from the New Edge-inspired Focus and Mondeo. Viewed from the rear, it even has overtones of GM's Corsa, which we know as the Holden Barina.

European sources suggest the new Fiesta is bigger and far more spacious than the somewhat cramped current model.

Engine choices will include a range of updated Zetec petrol units, as well as a 1.4-litre diesel jointly developed with Peugeot.

Ford of Europe is moving towards offering direct-injection powerplants across its small car range, but these units may be unsuitable for Australia, owing to our lower octane fuel.

The updated engines will be available with a conventional five-speed manual transmission as well as a CVT auto and an automatically-controlled manual, according to British magazine Autocar.

Rugged on-roader

FORD'S new Fiesta line-up will be supplemented by a 4WD-lookalike known for now as the Multi-Activity Vehicle.

The Fiesta derivative features a jacked-up stance and flared wheel arches to lend it the appearance of a rugged off-roader. But in actual fact, the MAV is a front-wheel drive designed for terrain no more arduous than gravel roads.

Ford of Europe aims to capture younger buyers seeking a small, affordable lifestyle car with the MAV. In a similar vein, Ford Australia may choose to look at it as a rival for Holden's imminent YGM-1.

Ford Australia president Geoff Polites has already gone on record as saying the Ka line-up could be supplemented by the eye-catching StreetKa convertible in due course, which indicates small lifestyle cars are on the Blue Oval's local agenda.

The MAV is tipped to make its European sales debut in mid-2002, which means it may be available to Ford Australia by late 2002 or early 2003.

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