The car makes its world debut at next month's Frankfurt International Motor Show, marking the start of a range of four new small cars due to be launched by Ford of Europe before March 2003.
Initially it will only be available as a five-door hatchback, followed by a three-door Fiesta hatchback due late next year as well as automatic and semi-automatic variants, a mini-MPV-based Fiesta and an extension to the Ka line-up based on the StreetKa roadster.
Ford's Cologne plant is capable of producing five different Fiesta derivatives so there are opportunities for additional models.
The all-new Ford Fiesta represents the latest incarnation of the manufacturer's new edge design seen on the Puma, Cougar, Focus, Galaxy and Mondeo and most easily identified by the distinctive large headlights.
The new Fiesta, which can best be described as a 'small Focus', is significantly larger internally than the model it replaces. The new car is 48 mm wider at the front than the current model, 71 mm wider at the rear and has a 41 mm longer wheelbase. At 3.92 metres it is fractionally smaller than the Skoda Fabia at 3.96 metres.
A 'stumpy bonnet' alongside the A-post pushed well forward emphasise the compact front end, while a more upright D-post and a third side window at the rear helps to boost interior space. The short bonnet is further emphasised by the large headlights with indicators at the top of the lamps and the wheelarches.
The wheelarches are emphasised more than on the Focus to boost the car's track and road-standing, giving the car a certain presence on the road not always achieved with a small car.
Internally Ford has adopted the Mondeo's cockpit design with the dashboard 'wrapping around the driver'. The dashboard features circular airvents, the gearshift has been raised by 95mm meaning it is only a small handspan away from the steering wheel. The steering column is adjustable for rake and there is a front seat height adjuster.
The new Fiesta's longer wheelbase has helped boost space for rear seat passengers and headroom for all occupants has been boosted.
With the rear seat up there is 284 litres of boot space, enough for a baby buggy, golf clubs or two decent-sized suitcases, and wheelarch intrusions are eliminated. Ford claims fuel economy across the new Fiesta engine line-up will be on average 10% better than on outgoing models.
In Britain the Fiesta will feature a choice of four engines at launch - 1.3-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engines and a 1.4 TDCi common rail diesel.
The 1.4 TDCi is the first use by Ford of an engine produced in conjunction with PSA Peugeot Citroen which debuts in the new Peugeot 307. Preliminary data reveals the 1.4 TDCi returns fuel consumption of 62.8 mpg on the combined cycle and has a CO2 figure of 119g/km putting it in the 15% tax bracket - plus 3% for the diesel penalty. Diesel sales are expected to account for more than 10% of fleet business and 8-10% of total Fiesta sales.
There is no mistaking that the new Fiesta is a Ford with its new edge design and if the driving quality hype is to be believed when we get to drive the car - in Spain in December - it will be something special.
- Check out the new Fiesta's competition in the supermini sector here
- What's the alternative? Find out here
- Find out more about the new Fiesta in this week's Fleet News. For a subscription to Fleet News, click here.