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Fiesta family to flourish for Ford

Fiesta feast: Ford's sportier Fiesta, the ST, is expected to get a 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine.

Ford’s B-segment small car will spawn a number of derivatives from next year

25 Aug 2010


FORD’S B-segment babies, the Fiesta hatch and sedan, are just the first developments in a model line that will give the company unprecedented global coverage.

At one end of the spectrum will be a hot hatch version to replace the late and lamented WQ Fiesta XR4, while a stylish Euro crossover, cheap multi-seater people-mover and maybe even a B-segment compact SUV will live at the other.

Whether Australia will be in line to see any of the upcoming models beyond the sportier Fiesta hatch is up in the air.

A terse “we cannot comment on future model developments” came from Ford’s engineering department, but speculation is rife that the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January or the Geneva motor show a few weeks later will mark the revival of the performance Fiesta ST.

Rumours suggest a 1.6-litre turbo-charged Ecoboost four-cylinder petrol engine – mated to either a six-speed manual or Powershift dual-clutch gearbox – will underpin the latter-day Fiesta XR4.

Ford Australia sales and marketing boss David Katic would not speculate on the existence of a go-faster Fiesta in the works, but did admit that he “… would love to see a car like that” for Australia.

Meanwhile, on the busy mini people-mover front, Ford is expected to release its answer to exciting new GM Opel/Vauxhall Meriva and Citroen C3 Picasso in the not-too-distant future.

Dubbed ‘B-MAX’ by some quarters of the media, and believed to be known internally as the B232, it is thought to serve as the 2011 or 2012 replacement for the ageing European Fusion (based on the old Fiesta), but is said to be far more stylish than the almost decade-old utilitarian crossover.

The 2009 Geneva motor show-starring Iosis Max concept vehicle gives us a clear idea where Ford is heading with this vehicle. Ford is likely to build it in Romania, so don’t hold your breath for this baby to bounce into Australian dealerships any time soon.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Iosis Max, Ford Iosis X concept and Ford Fiesta hatch.

However, another similarly sized but comprehensively different mini people for emerging markets is also said to be in the wings. Reportedly codenamed B474, it will be a more conventionally engineered crossover but with seven seat availability to the B-MAX’s expected five-person layout.

Its purpose is to serve as a stepping-on point for families in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and Thailand, and will battle the popular Honda Freed people-mover. Applications as the replacement for Central and South America’s B226 Fusion-based EcoSport compact SUV/crossover launched in 2003 may also be in the pipeline. That vehicle would be suitably butched up as a pseudo off-roader.

However, it remains to be seen if these developments will be based on the current-gen high-tech B299 Fiesta or on the old B256 Fiesta/B226 Fusion platform to keep prices down and profits up.

The Australian-engineered Figo – a five-door hatch derived from the old B256 Fiesta and launched in India and South Africa earlier this year – is a pointer to what this inexpensive mini people-mover may be like underneath if Ford has taken the latter engineering path.

Figo is Ford’s price-sensitive entry-level combatant against the new Nissan K13 Micra/March and the production version of the Honda New Small Concept due out next year.

Employing the dual B-segment strategy globally gives Ford representation across the light-car spectrum in both developing and mature markets.

Ford’s regional product development for B-car vehicles in the Asia Pacific and Africa region, Ian Constance, said this was because Ford recognised the need to provide a significantly different vehicle to consumers who were willing to pay extra for a ‘premium’ light car such as the Fiesta, compared with one that costs substantially less.

“We have big B-car plans,” Mr Constance said.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new WT Fiesta hatch and sedan built in Thailand, he explained that the growing affluence of new-car buyers in emerging nations such as India and China would see demand for B-segment vehicles skyrocket.

“We think we will see more growth in B-cars from second and third tier places,” he said.

“As time goes by, we are seeing that people want more from their B-cars … more choice … more of a value proposition.” Mr Constance added that the B-segment market had “fragmented” enormously, with “many different layers” that are quite clear and distinct to consumers in regions like China.

Meanwhile, Ford says it might consider adding a rear-seat cushion that tips forward to create a lower, flatter load-through floor in the hatch and sedan come mid-cycle facelift time.

Other considerations include a Tiptronic-style sequential shift facility for the Powershift dual-clutch gearbox, and telescopic steering in the Thai-built vehicles – the connection with the current Mazda2 (which lacks the feature) that is made in the same Rayong factory has forced Ford to drop it from the range.

Ford’s web of B-segment vehicles
B256 2002-2008 Fiesta (WP/WQ in Aus)
B226 2002 Fusion
B299 2008 Fiesta (WS/WT in Aus
B409 2010 Fiesta sedan
B232 2011/2012 B-MAX ‘Euro’ Mini MPV
B474 2011/2012 global Mini MPV

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