The new Fiesta Active: why this ‘Inbetweener’ hatch might suit you
Sometimes a simple adjustment can make all the difference. Like a new dress or suit, a little has the ability to transform for good or ill. I bought a new suit late last year. I didn't like it at all the first time I tried it on, but after a couple of adroit nips and tucks (to the garment not me) by a skilled member of staff it (even I) looked a better proposition altogether.
Of course, things can work the other way, too. Changes are often made for the sake of just adding another layer of frippery - and price.
Ford, among others, have found over-complication to their cost in the past with one or two choice decisions (Vignale spec for one).
So you could hardly blame me for picking up this week's review car, the Fiesta Active version, with a sense of resignation.
The Active name denotes a slightly souped-up version (I can't stress 'slightly' enough) of the excellent Fiesta hatch.
To be frank, it appeared to me to be a desperate, overdressed, attempt to attract some of the zillions looking to buy a SUV or crossover these days.
As such, I surmised it to be an inherent admission by Ford that they don't have anything of that size to offer customers.
(Don't talk to me about their EcoSport being a small SUV of choice. For some reason, it brings me out in red blotches - and subliminally switched my initial preconception of the Active to such negative mode.)
Anyway, this new Active Fiesta is just 18mm higher than the beloved hatch. In real terms that's nothing.
In their attempt to ape the crossover look they have also, for example, slapped on a few bits and pieces of cladding to make it appear ever so slightly more testosteronic.
The suspension has been tweaked too, while the tracks are just 10mm wider. The tyres on my test car were, at 17ins, a bit larger than conventional and undoubtedly helped contribute to that more robust look.
All in all the whole thing amounts to no more than a few nips and tucks to bridge the gap from hatch to small SUV.
Yes, for sure the car was a tad easier to get into and out of, which is a major consideration for a lot of people (especially those with sensitive backs) and that, at least, must be welcomed.
You would be amazed at the volume of queries I get looking for that dimension alone every week.
It so happened that I was in the Active a lot (great seating), criss-crossing town, on the motorway a good deal, or skipping along poor rural roads. And I had to mellow my sentiments. This was able to take potholes and rough sections of surface better than I'd expected. Critically, it still retained virtually all the basic Fiesta sharpness (maybe it felt a little bit softer, but the steering was excellent), didn't succumb to the plague on many a crossover's house of being tall and wallowy to drive, and was handy to fit into several tight parking spots.
The 1-litre EcoBoost 100PS petrol 3cyl engine worked well enough without being sparkling. It was okay on general runs, but ran out of puff in fifth and (especially) sixth gear.
It returned 7.1 litres/100km, which wasn't great as I was not driving it hard at all.
But I kept coming back to the car as a package - which is the overriding concern.
Almost illusionary, the slight height and adornment adjustments made the inside feel roomier and the driving position even better than in the hatchback.
There was great space too for rear passengers for such a, relatively speaking, small car.
I couldn't help it but, like the second coming of the new suit, this little car grew on me apace.
It's nothing special to look at; indeed in sharp contrasting black and while exterior mixes, I think it is in danger of looking just a trifle garish as time goes by.
There's no four-wheel drive option but I would say that is no harm at all; this four-wheel-drive madness can be taken too far in small cars sometimes.
No, the Active was an enjoyable, workable all-round combination that steadily improved on acquaintance. I'd much rather start out doubting and being persuaded by example than finding bits wrong over the course of the week.
Would I buy it? Yes. I think it would suit a lot of people who like not just something a little bit different but see the practical benefits, too.
It's what I'd call an 'Inbetweener' and it works. Now I'm looking forward to Active versions of the new Focus and Ka+.
Facts & figures
Ford Fiesta Active 2:
1-litre EcoBoost 100PS 6spd. Spec includes 17ins alloys, black roof rails, B&O 10-speaker premium audio, 8ins touchscreen, cruise control, auto high beam/wipers, driver alert, traffic sign recognition, sport cloth seats with luxe yellow trim, park assistance pack (rear-view camera/parking sensors/electric mirrors).
Price €20,995: Entry price for Fiesta from €15,367.