FORD is seeking to broaden the appeal of its best-selling Fiesta small car to private and business users alike with a new four–model range including a ‘luxury’ Vignale version and an SUV- like crossover model, the ‘Active’ in the new generation Fiesta.
At a special event in Cologne, Ford also announced that it plans to begin autonomous vehicle testing in Europe, introduced new special edition Ford Mustang sports cars and Transit Custom vans, and revealed that the multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine will become even more fuel efficient with the world’s first cylinder deactivation system for a three-cylinder engine.
For Fiesta, a major element of the strategy is to lift the most highly-specified models further into the burgeoning market for ‘premium’ B class sector cars.
More than half of total Fiesta sales are already made up of its currently top variant, the Titanium. It is a sector to which increasing attention is being paid by Mercedes and BMW and into which Ford also hopes to lure more buyers, such as SME users seeking to downsize but without forgoing the comfort and extensive infotainment and other systems more typically found in mid-size executive sector cars.
To this end it is offering the Vignale and other high-spec Fiestas with 15 active safety and semi-autonomous driving features until now available only in large and considerably more expensive models.
These include side-collision-sensing radar, traffic signal recognition and collision protection and pedestrian detection at up to 130 metres
The attractiveness of the sector is set out by Roelant de Waard, Ford of Europe’s Vice President for sales and marketing: sales of B segment cars of the Fiesta’s size are the second largest in Europe, accounting for 14m of Europe’s total 45m new car sales in 29 markets last year.
But while mainstream and entry level models did little more than tread water, the premium sub-segment shot up by 24 per cent, a trend de Waard expects to continue.
As part of the strategy, Ford has already been dropping the more basic models of the current Fiesta range, leaving the gap to be filled by the KA+ city car, while a sporting five-door ST-line model and a generously-equipped ‘Titanium’ model will complete the new Fiesta line-up, at least for the next year or so.
All models except the Active should start reaching British dealers’ showrooms in June, with full availability in time for the ’67’ registration plate change in September.
Ford officials acknowledged at the huge launch event for 2,500 dealers, media and other guests at its Cologne plant last night that the Active model is unlikely to be available until the start of 2018.
The cars will have new five- and six-speed gearboxes and be powered by a range of further improved 1-1.6 litre three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with outputs ranging from 70 to 140PS, including Ford’s frugal and technologically advanced Ecoboost turbocharged units.
A 200bhp continuation of the widely-praised current ST model is also expected to make an appearance although no timing has yet been given.
Of interest to business users, the powerful but already frugal Ecoboost 1- litre unit likely to be chosen over much of the range is to be given a further economy boost and reduced CO2 by using cylinder deactivation next year. It will run on only two of its three cylinders when driven under light load.
The technology, a joint development between Ford’s Dunton and US and Cologne research centres, is said by Ford engineers to give an overall 6 per cent reduction in fuel consumption. Switching between two and three cylinders takes place automatically in a claimed 14 milliseconds – instantaneously in terms of human perception.
While cylinder deactivation is already widely used for four-cylinder engines, Ford is claiming its first-ever use on a three-cylinder unit.
The new models are slightly larger than the outgoing versions, with sleeker body lines and more interior room, while retaining the main frontal ‘family’ grille also adopted on the Mondeo and Focus ranges.
The interior and dashboard layouts are also radically revised with much greater emphasis on infotainment systems utilising a large-dimension central screen. The importance to Ford of the Fiesta in the UK is plain to see: it is the best-selling car model by far, the 103,945 sales to the end of October being almost 45,000 units higher than Vauxhall”s second-placed Corsa.