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Ford Fiesta Active X review: 140bhp crossover in the UK

£21,375 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£21,375
Brake horsepower
140bhp
Fuel consumption
54.3mpg
0–62 mph
9.00s
CO2
118g/km
Max speed
125Mph
Insurance Group
14E

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What’s this?

Inevitability. The allure of crossovers is so strong that not even Britain’s favourite car – the sales chart-topping Ford Fiesta MkVII – can escape it. So, to join the different prongs of the Fiesta attack (the standard hatch, with three or five doors, the Liberace’d Vignale and the go-quick ST), there’s now a Fiesta wearing a North Face toggle jacket. Meet the Fiesta Active.

What does Fiesta Active ‘X’ mean?

The, erm, X factor simply denotes you’ve spent at least £20,295 (for a 99bhp 1.0-litre turbo version) and bagged a load more standard equipment. Basically, it saves you the bothersome process of speccing up the car yourself.

Over a regular Fiesta Active, the X has xenon lights, a bigger touchscreen, climate control over manual air-con, leather bolstered seats, keyless entry and start, more screen real estate between the dials, a back-up camera and parking sensors… the list goes on and on. It’s worth the £2,400 step up from a basic Fiesta Active and still miles better value than the premium-wannabe Fiesta Vignale. In real terms, it’s about £35-40 extra a month.

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Right, got the ‘X’ bit. What about ‘Active’?

As you’d expect, this isn’t a four-wheel drive, off-roading makeover. The Fiesta Active’s main sop to an outdoorsy lifestyle is a triplet of driving modes. Prod the same button that makes the Fiesta ST louder and rortier and the Fiesta Active’s traction control and throttle response shifts from Normal to Eco or Slippery.

On the outside, you get 18mm of extra ride height, plastic wheelarches and faux skidplates front and rear. The tyres are standard road rubber. On the inside, well, you’ll barely notice you’re not in a stock Fiesta. Commanding driving position? Hose-down interior? This really isn’t that sort of car.

And probably all the more relevant because of it?

You got it. When TG’s Paul Horrell first drove the Active in the south of France, he remarked how, despite the car’s on-paper pointlessness and reborn Rover Streetwise (look it up, kids) design brief, it actually made for happy transportation. “The Active’s jacked-up suspension bestows it a really agreeable supple ride. It wafts along over rubbish tarmac with more grace than superminis usually manage.”

But now we’ve had a go in a Fiesta Active in Britain, which is to ‘rubbish tarmac’ what James Bond is to secret agents. Controversial, never-ending, and nobody does it better.

And the good news is, the Active holds its own. The redesigned hydraulic bump stops and revised geometry works maturely with the craggy mess passing beneath the car, filtering out the shudders and keeping the tyres sure-footedly fixed to the road. We didn’t have chance to point it up a rutted track, but you’d certainly feel less precious about it than, say, a VW Polo.

In fact, there’s such a sensation of grip and stability that we just ended up treating it like any other Fiesta. Bunging it into corners just to see how tight a line it could hold, and marveling at what a cracking job Ford’s done with an everyman car’s chassis. The Fiesta doesn’t strictly need to handle as well as this, and the Active has less need than most to be a giggle, as it’ll be of most interest for bingo-run duty.

Good car, then?

Well, it proves that it’s pretty much impossible to hash the new Fiesta up. It’s good enough to be a regular hatch, a pocket rocket, or a pair of walking boots with windscreen wipers.

We’d still vouch that a regular Fiesta Zetec on 16-inch wheels will be just as pliant and quite a bit cheaper, and the 138bhp EcoBoost engine in our test car, which pushes the Active X’s price past £21k, is overkill. Deceptively quick overkill, but a bit OTT nonetheless. Stick with the 99bhp EcoBoost instead.

Still, the Active means one thing for sure. There’s now a fresh top reason not to sully your neighborhood by buying the utterly rubbish Ford EcoSport crossover. Because even Ford itself makes a better car to do exactly the same job. 

8/10

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