WHEN attending the launch of the original Ford Fiesta in the South of France nearly 40 years ago little did I realise that the Fiesta would eventually go on to make UK motoring history and become the best selling car ever in Britain writes Bryan Longworth.
For the latest seventh generation model of the fabulous Fiesta has just helped to set up this amazing record for the marque which has now exceeded 4,115,000 sales since 1976 after overtaking the Ford Escort the previous record holder with 4,105,961 registrations.
First launched in 1976 the Fiesta led the small car segment in the UK for 27 of those 37 years and has been Britain’s best selling car since 2009 when it overtook the Ford Focus.
Mark Ovenden Ford Britain chairman and managing director said: “The Ford Fiesta has gone from strength to strength and today’s car combines style, value, driving dynamics and remarkable technologies.
“These include the multi award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and the Fiesta continues to outsell its nearest retail competitor by more than two to one - and that really tells the story of this extraordinary car.”
Technical progress since the original Fiesta was launched is a step change and for example it would now take more than 80 modern day Fiestas to generate the emissions of a single 1976 Mk1 model.
And the first generation Fiesta I drove in France all those years ago with the 46PS four cylinder 950cc petrol engine weighed 800kg and achieved 37.7mpg with CO2 emissions of almost 150g/km compared to the 1.0-litre 100PS EcoBoost engine in the current model which weighs nearly 1100kg and yet returns 65.7combined mpg with 99g/km CO2 emissions.
The most popular Fiesta in Britain is the Zetec priced at £12,945 which is a lot more than the list price of £1,856 for the model that impressed me so much on the French Riviera and went on to become a history maker.
A little known fact about the first Fiesta is that to cut costs and speed up research and development the new engine for the car was tested in a Fiat 127 development “mule” that was at the time considered the benchmark car in the class with which the Fiesta had styling similarities and it also allowed for covert road testing across Europe.
And another surprising little known fact about the original Fiesta is that the Fiesta name originally belonged to Ford’s great American rival General Motors but they gave the name freely to Ford which is something they may well have later regretted when the Fiesta went on to become a record breaker.
The Fiesta also went on to become the first globally successful front wheel drive car but it was not the first Ford to have front wheel drive because the Taunus produced by Ford of Germany laid claim to that title in the 1960s.
Now the latest seventh generation Fiesta with all its high tech kit such as voice controlled connectivity system and MyKey which limits speed and audio volume for novice drivers and future Fiestas are set to consolidate that UK sales record which is unlikely ever to be beaten.
Verdict: Fiesta is a worthy UK record breaker.
Model: Ford Fiesta.
First launched: 1976.
Total sales: 4,115,000 and rising.
Most popular current model: Zetec £12,945.
Original price: £1,856.