31st October 2022


The final example of the Ford Fiesta will drive off the Cologne production line in Germany at the end of June 2023. Ford confirmed it is axing the Fiesta, as it accelerates its plans to become an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer by the middle of this decade. It’s a decision that will take many by surprise and disappoint countless others.

The reasons why it’s a surprising and disappointing decision is clear. Put simply, not many car models get to stick around for 46 years with one nameplate, being so good at what it does that it becomes an icon. That’s because since 1976, Ford built 22 million Fiestas, 4.8 million of which were sold in Britain.

Britain even assembled Fiestas in Dagenham, Essex until 2002. In the UK at least, it was the best-selling car for 12 years until 2020, when the effects of the pandemic and semi-conductor crisis led to Ford diverting its supplies to its more profitable and strong-selling Puma and Kuga SUVs. 

Henry Ford II approved the development of the Ford Fiesta just over 50 years ago in September 1972, following the launch of Fiat’s 127 and Renault’s 5. So, while the Fiesta was a little late to the supermini party, it allowed the project “Bobcat” team to develop an even better rival, and for Ford of Europe’s Uwe Bahnsen to oversee the design of Ford’s smallest ever car.

The Fiesta name was chosen by Henry Ford II over ‘Bravo’, because it meant ‘party’ in Spanish – perfect for introducing new customers to Ford’s brilliant attempt at a fun to drive and brilliantly designed small car.

While French and German customers were able to purchase the very first Fiestas in September 1976, British customers of right-hand drive examples had to wait until January 1977 before they could get their hands on one.

Besides being known as a default car for learner and new drivers, small families, a great used buy and a hoot to drive, the Fiesta was also available as a performance model. Hot hatchbacks were still being experimented with in 1976 when the car was launched – and Ford knew how its buyers were drawn to its performance variants in the past on models such as the Cortina and Escort.

This meant, that whether you were 17 or 70 years old and owned a 1300 Sport, Supersport, XR2, XR2i, RS Turbo, Zetec S or an ST – you were given instant kudos because everyone knew that fast Fords were desirable. The early Fiesta Supersport may have only had a 1.3-litre engine delivering 89bhp, but it only weighed 775kg and it looked the part with spotlights, front and rear spoilers, 13-inch alloys and distinctive side stripes.

The 1300 Sport and Supersport tested the water for Ford before the more boisterous ‘XR2’ arrived, a model which was very much a part of 1980s hot hatch culture and is still well-regarded today.

The 1981-83 XR2 had a 1.6-litre Kent engine, which resulted in respectable-for-its-day statistics of 84bhp and 91lb ft torque. The spotlights and side stripes remained, but iconic ‘pepperpot’ alloys were new. The 1983-89 Fiesta Mk2 was a smoothed over design of the original and the new XR2 gained a CVH engine and a longer production run which found more fans.

The 1989-97 Fiesta Mk3 was not only better equipped and featured a 5-door variant for the first time, but it appealed to hot hatch fans even more. There was a choice of an XR2i with fuel-injection and 110bhp, or a Fiesta RS Turbo with 132bhp.

Driver appeal returned with all versions of the 1995-02 Fiesta Mk4, and Ford also fitted a strong performing Yamaha-designed 1.25 Zetec-SE/‘Sigma’ engine. This would stick around for many years to come and featured in the short-lived, 2000-02 100bhp Fiesta Zetec-S.

The 2002-08 Fiesta Mk5 was much bigger, while the curves of its predecessor were swapped for angles and lines – bringing it up to date with the Mondeo Mk2. Hot hatch fans were treated to a new hot hatch brand – ST, which packed a punch with a 148bhp 2.0-litre engine.

The ST badge continued, after it arrived halfway through the 2008-16 Fiesta Mk6’s production run. Owners of the 180bhp 1.6-litre Mk6 Fiesta ST had the option of increasing the performance of their cars with Ford-approved Mountune upgrades, which made a great car even better, boosting the power to 212bhp, adding mid-range responses, costing £599 and didn’t void the owner’s manufacturer’s warranty.

The 2013-2017 Fiesta ST was superseded by a run-out model with even more performance in 2016, called the ST200. It featured an upgraded 200bhp engine output and was limited to a production run of 400 units.

Finally, the 2018-23 Fiesta ST, now in its seventh and final generation, looked similar to its predecessor but carried a number of beneficial improvements. The ride was better, as was the interior and the team at Ford Performance that helped develop the Focus RS, also helped create the outgoing and final Fiesta ST. The biggest change was the engine – now a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol under the bonnet, which could switch to two cylinders to save fuel.

These were the dying years of the Fiesta and its hot hatch equivalent. But Ford still produced a great car, both in standard and hot hatch guises. While the current times we lived in dictated that the Fiesta had to be more economical and environmentally friendly, Ford still allowed it to produce 197bhp, 290Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds.

Ford is now bidding a fond farewell to its Fiesta, a car many of us have known for most, if not all of our lives. What are your fondest memories of the blue oval baby?