In its 47 years of life, the supermini Fiesta has pervaded throughout the globe to become ubiquitous on roads all over the world and an integral member of millions of households. From 2009 to 2020, the Fiesta reigned supreme in the UK, being the country’s best-selling vehicle for 12 consecutive years, a legacy which no other car in history has ever managed to contend with.
As such, the Fiesta is one of the most popular and successful vehicles of all time, with a total of 22 million sales worldwide (4.8 million of which have been in the UK). Thus, for all 7 generations, the Fiesta has been Ford’s standard bearer and its most invaluable missionary. Nevertheless, as the automotive industry accelerates its shift towards electrification and becomes increasingly allergic to and disapproving of combustion models, Ford has decided it is time to move on. The first of the final duo is destined for Ford’s international heritage fleet stationed in Cologne, while the second will migrate to the UK to become part of the national heritage fleet.
Even though the death knell of the Fiesta will undoubtedly send shockwaves throughout the country, numerous omens in the past 3 years have made its retirement all but certain. Firstly, Ford, like several other manufacturers, are investing heavily in electrification and crafting their policies in accordance with the intentions of the UK and the rest of Europe to ban combustion vehicles. As such, Ford is transforming the factory where the Fiesta is produced into an exclusively battery-electric plant that will be the cradle for upcoming electric models such as the Ford Explorer SUV. In addition, Ford has already dedicated themselves to selling 600,000 EVs per year by 2026 and ceasing the sale of non-EVs altogether in Europe by 2030.
Secondly, the profit margins for superminis have continued to shrink as SUVs and crossovers have established hegemony in many markets (particularly in the UK where the Nissan Qashqai was the bestselling vehicle in 2022). As a result, the Fiesta, despite remaining popular, has been overtaken by the Ford Puma, which was the fourth bestselling vehicle in the UK in 2022. The contraction in Fiesta profits can also be connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated global supply chains and caused crippling shortages in both car components and, most notoriously, in semiconductors. According to Ford, it was this dearth of semiconductors that created a six-month backlog for the Fiesta, which in turn stifled sales.
The final bow of the Ford Fiesta is ultimately reflective of the inevitable global trends that manufacturers are being faced with, which have increased the pressure to make ever greater strides towards electrification to remain competitive. Due to this, it is likely that others will follow Ford’s example and discontinue models that are quickly becoming obsolete to accommodate the introduction of new electric vehicles. On multiple occasions, Ford has demonstrated how ruthless they are in this respect: the Mondeo was retired in March 2022, and the Focus is set to follow it to the grave in 2025.
However, although production of the Fiesta has ceased, it will still maintain a strong presence on the roads and be able to be enjoyed for some time to come thanks to its immense popularity in the used car market where it again has seized another throne.
What follows is a brief history of the Fiesta to celebrate the indelible tyre mark it will leave in motoring culture.
1976 - The first iteration of Ford’s beloved front-wheel drive supermini was released with a 52 bhp 1.1 litre four-cylinder engine and four-speed manual gearbox. It was offered in six trim levels (one of which was a van) and was notable for its use of coil-spring suspension and retro interior.
1980 - Drawing on the Fiesta’s rallying DNA, the 1.3 litre Supersport is released, which was supplanted in 1981 by the 84 bhp 1.6 litre XR2 that featured black plastic trim, rounded headlamps, and stiffer suspension.
1983 - The second-generation Fiesta is released with a five-speed gearbox and 74 bhp 1.4 litre engine (a more powerful and larger 96 bhp 1.6 litre engine was used for the XR2 variant). Although the Mk2 was not revolutionary in terms of design, it contained a more modern and upmarket interior.
1989 - To compete with the Fiat Uno and Peugeot 205, the Mk3 Fiesta was offered with five-door variants (as well as the traditional three door) and was the first Fiesta model to feature anti-locking braking and a fuel-injected engine. The Mk3 benefitted from a more modern dashboard arrangement and styling, as well as a semi-independent torsion beam for the rear suspension. The Zetec fuel-injected engine gave birth to a hot-hatch Fiesta with the XR2i and RS Turbo boasting 110 bhp and 132 bhp respectively.
1995 - With big shoes to fill, the Mk4 Fiesta introduced the Sigma range of engines that were available in 1.2, 1.4, and 1.6 litre configurations. These engines were driven by twin camshafts and 16 valves, and thus were significantly more sophisticated. Additionally, the Mk4 featured air bags and air conditioning, with markedly improved handling and agility.
2002 - Ford followed on from the Mk4 with the Mk5 Fiesta, which was distinguishable by its sharper and more angular styling, in conjunction with its more spacious, more luxurious, and more comfortable interior. The Mk5 also saw the introduction of the 1.4 and 1.6 litre TDCi diesel engines delivered much greater fuel economy and the advent of the performance-obsessed ST, which featured lower and stiffer suspension and a meatier 148 bhp 2.0 litre engine.
2008 - Capitalising on the increased demand for superminis created by the financial crisis, Ford launched the Mk6 Fiesta, which was underpinned by the brand’s lighter and more robust global B platform. Other features included voice control, electric power-steering, and a 1.0 litre three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo engine with the 2013 facelift. Moreover, the Mk6 ST hot hatchback experienced a surge in power to 180 bhp, while all variants came equipped with the latest in infotainment, comfort, and safety technology. It was also with the Mk6 that the Fiesta first claimed the mantle of the UK’s best-selling car.
2016 - The final generation of the legendary supermini was released with design tropes echoing the Focus and both a longer and wider profile. The Mk7 also arguably represented the apogee of Fiesta driving dynamics, with the ST, despite the 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine, producing 197 bhp and 290 Nm of torque. Much like the Mk2 to the Mk1, the Mk7 brought forth improvements across the board from the previous iteration, although much of the underlying formula was replicated.