First drive: Active trim adds a new dimension to the Ford Fiesta range
Ford has added a slightly rugged crossover variant to the Fiesta range. Tom Wiltshire takes the new Fiesta Active for a spin
What is it?
There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to supermini-sized crossovers. There are those which try to hide their roots, with newly beefy bodies, bespoke styling and interiors and different names to the cars on which they’re based. The Fiesta Active is of a rather different persuasion– mechanically and visually, it’s virtually identical to the standard car. Given that the current Fiesta is one of the best superminis on sale though, is that such a bad thing?
Active is really more of a trim level than anything else, and you won’t find it listed as a separate model within Ford’s hierarchy. However, it’s easily distinguishable from the rest of the range. Firstly there’s the de rigeur black plastic cladding and slightly raised ride height – endowing the Fiesta with a more rugged look, slightly greater resistance to car park dings and more suspension travel.
Inside, you’ll find Active-specific upholstery, as well as lots of equipment – Active grade sits high up in the Fiesta’s trim levels, and as a result costs a fair amount for such a small car.
What’s under the bonnet?
Buyers can choose from two engines spanning five states of tune. There are two versions of the 1.5-litre diesel, with 99bhp or 118bhp. But given this car is likely to spend most of its time in the city, you’ll likely be more tempted by one of the three EcoBoost 1.0-litre petrols. There are 99bhp, 123bhp and 138bhp variants available, and all are perky and refined.
Conspiring to spoil the plot however was the six-speed automatic gearbox mated to the 99bhp engine in our test car. This engine isn’t a top performer at the best of times, but the combination with the old-fashioned torque converter gearbox was sluggish, jerky and inefficient. Even on an extended motorway cruise we couldn’t crack 40mpg. We’d opt for the slick six-speed manual given the opportunity.
What’s it like to drive?
The Active won’t be a top choice for keen drivers, as the newly raised suspension contributes to a lot of body lean. However, what it does add is a cushioned ride which makes the Active absolutely brilliant at absorbing ruts and potholes. Good visibility plus the dent-resistant plastic cladding mean this is an absolutely perfect city car.
Despite the body lean, there’s a natural balance to the Fiesta’s handling that no other manufacturer seems to nail as well as Ford. There is bags of grip, quick steering and an easy, nicely weighted action to all the controls. It may not be a huge pleasure to drive quickly, like other Fiestas in the range, but it’s still very good.
How does it look?
We’re not really fans of the hastily-applied crossover film on the Fiesta Active, but there are still some design details to enjoy here. The roof bars add both utility and a rugged air, while the (optional) LED headlights on our test model look very slick indeed.
Elsewhere the Active is standard Fiesta, which isn’t a bad thing – it’s a neat-looking hatchback with a purposeful silhouette and clean lines. To our eyes though, Fiestas with three doors look cleaner – unfortunately, the Active is five-door only.
What’s it like inside?
All Fiesta interior fixings are present and correct, including the large, high-mounted central touchscreen infotainment system. Everything’s placed where you’d like to find it and is easy to use, while Active trim gains unique seat upholstery, carbon detailing across the dash and lots of kit.
There’s not an awful lot of room in here compared to a ‘proper’ crossover such as the Kia Stonic, and a six-foot adult will struggle to sit behind a similarly-sized driver. Build quality is good, though, and materials feel suitably plush – especially the squishy steering wheel.
What’s the spec like?
Sitting near the top of the trim level hierarchy, Fiesta Active models are well equipped as standard. All models get air conditioning, roof rails, remote locking, electric mirrors, and an infotainment display. Step up to Active B+O Play and you gain a premium audio system, while top spec Active X gains climate control, cruise control, heated seats with part leather trim and sat-nav.
The Fiesta Active is expensive for what’s essentially a supermini with added black plastic but look past the price and it’s a very pleasant car in its own right. It remains close to the standard Fiesta formula but is different enough to stand alone, and the comfortable ride and crossover style could seal the deal for many buyers. We’d still recommend avoiding the automatic gearbox, though.
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