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First Drive: Ford Fiesta Active

‘Active’ trim adds SUV looks to the Fiesta line-up, finds Jonathan Musk…

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SECTOR Supermini   PRICE £17,795-£20,295   FUEL 46.3-70.6   CO2 103-139

Of the 100,000 Fiesta sales predicted for this year in the UK – where it’s the nation’s best-selling car – Ford anticipates a not-inconsiderable 15% of customers will choose the new Active range. In addition to the Fiesta, Ford has introduced Active trim line-ups to the Ka+ and forthcoming new Focus too.

So what is it? The short version is it’s Fiesta’s first ever SUV-styled model; with raised ride height and ‘rugged body styling’. Designed for “muddy boots and soggy passengers” according to Ford’s director of fleet operations, Owen Gregory, the Active range benefits from a handful of nifty modifications to the standard Fiesta.

The main and most obvious change is the styling, which receives mud-friendly wheel arch trims and roof bars as standard plus a variety of colour options and customisations.

The suspension isn’t just a jacked-up job either, with a new hydraulic rebound stopper and unique knuckle geometry. And, to offset the 18mm taller ride height aesthetic, 17-inch alloys are standard across the Active range, though these do add to the road noise a little.

Engine options include 84, 99, 123 and 138bhp outputs from the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine or 84 and 118bhp versions of the 1.5-litre diesel. Each is equipped with a six-speed manual or an auto box is available on the 99bhp petrol or 84bhp diesel. The majority of drivers will likely opt for the 99bhp EcoBoost, while the diesel remains the best option for high-milers – offering an official combined 70.6mpg from the 84bhp variant and just 103g/km CO2. Go for the 123bhp EcoBoost and there’s bags of power without a CO2 penalty, with it emitting the same 114g/km as the 99bhp petrol. Expectedly, however, all figures across the board are slightly worse than the regular, lower, Fiesta.

Ford’s other modification is to add a ‘slippery’ driving mode, which fiddles with the stability and traction control to provide more grip, for example when pulling away on mud, gravel, snow and likewise when cornering.

Three Active trims start from £17,795 for the ‘Active 1’, which is also predicted to be the best seller. ‘Active B&O Play’ adds some fancy yellow highlights to the interior, Ford’s SYNC 3 system and a decent sound system, while ‘Active X’ tops the range and adds partial leather seating and other premium equipment.

Out on the road, it drives much like a Fiesta, so it’s a very capable thing, but with modified suspension the ride is more refined and less jittery than the standard car. Conversely, cornering isn’t quite as assured, but it’s certainly no worse for it in everyday driving. Hooning around a track is not this car’s natural environment, yet chucking it about a go-kart venue demonstrated impressive body control. The EcoBoost range is versatile and rewarding to drive, with plenty of power available at most speeds, though the 84bhp variants feel a touch underpowered on motorways. Small seats hold passengers well, but could be criticised as being a touch too small and may prove uncomfortable for the larger person.

What we think
With SUV looks and the Fiesta’s proven qualities thrown into the mix, the Active range adds to an already excellent car. There’s nothing to really dislike, but pricing may prove a tall order for what are largely cosmetic changes.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.