In the latest in a series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time, tracing their history and exploring what makes them so legendary.
In this edition, we're looking at just why the Ford Fiesta – which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year – is among the very best of all time.
If you are in the market for one yourself, check out our cars for sale.
Competition conceives a long-lived car
The original Ford Fiesta was first approved for development in the autumn of 1972, following the launch of two similar cars, the Fiat 127 and Renault 5.
As is often the way, the Fiesta has gone on to outlast those two by decades, but it was their presence that kicked it off in the first place. It was an all-new car and the smallest made by Ford. The Fiesta got the go-ahead in late 1973 and a name that was to last 40 years – and counting – was born.
A household name is born
The mark one car was simple and basic, initially offered with a 1.0 and 1.2-litre engine choice. Many will think of it as a European car, but it was sold in the USA for several years before being replaced.
In Europe, 1980 saw the first sporty take on the Fiesta, which was to become known for its hot versions later on. The 1.3L Supersport basically tested the appetite for the XR2, which was to come a year later.
The Generation Game
Things got rounder for the Mark II car, which came along in late summer 1983 with a less angular front. There were also interior updates and, for the first time, a 1.6L diesel option. The third generation car was launched at the start of 1989 and was built on a new platform and came with a slightly fatter and rounder look.
For the first time a five-door version was available as well as the Fiesta competed with rivals like the Peugeot 205 and Vauxhall Nova.
The Mark IV car, launched in 1995, signalled the beginning of the Fiesta that we recognise today – as well as cementing it as one of Britain’s best-selling cars. From 1996 to 1998 it was the top seller in the UK, a mantle that it has held countless times to this day.
Such was its success that Ford, unusually, didn’t replace it for seven years, with the fifth generation car launched in 2002. Again, it was so popular that it lasted until 2008, when the current Mark VI was launched.
Performance versions and motorsport
Where would we be without a Fast Ford? The Fiesta has seen some hot versions over the years, that’s for sure.
It all began with the XR2, a sporty version of the first generation car that was given some serious updates when the Mark II car came around. It quickly became loved by boy racers in the 1980s and it’s not hard to see why, with a 60mph time of just 9.3 seconds.
Many were given aftermarket modifications to boost performance, with Ford itself not wanting to tread on the toes of its own sporty versions of the Escort. In 1989, with the third generation car launched, the XR2i went with it and the RS1800 version produced a tidy 130bhp.
Things stagnated a bit in the mid-1990s, but it was the fifth generation car that introduced us to the mighty Fiesta ST, which had 150bhp and a top end of 129mph. Today, in its sixth generation guise, the ST is one of the hottest hot hatches out there.
The Fiesta has also enjoyed huge success in motorsport – not least in the World Rally Championship – throughout its life.
The story continues
A couple of years ago the Fiesta became the UK’s best-selling car of all time and it continues to top the charts, or thereabouts, every year.
These days it is as competent a supermini as you’ll get, laden with tech and impressively efficient engines.
Happy birthday little Fiesta – you’ve come a long way.