11.12.2018Ford Fiesta Active review
This is a Ford Fiesta that's not quite a Ford Fiesta. In a world where crossovers are selling in huge numbers, Ford has responded by including a crossover version of its best-selling supermini. There is already a 'full fat' crossover of a similar size to the Fiesta in the shape of the Ecosport, but this looks to fill a niche within a niche. Although it sounds odd, the expectation is that the Fiesta Active will sell very well, with customers snapping up crossover models across just about all market segments. Here we test the Fiesta Active X to see how it compares to the conventional - and excellent - hatchback.
Review by Chris Lilly
Previously, we've driven the Fiesta fitted with a version of the superb 1.0 litre Ecoboost petrol engine, on that occasion producing 100 hp. In this Active X variant, the same unit is installed under the bonnet, but tuned to 140hp. It provides pleasingly punchy performance, which although the Fiesta Active isn't going to worry hot hatch driver, will see drivers able to make quick enough progress when required. The 0-62mph time is a surprisingly high 9.4 seconds, though the Fiesta Active certainly feels faster than that on the road. Having packed up the car with family and a weekend break's worth of kit, the engine never once struggled, thanks to 180 Nm of torque when the turbo comes on song. It's surprisingly quick in terms of in-gear acceleration, and the Fiesta Active didn't feel out of its depth on motorway speeds or along winding country roads over hilly terrain. It's easy to keep the Fiesta Active in the sweet spot, thanks to a lovely gear shift action - one that's sharp and quick, but not too heavy. It's well suited to town work, where the eager engine will get you into gaps in traffic quickly and easily. From peppy pick-up, the three-cylinder unit settles down well at speed, with only a faint background three-pot thrum to remind you of the compact capacity of the unit out front. It's not going to rival executive saloons for refinement, but the Fiesta Active will deal with a long motorway run comfortably.
The Fiesta is one of the best-handling superminis around, and in fact has a better all-round handling set-up than a good many rival offerings in classes above the Ford. It offers a balance between being fun and being practical, with enough suppleness to keep thing comfy, but enough in the springs and chassis to make for a fine driver's car - with just about any engine under the bonnet too. The worry with the Fiesta Active is that, with the increased ride height - it sits on springs 18mm higher than a standard Fiesta - that balance would be lost. It isn't. Ford's suspension engineers have pulled another fine handling car out of the bag, and although outright body control is not the same as a normal hatch, lean in corners is kept nicely in check. This may well be helped by the 10mm wider track, but that's only a centimetre wider than normal. Instead, some solid work on springs and dampers seems to be the more likely root of this impressive handling. It is the ride really shines in the Fiesta Active though. That extra height allows for a little more suppleness from the suspension, and it's a very comfortable car for one with such a small footprint. It's more comfortable dealing with rough surfaces - more likely pot-holes and speed bumps than actual off-roading - than a normal Fiesta, which makes it easier to live with still.
Ford's latest Fiesta is a nicely designed bit of kit, and the Active model adds a few 'rugged' styling details to the outside. It's not going to brush off rocks and tree stumps, but the black plastic trim around the lower edges of the bodywork do at least give a hint of crossover-design. Other than these elements, and the slightly higher ride height, you'd be hard pushed to realise that this particular Fiesta is an Active version. Many passers-by won't notice the difference at all I'd wager, and the overall aesthetic, stance, and road presence makes it clear that this is part of the Fiesta family. This all means that interior space practically remains the same, with typical supermini proportions throughout. Front seat occupants are well catered for, though tall adults will not want to spend long journeys in the rear. Four adults will fit though, and a family can use the Fiesta Active as a reasonable workhorse, despite it's small size. Boot space is not best in class, but it's plenty usable enough, and access is reasonable. The cut of the rear doors means that climbing into the rear seats can feel a little restricted. Not the most stylish or practical cars in its class then, but certainly not the worst either.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Like the exterior, the changes in the cabin when comparing Fiesta to Fiesta Active are negligible. It's no issue since the Fiesta's interior is a good one, and one of the best in its class. It looks good, has a prominent and easy to use touchscreen system, and few other controls to clutter up the place. The dashboard, instrument binnacle, and centre console aren't going to be winning design awards, but each element performs its tasks well, and the Fiesta Active cabin is a pleasant place in which to sit. The seats are comfortable enough even to deal with long trips, and the driver has a nicely sized steering wheel to control things. It's easy to get into a good driving position too. Switches, dials, and buttons don't feel the best quality, but then the Fiesta is not pitched as a direst rival to a VW Polo for example. Build quality feels good enough, and so do most materials in terms of quality, but the cabin is not a stand-out feature for the Fiesta Active.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Ford quotes the Fiesta Active's fuel economy figure at 54.3 MPG for this variation of the 1.0 litre Ecoboost petrol engine, which is a good figure. It's only a couple of MPG fewer than the 100 hp and 85 hp versions too, so there doesn't seem to be much of a hit in efficiency for those opting for the more powerful unit. In fact, in terms of real-world fuel economy, I'd wager that the 140 hp unit tested will get closer figures to the official set than the lower-powered variants, and consistently so too. This is because there is plenty of power to deal with what might be required of the Fiesta Active, so the engine will not struggle as much when under heavy load. Certainnly in terms of consistency, my notes show that after around 200 miles in the Fiesta Active, the trip computer said my average was 40.9 MPG. After almost 700 miles, that figure had more or less remained the same, with 40.4 MPG displayed on the Fiesta's screen. To tax, the Fiesta Active will cost £160 for the first year rate (included in the car's OTR), and then £140 thereafter, since it's price doesn't come close to troubling the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold.
It is this section where the lack of off-road alterations shines through, as the efficiency figures are not far off the standard Fiesta at all. There is a small deficit when comparing the two, but only around 3 MPG and 6 g/km CO2, with the Active model's emissions rated at 119 g/km. Helping efficiency figures are engine stop/start to prevent the engine running when stopped. The Fiesta Active also features a drive mode select system, including Eco mode, which lessens throttle response for example, to help get more miles per gallon. An active shutter behind the grille helps smooth airflow when engine cooling isn't top of the Fiesta Active's priorities. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.
Ford's trim system on the Fiesta is not the simplest to get your head around. Some prioritise luxury, others sportiness, and others - in the case of the Active - emphasise off-road ruggedness. Think of the Active as a sub-set of the trim levels, there are three different variations - Active1, Active B&O, and Active X. Fitted as standard to Active models are 17-inch alloys, Ford Sync touchscreen system with navigation, DAB, Bluetooth, USB, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. Also fitted are safety features including lane-keep assist and adjustable sped limiter, while Active trim details, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, air conditioning, sports style seats, electric windows all-round, front fog lights, rear privacy glass, and heated windscreen. Fitted as standard to the Active X tested were electric door mirrors with puddle lights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear camera and parking sensors, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and start, and Sync 3 infotainment system - which is very good.
The Fiesta Active X is pricy, but well equipped. Buyers will get a supermini that rides very nicely, is reasonably practical, and allows for an eager driving style or a relaxing one, depending on what's needed. I'd personally prefer a conventional supermini to the crossover-lite one here, but market trends see buyers say otherwise.
Model tested: Ford Fiesta Active X 140 PS Ecoboost six-speed manual
Body-style: Crossover supermini
Engine / CO2: 1.0 litre petrol / 119 g/km
Trim grades: Active1, Active B&O, Active X
On-road price: Active range from £18,350. Price as tested: £20,800
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars