The great history of the Ford Fiesta

The great history of the Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is one of the best-selling cars in history, and has been near the top (or at the top) of the UK sales chart since it first hit the market in 1976. Here we look back at the history of the supermini.

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The Ford Fiesta has one of the richest product histories of any car. First on sale in 1976, it took the world by storm and has continued to do so ever since. Helped by a sporty hot hatch version for each generation, the Fiesta has regularly sat at the top of the sales charts – and often by some margin.  

Here we take a look through each generation of Ford’s legendary supermini.

First generation (1976 – 1983)

It was back in 1976 that Ford launched the Mk1 Fiesta. Triggered by the 1973 oil crisis, there was a sudden urgency to make smaller cars a priority.

This crisis unsurprisingly meant that compact engines were a must – with the Fiesta being launched with 0.9-litre and 1.1-litre engines. Amazingly, it was Ford’s first front-wheel-drive car, and set a precedent that continues today.

The 1300 Sport version was the first attempt at a sporty Fiesta, even if it was only cosmetic. But it was the XR2 that really kick-started the trend of fast Fiestas. Most people of a certain vintage will remember the XR2 from their youth, which continues to push the value of the classic model up. Using a 1.6-litre engine (hefty for a car of this size at the time), it was hugely enjoyable to drive.

Second generation (1983 – 1989)

Ford didn’t change the looks much on the second-generation model, with the main differences including a revised interior and front end.  

One of the more memorable aspects of the Mk2 model was the sporty XR2 model that saw a bolder bodykit fitted and more power. It was in 1987, though, that the Fiesta saw its best UK sales year ever, with the Blue Oval shifting over 150,000 units, although it was still beaten by Ford’s Escort.

Third generation (1989-1995)

The Mk3 version saw a new platform introduced - a well-needed change more than 13 years after the original version debuted. More modern features such as electric windows and anti-lock brakes were introduced.

However, by the end of the 80s, hot hatches were springing out from manufacturers in the way crossovers are today, meaning Ford had to up its game. It resulted in the Fiesta RS Turbo, using the same 1.6-litre from the Escort RS Turbo to deliver 128bhp.

Fourth generation (1995 – 2002)

After years of producing sporty Fiestas, the Mk4 model did lack somewhat on the hot hatch front.

The look didn’t change a huge amount, but the interior quality was improved - while the redeveloped chassis made the ride and handling superb. This generation also introduced the 1.25- and 1.4-litre engines, two engines that still exist today.

While Ford never introduced a truly hot version, a warm 101bhp Zetec S version was introduced when the car was facelifted in 1998.

Fifth generation (2002-2008) 

The fifth-generation of the Fiesta really was a small Focus, and was designed in that way. It really was a grown up take on the Fiesta.

But, not willing to lose out on Ford’s loyal hot hatch customers, the manufacturer introduced the Fiesta ST to woo these fans – and it worked.  

Ford also introduced an array of special editions to this version throughout its lifetime, most notably the Zetec S ‘Celebration’ that came with vivid green paintwork and a chequered roof.

Sixth generation (2008-2017)

The supermini market had moved on a lot since 2002, and the Mk6 model helped to combat this as it was stylish, fantastic to drive and had a high quality feel.  

However, it was the facelift that everyone was looking forward to, which saw the eagerly awaited ST version join the line-up in 2013. Another key introduction was the fantastic 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, which came in a variety of guises. It has since been fitted to cars across the Ford model range.

Seventh generation (2017 -) 

For the latest version, Ford moved the Fiesta upmarket, with the gap left by the base versions filled with the introduction of the smaller Ka+.

Ford has added its luxury flair to the model, with the introduction of a premium Vignale model, while a sporty ST-Line version was also introduced. Yet, there is still more to come with the sporty ST version and SUV-style Fiesta Active hitting showrooms in 2018.

If you’re looking to a new Ford car, here’s the complete buyers guide to Ford models.

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