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Motors

Time to get Active with Ford’s Fiesta on stilts

Thursday, 25th July, 2019 10:37am

The question is; how little SUV is just enough? Because, let’s face it, not many of us actually need an SUV, nor can justify the expense of running one.

Carmakers know this, which is why they have created a whole generation of SUVs that actually aren’t. Well, that actually aren’t SUVs in the traditional sense. Few have four-wheel drive. Almost none has a set of low-ratio gears for rock-crawling and mud-plugging. Instead, what they have, are the innards of a hatchback contained in an exterior that hints at MacGyver-ish ruggedness and adaptability.

It’s all marketing smoke and mirrors, really. Your average SUV or crossover is nor more capable when it comes to mud, grass, and snow than, say, a Ford Focus or a VW Golf.

No, we buy them on image and nothing else. So the question is, how far down can you reduce that, and still end up with a decent car?

I’d say about this far; about as far as the Ford Fiesta Active. The Fiesta Active is the most reduced and reductive SUV there is, really (well, it and the Dacia Sandero Stepway are). It’s not really an SUV at all, but a supermini with a little more attitude and a little more altitude. Now I, cynical hater of most SUVs that I am, should really have no truck with this, but actually I’ve - somewhat surprisingly - found myself rather liking this Fiesta in wellies.

So, what makes a Fiesta Active different to a conventional Fiesta hatchback? Well, it starts with the styling, you get dark plastic cladding that flows from the front bumper lip, through the wheel arches and side profile to the rear. A dark grille with unique mesh pattern also features a dark surround, and front fog lamps are housed within C-shaped recesses in the bumper.

Around the back, you also get a new rear bumper, plus LED taillamps, bright scuff plates front and rear, and unique-to-the-Active 17-inch alloy wheels which come either in Rough Metal or Absolute Black finishes. You can pick paint colours from Lux Yellow, Ruby Red and Blue Wave (among others), and customers can also opt for a black or red contrast roof depending on body colour.

There are actually some mechanical differences too. First off, there’s the extra ride height, which sees the Fiesta Active sit on springs and dampers that are 18mm taller than those of the standard car, so there is genuinely a little more room underneath for tackling rocky, badly made roads or lumpy fields. Helping you find grip and traction on that sort of terrain is a three-stage traction control system that allows you choose from Normal mode, which uses the standard settings for stability and traction control for everyday driving; Eco mode, which adjusts engine and throttle settings to help you save even more fuel when you want to; or Slippery mode – this is available with six-speed manual gearbox only and adjusts the stability and traction control settings for increased confidence on surfaces with reduced grip such as snow and ice; reducing straight-ahead wheel spin, including when pulling away from stationary.

Slippery mode also helps you maintain control when cornering or changing lanes in slippery conditions by delivering small adjustments to the throttle and brakes to prevent excessive understeer or oversteer.

Now, that’s not a full-on replacement for four-wheel drive, of course, but then not many of us actually need to ever deploy the grip-finding abilities of four-wheel drive. Mostly, all any of us will need is a bit of help with a mildly slippery situation from time to time, and in this regard the Fiesta Active seems well-equipped.

It’s well-equipped inside too, where the seats come with special orange stitching and graphics, unique to the Active model, as well as orange highlights on the dashboard.

There’s also a smattering of carbon-fibre-style plastic trim, which does help to lift the ambience of the cabin a bit, but the downside is that there’s a little too much of the standard Fiesta’s too-plasticy cabin on show otherwise. Still, there’s a lot of good stuff too, an excellent SYNC3 infotainment system, comfy front seats, reasonable room in the back, and a good driving position.

Plenty of toys, too. Our Active 2-spec car came with a B&O Play Premium audio system with 360 sound system and ten speakers, an eight-inch touchscreen for the SYNC3 system, cruise control, auto high beam lights, driver alert and traffic sign recognition, rain sensing wipers with auto-dimming rear view mirror and a centre armrest with illuminated cupholders. Not bad.

And it’s not bad to drive, either. In fact, it’s really very good. All Fiestas are nice to drive, and generally superior to most of their opposition in that regard, and the Active hasn’t lost that. The steering still feels sharp and reactive, and the extra ride height in the suspension is useful for ironing out the sort of lumps and bumps that you’ll most often encounter in town, or down winding rural lanes. Combined with the sweet-revving 100hp 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, the Fiesta Active is actually a really rather lovely little thing.

Is there much point to it? Probably not. After all, you won’t actually be able to tackle terrain that’s much tougher than what a standard Fiesta could cop with. But you’ll feel like you will, and look like you will, and that’s the point here, isn’t it?

Facts & Figures:

 

Model tested: Ford Fiesta Active 1.0 EcoBoost 100

Pricing: €21,134 as tested; Fiesta starts at €15,377

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol

Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Body style: Five-door supermini-crossover

CO2 emissions: 128g/km (Band B1 - €270 per annum)

Claimed economy: 5.0-litres per 100km (56.6mpg)

Top speed: 181km/h

0-100km/h: 11.0 seconds

Power: 100hp at 4,500rpm

Torque: 170Nm at 1,500 to 4,000pm

Boot space: 311-1,093 litres

Safety: Euro NCAP rating for Ford Fiesta: Five stars: 87 per cent adult; 84 per cent child; 64 per cent pedestrian; 60 per cent safety assist

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