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Farewell Fiesta

After 47 years of topping the UK sales charts, Ford has killed off the Fiesta supermini as it transitions to an EV-centric future. Kotto Williams mourns its demise

By Kotto Williams

Images courtesy of Ford UK

he motoring market is perhaps one of the most cutthroat in the world, with manufacturers leaving a trail of blood in their wake in their relentless search for more and more profit. Testament to this almost sociopathic mindset is the last Ford Fiesta rolling off the Cologne production line last Friday - 07/07/2023.


For almost five decades, the Fiesta has been an icon, humble but extraordinary in terms of its ability to sell and lead markets. Yet despite huge critical acclaim and commercial success - it's the ninth best selling car in the UK this year - the supermini has been killed off, and as the headman is drying his axe, I’m struggling to get my head around the decision. It's Ford’s second most popular model and they’ve decided to drop it. If you’re not overly familiar with how popular the Fiesta is, in money terms Ford’s turned the tap off to something that has generated well over £300,000,000 this year alone. And the reason why it’s been cancelled causes bouts of me strangling the air.


I’ll begin with what made the Fiesta so popular. In the early 70s, there was a global oil shortage. And I don’t mean like today’s cost of living crisis with its energy profiteering and your mortgage going up £100 every month, I’m talking about the UK inflation rapidly increasing to a peak of 27% in 1975. If your mortgage was £700 a month (in today’s money) back in 1970, in 1975 it would be £4,000. The Fiesta was the response to the market demand for cheap, economical cars. Dagenham produced Ford Fiestas for the UK and Europe, after ten years of production the first generation was replaced after selling approximately 500,000 units. In motoring terms, the Fiesta sold just as well as toilet paper.

he motoring market is perhaps one of the most cutthroat in the world, with manufacturers leaving a trail of blood in their wake in their relentless search for more and more profit. Testament to this almost sociopathic mindset is the last Ford Fiesta rolling off the Cologne production line last Friday - 07/07/2023.


For almost five decades, the Fiesta has been an icon, humble but extraordinary in terms of its ability to sell and lead markets. Yet despite huge critical acclaim and commercial success - it's the ninth best selling car in the UK this year - the supermini has been killed off, and as the headman is drying his axe, I’m struggling to get my head around the decision. It's Ford’s second most popular model and they’ve decided to drop it. If you’re not overly familiar with how popular the Fiesta is, in money terms Ford’s turned the tap off to something that has generated well over £300,000,000 this year alone. And the reason why it’s been cancelled causes bouts of me strangling the air.


I’ll begin with what made the Fiesta so popular. In the early 70s, there was a global oil shortage. And I don’t mean like today’s cost of living crisis with its energy profiteering and your mortgage going up £100 every month, I’m talking about the UK inflation rapidly increasing to a peak of 27% in 1975. If your mortgage was £700 a month (in today’s money) back in 1970, in 1975 it would be £4,000. The Fiesta was the response to the market demand for cheap, economical cars. Dagenham produced Ford Fiestas for the UK and Europe, after ten years of production the first generation was replaced after selling approximately 500,000 units. In motoring terms, the Fiesta sold just as well as toilet paper.

Since then, Ford has sold over 22,000,000 Fiestas worldwide. They’re inescapable, I’ve owned nine of them, and two more cars based on the Fiesta platform. It’s a megastar, loved by all. It’s Will Smith with number plates and a competitive finance deal. Even Jeremy Clarkson once stated the Ford Fiesta was the best car in the world, before changing his mind and driving off in a Ferrari 355.


The Fiesta offered unparalleled levels of practicality, comfort, technology and value since its conception. In the 1990s the Fiesta became known for its fun handling and in the hot models such as the XR2i, RS turbo or Zetec-S, you’d find cars that took the fight uncomfortably close to the French masters. You’re probably wondering why I mentioned technology – well, imagine paying about 50 pence for a car in 1998 that came with alloy wheels, leather seats, electric windows, air conditioning, heated front windscreen and ABS. If I designed the S-Class I’d be nervous.


My first car however had none of this, it was very much a middling Fiesta Zetec model with windy windows and metallic paint. But it set in motion a chain of events that affected my adult life, as if I’d been molested or something. The 75bhp 1.25 16-valve Zetec engine revved freely and quickly, tricking you into thinking it was a lot faster than it actually was. Paired with the nimble chassis and excellent steering it was joyful to drive quickly. My taste in cars hasn’t changed much, I can forgive many things, but if a car isn’t fun, it’s basically worthless. Ford has a knack for simply nailing the basic control weights and engineering a ride & handling compromise that is borderline witchcraft.


That formula changed very little over eight generations. The Fiesta stayed true to form, offering great levels of kit and space, and maintained its ability to perform well even in lower trim levels. The Fiesta STs and lukewarm models like the Zetec-S or ST-Line need no introduction, there are probably two or three parked in your cul-de-sac and for good reason – they’re brilliant. 


Like the classic Mini, it bridged the gap between young and old, rich and poor, the timid and the eccentric as the Fiesta was the go-to car for the girl who had just passed her test, a young professional buying his first brand new car, my mum using it to take me and my brother to the beach, your grandad who’s had his since 2002 or your wealthy uncle who had a big house and a Fiesta Ghia on his driveway.

