We road test the rufty-tufty version of the UK’s best-selling new car, but is the Ford Fiesta Active distinctive enough to stand out in the compact crossover crowd?
Ford claims the Active combines “SUV inspired styling with Fiesta driving dynamics”. A bold claim, and at first sight there are only subtle differences between it and a regular Fiesta.
The reality is that the Active has a slightly raised ride height (18mm) and it’s wider (10mm) – there’s also modest plastic body cladding, roof rails and skid plates front and rear.
The result is a marginally more rugged, yet still good looking Fiesta, that squares up with everything from the Hyundai i20 Active to the Kia Stonic and more overt compact crossovers such as the Nissan Juke, Citroen C3 Aircross and Seat Arona.
There’s no four-wheel drive, but the Active does offer three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Slippery, which tweaks the car’s traction control to give more grip on mud, snow and ice. Useful on those few days of the year when extreme weather makes driving difficult, or if you live in a more rural area.
Elsewhere the Active is indistinguishable from the acclaimed new seventh generation Fiesta launched in 2017 which is no bad thing.
There’s an attractive, user-friendly cabin packed with the latest tech and comfy seats.
There’s a choice between the Fiesta’s excellent petrol and diesel engines – that’s two versions of the 1.5-litre diesel (99 or 118bhp) and four EcoBoost 1.0-litre petrols (84, 99, 123 and 138bhp). All units are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, though the 99bhp petrol can be specified with an automatic.
It’s the usual story with the engines. If the majority of your driving is spent on motorways then the diesels make sense, returning as much as 70.6mpg and with CO2 emissions as low as 103g/km.
If you don’t want or need a diesel, then the EcoBoost petrol engines offer a great blend of performance and economy. The 138bhp is a blast, but probably a little OTT. Most everyday drivers will be more than happy with the 99bhp or 123bhp versions
The 99bhp unit can return up to 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 113g/km, yet deliver a 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds and a top speed of 113mph.
It’s safe too, with a full suite of driver assistance systems available including lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning. but sadly not all standard (eg Autonomous Emergency Braking or AEB).
Available only as a five-door, the Active offers the same amount of interior space as the regular Fiesta, which means enough room for average sized adults front and rear, while the boot can take 311 litres of luggage, rising to 1,093 litres with the back seats folded down.
Priced from £17,795 (as opposed to the regular Fiesta’s £13,715), the Active is available in three well-equipped specs – Active 1, Active B&O PLAY and Active X.
With Active 1 you get LED lights, 17-inch alloys, automatic lights and wipers, lane-keeping assist, Ford’s latest Sync 3 infotainment system and rear privacy glass.
B&O Play adds a top-spec stereo and automatic wipers, while the range-topping X gets a part-leather interior with heated front seats, electrically folding door mirrors with puddle lights, sat-nav, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.
We’d go for the B&O Play – if only for the audio system and the 8.0-inch touchscreen (it’s only 6.5 inches in the entry-level car). It also gets a distinctive black roof with matching roof rails, plus electrically operated and heated door mirrors.
I tested the Active X version with the most powerful 138bhp petrol engine – the same unit that powers the excellent Fiesta ST-line.
Eager and responsive with plenty of torque, it’s a riot. Capable of a top speed of 125mph and a 0-62mph sprint in just nine seconds, it can also return up to 54.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are a low 119g/km.
The Active’s suspension is slightly softer than the standard Fiesta (which is on the firm side) to smooth out those potential rougher surfaces, meaning that the ride is generally more compliant. The downside is that a touch of body roll is noticeable, but unless you really push it, the handling is still impressive.
Other than that, it’s just as refined. I also achieved 45mpg fuel economy without really trying, so 50mpg is a real possibility on a run.
Ford reckons the Active will account for some 15% of Fiesta sales and there’s no doubt that it’s a looker and fun to drive. Whether it’s worth the price premium is another matter, though in these days of PCP and PCH, the difference between the two on a monthly basis will be relatively small.
Verdict: The Ford Fiesta Active is a welcome addition to the Fiesta family and the compact crossover posse, offering a little extra capability and comfort in a package that still offers class-leading practicality and driving dynamics.