New car review

Ford Fiesta Active review

Will buyers be attracted to a Ford Fiesta that looks a bit like an SUV but isn’t one?

Summary

With the new Ford Fiesta Active, the company has done a good job of adding SUV style and raising the ride height without ruining the Fiesta’s handling.
Design
8.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
8.0
Value for money
7.5
Safety
8.0

Summary

With the new Ford Fiesta Active, the company has done a good job of adding SUV style and raising the ride height without ruining the Fiesta’s handling.

60-second summary

What is it?
The Ford Fiesta Active is the first launch in a new SUV-inspired trim level from the brand.

Key features
Raised ride height, ‘slippery’ drive mode, extra body mouldings.

Our view
The Ford Fiesta Active might be regarded as a ‘faux’ SUV with the emphasis on appearance rather than capability, but many buyers buy such vehicles for that very reason.

Ford has done a good job of adding a more muscular style and raising the ride height without ruining the Fiesta’s much-praised handling, and the resultant car will likely attract significant numbers of buyers – those who would like an SUV, but not the weight or cost that comes with them.

Similar cars
Peugeot
2008, Nissan Juke. Hyundai i20 Active

Ford Fiesta Active exterior
Ford has done a good job of adding SUV style and raising the ride height without ruining the Fiesta’s handling

Full review

Introduction

The latest Ford Fiesta launched in early 2017 and simply replaced its predecessor at the top of the UK best-seller charts, so in now reviewing the Ford Fiesta Active, are we focusing on a mere new trim level?

Yes we are, but one which Ford considers will widen its potential customer base. Active is a major launch that goes beyond just the Fiesta – a similar version of the Ka+ launches alongside the Fiesta and we’ll be reviewing that shortly, while the next Ford Focus coming later in 2018 will include an Active variant.

So what is it? Well, Ford will tell us the range is designed to appeal to those buyers who like the look of an SUV but don’t want the perceived compromises, such as running costs and expense.

This is yet another car designed, we are told, to appeal to “outdoor and adventurous” types, who prefer to be outside walking the dogs along a beach than inside watching TV. So it gains elements, but only elements, of ‘SUV-ness’ (Ford’s word, not ours…).

Ford’s marketing types add that Active models are to the brand’s proper SUVs, the EcoSport and Kuga, like the ST-Line trim level is to the full-house ST hot hatches – elements of the proper cars, “in a more accessible package for a wider selection of drivers”.

To make a Fiesta Active one takes the standard version, raises the ride height (though not by that much), adds ‘muscular’ body mouldings and roof rails, plus a more hard-wearing interior, and a couple of bespoke exterior colours.

Yes, basically this is a faux SUV, a lot cheaper than developing a full-house model line, especially as Ford is confident that what is not exactly that radical an upgrade package will earn the Active 15% of the Fiesta’s gargantuan sales mix.

Buying and owning the Ford Fiesta Active

The arrival of the Active sees the Fiesta range now available in five distinct lines (with sub trims within each). Entry level is Zetec, Titanium is the core best-seller, ST-Line the sporty version, Vignale the luxury angle, and now we have Active for the – well active…

There are three versions of the new model, dubbed Active 1, Active B&O Play and the range-topping Active X, each separated by £1,100. The pricing is on a par with the mainstream ST-Line and Titanium models, which Ford says is to give customers a direct choice between the three different formats.

Common to all the Active models is a ride height raised by about 2cm over the stock Fiesta, together with a 1cm wider track. This is combined with retuned suspension – according to Ford, the hydraulic rebound stops are designed to produce a better ride over the rougher roads this car is intended to traverse.

Be clear, this is not an off-roader, and it’s certainly not all-wheel-drive, but Active customers are expected to want to drive down muddy tracks, uneven surfaces and the like, and the suspension will be expected to smother the inevitable bumps and jolts.

Also as a result, the cockpit-selectable drive modes on versions with the six-speed manual transmission gain an extra setting, ‘Slippery’. This changes the Electronic Stability Control and traction control, as well as making tiny throttle and brake adjustments to maintain grip on surfaces such as mud, snow or ice.

Equally on Ford’s mind, of course, will be not compromising the road-holding and handling for which the Fiesta is renowned…

Other Active additions include bolder body mouldings – plastic spats on the wheels and on the front, back and sills, plus the silver-finish roof rails. The exterior effect is completed by a dark mesh grille and bright scuff plates, bespoke 17-inch alloy wheels and the availability of exclusive body colours, ‘Lux Yellow’ and ‘Silver Fox.’

