- All the usual Ford Fiesta positives....
- Now with added toughness, practicality and comfort
- Distinctive style in a conservative market
- Not an actual SUV or crossover, so no 4x4
- Asking price is quite steep
- Smallish boot
Taller tyres, a wider track, longer suspension and a whole load of black plastic cladding. That sums up most of the differences between the Fiesta and the Fiesta Active, but the end result is far greater than those few changes.
Few people really need an SUV, so replicating that style with something as useable, small and pleasing as the Fiesta makes sense, especially if your off-road experience will be limited to a school playing field or a garden centre’s gravel car park.
You lose all the downsides of SUV ownership - thirstier, wobblier, larger - and gain a few ne benefits, such as easier access, a more comfortable ride and a car that will access slightly more demanding terrain. All this, without giving up the Fiesta’s famed handling, or high equipment levels and reasonably practical interior.
The market for this kind of car is rather small. There’s the Hyundai i20 Active and, arguably, the Citroen C4 Cactus, but that’s about it. Everything else is an SUV, and styled as such.
On The Road
Your options for Active models consist of a 1.0-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel unit. While the diesel is an excellent engine, it’s the 1.0-litre we'd pick, and you can choose from 100, 125 or 140hp. Given the price difference between lowest and highest output is just £900, it’s easy to justify stepping up the range a little.
Once you’ve reached the 140hp model on test here, you’ll find a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds, with economy of 54.3mpg. That’s 1.6 second quicker than th 100hp model, and only gives away 2.2mpg overall - many will see that as a fair trade. The performance difference becomes more marked in the mid-range.
Despite the tough image, there’s no four-wheel drive option, so you’re relying on just the front wheels and a slightly raised ride height to head off-road. In reality, it’s probably more suited to bouncing up and down curbs into a school playing field rather than tackling the Darien Gap.
Making a car taller will affect its handling, as more weight is pushed higher up. The reality is the Active has been jacked up by just 18mm, which is enough to look a bit chunkier but not enough to upset things.
It rides over those potholes and puddles in country car parks with ease, and carries on doing that on the road. It’s more comfortable than a standard Fiesta, that extra 18mm allowing the suspension some room to breathe. That in itself might be reason to move from the hatch to the Active.
It isn’t quite as sharp when it comes to corners, but it still steers accurately and is ultimately as good on the bendy bits as anything else in the class.
The tiny 1.0-litre engine keeps weight down at the front. Move to the diesel and you’ll notice the extra heft of the engine on corners. Another tick for the petrol, then.
Jacking up the car has lifted the occupants ever so slightly further from the road, but not enough to make the car feel isolated. However, sensible damping and thought out use of soundproofing has made the Active a pleasant place to sit.
The new dashboard, with its eight-inch infotainment screen, feels like it’s come from a class above, adding a somewhat premium feel to the car.
This model’s B&O sound system also works well to mask any errant noises within the cabin, but there’s not much in the way of wind or tyre noise anyway. The little 1.0-litre engine can sound a tad strained when pushed hard, but it’s not intrusive under normal use.
In The Car
Step from the previous generation Fiesta into this new model and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve skipped a few decades. Gone are the seemingly endless randomly placed buttons, replaced by a well considered cabin that goes for a near minimalist look.
A large eight-inch touchscreen sits proud on top of the dashboard. Housing the DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as navigation, it’s the core control for the car. There’s a voice control option that’s amongst the best on the market, but it still falls short of smartphone equivalents. Fortunately there are physical buttons below for the volume and basic audio controls, as well as a full climate control panel further down.
Lower spec models miss out on the excellent system, called Sync 3 by Ford, but still get a smaller 4.2-inch unit. Only models with B&O in the name get the premium stereo system although, while it’s definitely a good system, it doesn’t offer much more than the standard unit.
Visibility is good all round, but the lack of a reversing camera or parking sensors is an oversight. While more expensive to fit, they can help reduce insurance premiums.
Nothing has changed internally with the Fiesta Active, so it shares the same 303-litre boot of the regular Fiesta, and the same spacious front half of the cabin. It’s tighter in the rear, but a couple of adults won’t complain too much on a longer journey. With two child seats in place, it’s great.
There’s plenty of storage space dotted around the cabin, with door pockets, a cubby under the centre stack, more space under the central armrest, and a couple of cupholders. There’s even a space for the key, if you don’t want to keep the fob for the keyless entry and start in your pocket.
It’s not quite a class-leading space, but it’s close enough to keep most people happy.
While the Fiesta range starts from a reasonable £13,965, this Active B&O model will set you back a substantial £20,245. That’s more than the 200hp Fiesta ST, so you’re need to really want the equipment and capabilities the Active offers.
However, the most basic Active model costs £18,045, so upgrading to the better equipped Active B&O, or even Active X model, isn’t too onerous. Reach the top of the Active range and the bill extends to £22,585, enough to get you a larger Ford Focus Titanium with a more powerful engine.
There’s not much different in PCP or leasing costs either, although the Fiesta’s lower CO2 emissions help keep ta bills down for both private and company drivers. Insurance is also cheap and, once the car has run out of warranty, it’ll be easy to find any number of independent dealers to service it.
The latest Fiesta is too new to have shown any reliability trends, but Ford know how to put a car together. In the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Ford finished ahead of both Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, and above the average mark.
Material quality is much improved over previous generations, and there’s a feeling of solidity. The tough fabric options for the seats will also stand up well to abuse from younger passengers, while the fake carbon fibre inserts and touchpoints around the car set a pleasingly premium ambience.
Ford back all of its cars with a three-year warranty, but that runs out at 60,000 miles so high-mileage drivers might need to look at paying to extend that.
When the standard Fiesta was tested by EuroNCAP, the car got the full five stars. There’s no reason to suspect that the marginally taller Fiesta Active would do any worse than that, but Ford has thrown all manner of safety aids at the car in order to keep the scores high. That includes the rather cynically named NCAP Technology Pack that includes lane keeping assist, a speed limiter, rear centre headrest and automatic headlamps.
Traffic sign recognition, automatic wipers, parking sensors and cameras, blind spot warning and even automatic emergency braking are on the options list.