Since then, Ford has sold over 22,000,000 Fiestas worldwide. They’re inescapable, I’ve owned nine of them, and two more cars based on the Fiesta platform. It’s a megastar, loved by all. It’s Will Smith with number plates and a competitive finance deal. Even Jeremy Clarkson once stated the Ford Fiesta was the best car in the world, before changing his mind and driving off in a Ferrari 355.


The Fiesta offered unparalleled levels of practicality, comfort, technology and value since its conception. In the 1990s the Fiesta became known for its fun handling and in the hot models such as the XR2i, RS turbo or Zetec-S, you’d find cars that took the fight uncomfortably close to the French masters. You’re probably wondering why I mentioned technology – well, imagine paying about 50 pence for a car in 1998 that came with alloy wheels, leather seats, electric windows, air conditioning, heated front windscreen and ABS. If I designed the S-Class I’d be nervous.


My first car however had none of this, it was very much a middling Fiesta Zetec model with windy windows and metallic paint. But it set in motion a chain of events that affected my adult life, as if I’d been molested or something. The 75bhp 1.25 16-valve Zetec engine revved freely and quickly, tricking you into thinking it was a lot faster than it actually was. Paired with the nimble chassis and excellent steering it was joyful to drive quickly. My taste in cars hasn’t changed much, I can forgive many things, but if a car isn’t fun, it’s basically worthless. Ford has a knack for simply nailing the basic control weights and engineering a ride & handling compromise that is borderline witchcraft.


That formula changed very little over eight generations. The Fiesta stayed true to form, offering great levels of kit and space, and maintained its ability to perform well even in lower trim levels. The Fiesta STs and lukewarm models like the Zetec-S or ST-Line need no introduction, there are probably two or three parked in your cul-de-sac and for good reason – they’re brilliant. 


Like the classic Mini, it bridged the gap between young and old, rich and poor, the timid and the eccentric as the Fiesta was the go-to car for the girl who had just passed her test, a young professional buying his first brand new car, my mum using it to take me and my brother to the beach, your grandad who’s had his since 2002 or your wealthy uncle who had a big house and a Fiesta Ghia on his driveway.

So why has Ford killed the Fiesta? It’s simple. They’re in the business of selling cars to make money, and the Puma “crossover SUV” makes more of it. A lot more. The Puma is more profitable because it’s based on the Fiesta, yet Ford can charge more because people believe they’re getting more car for their money.


At the time of writing, the list price of an entry-level Fiesta is £19,065. To get into a base model Puma you’ll need £24,415 and it comes with fewer bells and whistles. But that doesn’t matter because the general public thinks bigger is safer, that a high driving position represents a premium product and it’ll impress the neighbours more. Whatever gives the most commanding view with the lowest monthly payment is the car to have.


The Fiesta used to regularly occupy the number one spot on that aforementioned best-selling cars list. But now seven out of the top ten are SUVs/mock SUVs, and guess what's number one? The Puma. Forgive the anger, but I’m triggered because this doesn’t represent progress. The best small hatchback of all time has been replaced by its fatter, younger sister that doesn’t have the same dynamic sparkle and pollutes the environment more. 


You may dismiss me as yelling at clouds, but think about the future consequences for our little car enthusiasm bubble in the near future - a teenager learning to drive in a Puma is far less likely to become an enthusiast, and no would-be boy racer is going to blue-tac a poster of a Puma ST to their wall.


In a year or two you’ll find yourself surrounded by these great, lumbering cars like the MG Z-Something, the Nissan Joke or the Ssaannggyyoonnggg funky frog. But now and again through the beige mist, you’ll see a 2012 Fiesta 1.4 Zetec, a wave of nostalgia will hit you and as interest rates continue to rise, you too will pine for the loss of Ford’s cultural icon.

So why has Ford killed the Fiesta? It’s simple. They’re in the business of selling cars to make money, and the Puma “crossover SUV” makes more of it. A lot more. The Puma is more profitable because it’s based on the Fiesta, yet Ford can charge more because people believe they’re getting more car for their money.


At the time of writing, the list price of an entry-level Fiesta is £19,065. To get into a base model Puma you’ll need £24,415 and it comes with fewer bells and whistles. But that doesn’t matter because the general public thinks bigger is safer, that a high driving position represents a premium product and it’ll impress the neighbours more. Whatever gives the most commanding view with the lowest monthly payment is the car to have.


The Fiesta used to regularly occupy the number one spot on that aforementioned best-selling cars list. But now seven out of the top ten are SUVs/mock SUVs, and guess what's number one? The Puma. Forgive the anger, but I’m triggered because this doesn’t represent progress. The best small hatchback of all time has been replaced by its fatter, younger sister that doesn’t have the same dynamic sparkle and pollutes the environment more. 


You may dismiss me as yelling at clouds, but think about the future consequences for our little car enthusiasm bubble in the near future - a teenager learning to drive in a Puma is far less likely to become an enthusiast, and no would-be boy racer is going to blue-tac a poster of a Puma ST to their wall.


In a year or two you’ll find yourself surrounded by these great, lumbering cars like the MG Z-Something, the Nissan Joke or the Ssaannggyyoonnggg funky frog. But now and again through the beige mist, you’ll see a 2012 Fiesta 1.4 Zetec, a wave of nostalgia will hit you and as interest rates continue to rise, you too will pine for the loss of Ford’s cultural icon.

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