One major plus for the Active models is that choosing one does not mean missing out on the elements that make the Fiesta the UK’s number one car. This includes the safety package. The Fiesta boasts a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and the technology available for it includes frontal collision warning and autonomous braking, pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, rear parking cameras and the like. Note, however, that much of it will require delving into the options list.

Inside the Ford Fiesta Active

Just over a year ago when we first drove the seventh-generation Fiesta we were impressed by the revolution inside the car. It remains a cosy supermini in the rear, and of course the Active model doesn’t change any of that, but the big change was in the dash which was sensibly laid out with intuitive placing of the vital controls.

In the Active the main change is to the surfaces, which we are told now consist of more hard-wearing fabrics, developed in a new testing facility at Ford’s Dunton centre in Essex and aimed at owners with muddy boots and soggy passengers.

Ford expects the entry Active 1 to be the big seller in the line-up but choose the more expensive versions and the extras include interior upgrades – B&O Play models gain colour detailing, the Active X partial leather trim.

Dominating the top of the centre console is the touchscreen of the Sync3 connectivity system. This comes as standard on all models, but whether you get a six-inch or an eight-inch screen depends on which model chosen.

Sync3 is a definite plus of the model – it includes DAB radio and smartphone compatibility through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, plus voice-activated commands of a range of smartphone apps.

Further tech is also available, such as the MyKey, which helps make loans of the car to the kids a painless experience by restricting just how enthusiastically they can drive it.

Driving the Ford Fiesta Active

One compromise that won’t need to be made by going Active is in powertrain choice. Depending on version, the car is available with 85, 100, 125 and 140hp petrol engines, all of them variations on the 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit.

While many superminis can’t be bought with a diesel engine these days, Ford offers two, both of 1.5 litres and with 85 or 120hp. Finally, both six-speed manual and auto transmissions are available across the range.

The 85hp engines, petrol and diesel, are only offered with the Active 1, but it is the 100hp unit that is expected to take the biggest slice of sales, and it is this version that The Car Expert drove on the launch event.

This is a proven engine with a string of awards behind it, and it is no surprise to find that it is refined in use and up with the competition in acceleration times, economy and emissions. It is a unit well suited to its surroundings.

Where the Active is likely to most differ from its Fiesta siblings is in its ride and handling, due to the jacked-up suspension. But the elevation is not radical and does not harm the much-heralded ride comfort of the car – in fact the Active feels just a little more cosseting on less than perfect surfaces.

In corners this model perhaps rolls just a little more than a stock Fiesta, but not to any degree that is a concern – everything is well controlled, the car as placeable as ever and the steering well weighted.

Summary

Ford might have taken a perceived cheaper option in turning the Fiesta into a sort-of-SUV but one gets the impression that buyers won’t mind one bit. The Fiesta Active adds a little bit of SUV style and some nice-to-have extras, but crucially does not harm any of the attributes that have made the Fiesta the car that everyone wants to beat.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of the Fiesta Active is its cost. Prices for the range start from £17,795 and our Active 1 test car with the 100hp engine has a list price of £18,095. However, our cars also boasted a few options – metallic paint, the useful Driver Assistance Pack, rear parking sensors, the B&O Play sound system and curiously a CD player.

All this lot pushes the price to £20,640. Yes, the £20 grand supermini is becoming a norm, but it still seems to be a lot to pay for a small car…

Ford Fiesta Active badge
Is there a sizeable market for a muscled-up Fiesta?

Key specifications

Make & modelFord Fiesta ActivePeugeot 2008Nissan Juke
SpecificationActive 1AllureAcenta
Price (on-road)£18,095£17,950£17,100
Engine1.0-litre petrol1.2-litre petrol1.2-litre petrol
Power100 hp82 hp115 hp
Torque170 Nm118 Nm190 Nm
0-62mph11.0 sec13.5 sec10.8 sec
Top speed112 mph105 mph111 mph
Fuel economy (combined)56.5 mpg57.6 mpg49.6 mpg
CO2 emissions114 g/km114 g/km128 g/km
Insurance groupTBA10E11E
Euro NCAP rating5 stars (2017)5 stars (2013)5 stars (2011)*

* rating expired January 2018; no longer valid.

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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