Ford recently announced that it was launching a new simplified model structure across its range.
That’s welcome news for anyone who has pored over a Ford brochure in recent years and got lost in the maze-like arrangement of “regular” trim lines, sporty ones, luxury ones, “lifestyle” ones and their various sub-branches.
From now on Ford is - allegedly - keeping it simple. There will be performance-inspired ST-Line with sports styling, comfort-focused Titanium and, for those seeking “maximum versatility and adventure”, the Active trim.
Nice and simple, as long as you ignore the additional X and Vignale specs on Fiesta and Focus. And don’t dare ask what it all means for the Puma ST-Line X Vignale.
Anyway, the good news is that this week’s test car is among those to survive the trim level cull, bringing versatility and adventure to the supermini segment in the shape of the Fiesta Active X.
Now, when Ford says versatility and adventure, don’t be getting ideas that this is some sort of jacked-up all-terrain Fiesta ready for you to take on the Dakar rally. It is jacked up, yes, but by a meagre 18mm, meaning this is more suited to a muddy Forestry Commission car park than the South American dunes.
And there’s no all-wheel-drive or under-body protection. What there is is an additional traction control mode for “trail” conditions to help the front-wheel-drive Fiesta keep going smoothly on bumpier terrain, plus some roof rails and a bit of black plastic cladding around the lower portion of the car.
It’s hardly a massive transformation but it’s enough to make the Active stand out from the rest of the Fiesta range. If you’re feeling particularly bold you can opt for the eye-catching Luxe Yellow or Race Red paint, otherwise it’s largely the same palette as other trims. The X model tested sits above the standard Active and does away with one of the other features that makes it stand out - bright yellow highlights on the dashboard and seats. Instead, the Active X gets plusher but less eye-catching part-leather seats and a more sober dashboard finish.
Ford Fiesta Active X
Price: £22,545 (£23,645 as tested)Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrolPower: 124bhpTorque: 125lb ftTransmission: Six-speed manualTop speed: 121mph0-62mph: 10 secondsEconomy: 43.5-60.1mpgCO2 emissions: 125g/km
The X trim also adds larger (18-inch) alloys, keyless entry, a B&O sound system, auto climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen in place of the standard 6.5-inch one, and more driver assistance in the shape of auto-dipping headlights, traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert. It’s a decent spec but you could save some money by going for a similarly-equipped Fiesta without the Active’s rugged additions.
And that’s the thing about the Fiesta Active. Underneath the cosmetic embellishments and slightly raised driving position, it’s still a Fiesta, which is a very good thing.
It isn’t the most spacious car in its class but as long as you’re not regularly travelling four-up it’s big and comfortable enough and the 311-litre boot is big enough for the weekly shop or a weekend’s adventuring gear (as long as you’re not scaling the Eiger). The driving position and visibility are good and although the interior isn’t cutting edge, it’s user-friendly, with physical heater controls and that eight-inch touchscreen with Sync3.
On the road, if anything, the Active’s differently tuned suspension is a benefit. There’s a smidge less body control but a perceptible improvement in ride comfort. Some versions of the Fiesta can be a touch on the firm side but the Active softens this without compromising the Fiesta’s excellent on-road behaviour.
Our test car rolled out of the factory just before Ford announced changes to the engine line-up, which has also been simplified. So if you want the 124bhp 1.0-litre petrol we tested you’ll have to take it with a seven-speed DCT auto gearbox. Having tested that arrangement in another Fiesta, it works well. The three-cylinder EcoBoost is willing and plenty powerful enough for the compact Fiesta and doesn’t feel held back by the transmission.
If you want a manual, you’ve got a choice of two petrol-electric hybrid powertrains. Both use the same 1.0-litre engine. Confusingly, the EcoBoost Hybrid 125 packs 129bhp while there’s also a more powerful 153bhp version that’s also found in the Puma. Either packs more than enough punch for a car the Fiesta’s size and both offer around 52mpg and CO2 emissions of 123g/km.
It’s easy to laugh at the idea of an SUV-inspired supermini and the kind of marketing brains that came up with it. But the Fiesta Active manages to carry off its peculiar position fairly well, thanks largely to the quality of the basic car. If you really fancy the body cladding and taller suspension then go for it but remember that for £1,000 less you can have a similarly equipped Titanium X, which is every bit as good.