For the first time in a car in this class, features included an SCS (Stop Control System) anti-lock braking system, optional on all manual transmission Fiestas. The new, third-generation Fiesta also offered an electrically heated windscreen de-icing system, CTX automatic transmission on 1.1-litre and 1.4-litre models, Ford’s new 1.8-litre indirect injection diesel engine for ultimate fuel economy, new moulded seat design, high-security door and steering locks, and adjustable-height front seat belt anchorage points. All engines could run on leaded or unleaded fuel and the range included two new ‘lean burn’ High Compression Swirl engines in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre versions. Improved 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre lean burn units completed the petrol engine range.
The XR2i performance version joined the 18-model line-up in October 1989, complete with a unique body kit and interior, plus sporty performance to match its looks.
In spring 1989, the eagerly-awaited replacement model was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. But first the new car had to withstand a new level of testing. Some three million kilometres were put on the clock, not just in test labs and on private test tracks, but in everyday driving on public roads. For this reason, around half of the target development mileage was completed by customers, generating further feedback and information that could be evaluated and used in the final development stages before market introduction.
This was a first in Ford history. Some 250 pre-production models, covering all body style, package and powertrain derivatives, were introduced into predominantly large company fleets in December 1988. Every week the cars were put through a pre-determined programme and then tested for quality, durability, consumption and reliability. Alex Trotman, then Chairman of Ford of Europe, explained the importance of this work:
“Ford is striving to deliver top quality in all areas. We are sure that the Fiesta will be one of the lead players in its class. The desired quality level will be achieved not least through this test programme.”
[b]The Art of Fiesta[/b]
Another of the more unusual events in the Fiesta’s history took place in 1989. It demonstrates just how much impact the Fiesta had made on the imagination. Cologne action artist H.A. Schult dedicated a three-day “happening”in Cologne with the words “No other industrial product has inspired people’s imaginations more, moved their dreams more strongly, changed their daily lives and influenced their towns and countryside… The Fiesta is “the symbol of a car that is there for everyone.”
Schult’s disguised Fiesta sculptures around the city illustrated various themes such as the age of marble, the stone age, clouds, waves as well as more contemporary trends such as disco dancing. Some 200,000 visitors saw the citywide exhibition and it was covered by 14 television broadcasters from around the world. His “Goldener Vogel”, a Fiesta as a golden bird, became a lasting symbol in Cologne.
In Spain, Catalan artist Josep Guinovart was similarly inspired, using a Fiesta XR2i as his ‘canvas’. Using his paintbrush and bits of earth, Guinovart transformed Ford’s small car into a one-of-a-kind artwork.
Fiesta continued to shine in the eyes of the automotive media. In a comparison test in August 1989, Germany’s auto, motor und sport proclaimed that the new model outshone all its main competitors, VW Polo, Fiat Uno and Peugeot 205. In Autobild the same year, the whole Fiesta car line won first place against Fiat Uno, VW Polo, Nissan Micra, Opel Corsa and Renault 5.
By the end of 1989, Ford was able to look back on the best sales year in its history to date. Just one month after its market launch, the new Fiesta was leading its segment sales chart in seven European countries. Over 500,000 new Fiestas were sold by the end of the first year, the best start-up of any European car at that time. Since its original launch in 1976, 5.25 million Fiestas had been built in Cologne, Germany, Valencia, Spain and Dagenham, UK. And the awards kept rolling in: auto, motor und sport readers’ choice for ‘Best Small Car in the World’, Auto Zeitung’s ‘Smartest Small Car’, What Car?’s ‘Car of the Year 1989’, Neue Revue’s ‘Best City Car’ and Spain’s ‘Car of the Year 1990’. This period marked the zenith of Fiesta popularity across Europe. Over the years 1990-1992, more than 1.8 million Fiestas were registered to European owners. In 1992 alone, Fiesta sold a record 648,781 units.
The sporty tradition of the Fiesta continued throughout the period. Hot on the heels of the XR2i, the high performance RS Turbo was introduced in 1990 and then upgraded in 1992 to the Fiesta RS1800i, with the new 1.8 litre, 16-valve engine delivering 130 PS.
For 1993, Fiesta introduced a newly developed safety innovation. Its low head injury criterion steering wheel was equipped with special bolstering to reduce the likelihood of head injuries in accidents.
Further additions included a five-speed transmission, stereo cassette radio with RDS automatic volume control and key code anti-theft system, and a sunroof made of special heat-reflecting glass.
Throughout its history, a long list of special edition Fiestas has been introduced in almost all European markets. One example, the Fiesta Calypso made its debut this year, with an electric sliding canvas roof that did not impact on interior sound, with the car retaining a low noise level throughout its speed range. Seat upholstery was colourful and offered firm support and the suspension comfort was said to be among the best in the class. Other examples of special editions over the years include Fiestas Bravo, Lady, Sandpiper, Festival, Economy, Quartz, Finesse, Champ, Sound, Chianti, Magic, Dash, Bonus, Firefly, Finesse II, Olympus Sport, Flight, Fresco, Cayman and many more.
Safety advances continued the following year, 1994, when Ford announced to its customers that all its vehicles would henceforth be fitted with an airbag as standard. This was the company’s largest safety initiative to date and included a pioneering system in the small car class. Alongside the driver’s airbag was an optional passenger airbag, a strengthened chassis with side impact protection, a pre-tensioning and web-grabbing front seat belt system, a safety steering wheel, anti-dive front seats and an emergency switch to cut off petrol flow automatically in case of accidents.
In 1994, crash testing of the Fiesta by magazines provided proof of the efficacy of Ford’s safety drive. A journey one-tenth of a second long resulted in a 54.9 km/h impact with a 100-tonne concrete barrier. Behind the wheel a Hybrid III dummy. Despite the natural handicaps of small car builds – low weight and short deformation zones – the Fiesta proved it was an optimized package. The passenger cell remained largely intact minimising the risk of injury to Fiesta passengers.