Ford is preparing to bring a crossover range of its normal cars to market, all of them wearing the nameplate 'Active'. In very short order, there will be Ka+ Active and Focus Active models, but for now the first version out of the blocks is the Fiesta Active, launched alongside the barnstorming ST. That brings the Fiesta family's number to four distinct lines, with these two newcomers landing alongside the existing regular hatchback and luxury Vignale cars. So, does the more rugged looking Active make a strong enough case for itself amongst this sea of seventh-gen Fiesta goodness?
In the Metal:
The visual addenda of the Ford Fiesta Active amounts to black plastic body cladding around the wheel arches and the lower portions of the bumpers, its own design of machined 17-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails for the carrying of lifestyle accoutrements like kayaks, mountain bikes and two-man tents, LED rear lights, a black panel around its rear number plate and 'Active' logos on the front wings.
Inside, it gains sports seats with their own exclusive materials and designs (in our test car, these were grey cloth with amber lines running up their centre-lines, with an 'A' graphic at the top) and some brightwork trim on the dashboard. Ford raises the ride height by 18mm and also 'optimises' the suspension for rough roads, which essentially means it's longer of travel and softer. All in all, though, Active trim works well for the Fiesta's sleek lines, bolstering its looks neatly enough to make it stand out. Thumbs up for the aesthetic part of the review.
When we first drove the all-new Fiesta on its international launch, we thought it an excellent car - but one that might have sacrificed its long-held dynamic ability at or near its limits, in favour of some more grown-up cabin finishing and a smoother ride. In short, it had become just a teensy bit duller and more Volkswagen Polo-esque.
The benefit of that maturity in the regular Fiesta hatchback range, though, is that it suits the softly-softly approach of this higher-riding crossover model perfectly. So, no, the Active is not particularly good in the bends. It's not bad, either, but there's more lean here than you'd get in a regular Fiesta and a less precise feeling to the way it turns in and grips. Great fun to drive on road, the Active is not.
However, that suppleness in its underpinnings actually allows it to flow along a challenging road at a decent, just-slightly-off-the-boil (simmering?) lick if you want it to, and it's impressively muted in operation, especially when pottering about town and cruising effortlessly along a motorway. In fact, so easy-going and smooth of ride is the Active that you start to wonder if it's the best model of the Fiesta family for any driver who prioritises comfort over speed, ahead of both the normal hatchback and the supposed luxury champ, the overpriced Vignale.
And yes, we did take it (very briefly) off the tarmac when left to our own devices. It does indeed have more ground clearance and good flexibility in its suspension to allow it to pick its way along modestly difficult unmade surfaces, but owners are going to be taking it, at most, down slightly rutted gravel tracks or into wet fields - so we just drove it on a little, dusty track too. Without four-wheel drive and various other chassis toys, don't expect the Fiesta Active to be some sort of automotive mountain goat in a supermini frock.
In terms of the drivetrain, we're having to take a bit of a guess here - because Ford Ireland is offering just one engine, the 100hp iteration of the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol motor. In other markets, there are also 125- and 140hp versions of this same unit, while two 1.5-litre TDCi diesels (one with 85hp and another with 120hp) are part of the line-up. Sadly, at the launch event, no 100hp Actives were available, so the nearest we got was driving the 140hp model, which felt lively and punchy, but it also felt like it was about as low on power as you'd want to go.
We reckon the 100hp engine might feel a tad undercooked in the Active, which makes us even sadder about the buyer backlash against diesel we're seeing here in Ireland; the 120hp TDCi would be the perfect engine for our market, if only it were to come here.
What you get for your Money:
The one-model-only in Ireland Active starts at €21,900 and, for that money, it comes with a reasonably high level of specification - including all the styling and mechanical updates outlined above, plus equipment like SYNC 3 with a 6.5-inch touchscreen supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB with USB connectivity and a six-speaker sound system, air conditioning, a Quickclear windscreen and leather trim for all of the steering wheel, handbrake and gearshift knob. Buyers also get slightly different selectable drive modes, ranging through Eco, Normal and Slippery. However, at nearly €22,000, the Active is one of the more expensive lines of the Fiesta clan.
An entirely expected and thoroughly polished new addition to the Ford Fiesta family, the Active is a fine city crossover. It drives in highly cultured, car-like fashion and it looks particularly good inside and out. It's a shame there's extremely limited drivetrain availability here in Ireland and that the Active is also a relatively expensive model, but as there are few direct rivals for this new Ford - and as the company's own B-segment crossover SUV, the EcoSport, remains a rather lukewarm dish - then the Fiesta Active deserves to be a showroom success.