More Ballsiness

Yesterday the next generation of the Ford Fiesta made its appearance in public.

2017 Ford Fiesta: source
2017 Ford Fiesta: source

There are four versions of the car, a basic one, an ST, a body-clad CUV-ish one and a Vignale. Interestingly, Ford are keeping the three door. That’s a clue to something about this car which is probably a deep reskin rather than an all-new architecture. It is akin to the half-remembered 2000 Corsa C, the short-lived 1999 VW Polo and 2014’s Opel Corsa in carrying over a lot of the previous structures. Like the 2014 Corsa, most of the action is on the interior, reflecting a greater interest in perceived quality and interaction and connectivity. McPherson struts somewhere in the press pack? Probably. Here are the front views of the current and new car (right) compared:

Old and new fronts
Old and new fronts

And here is the back. Note the lack of notes (new car right):

New and old
New and old. The new one is squarer.

Looking at the new and old cars one sees a light shuffling and remixing of the existing elements. The new rear is not as coherent as the old car: the license plate recess and lamps don’t gel. At the front the lamps are watered down; there is nothing extra here. Owners of the existing car won’t find their steed suddenly looks dated. Owners of the new car might wonder what they are paying extra for.

Here is some of the press release: “Underlying the four Fiesta variants unveiled in Cologne is an exterior that builds on the bold styling of the outgoing Fiesta, with a more elegant design, and a more fluid and transitional appearance.

Simplified, straighter lines and de-cluttered surfaces deliver more visual strength. The bonnet offers a calmer design with no centre bulge, which allows the new, wider grille* to dominate. Sleek headlamps offer a new wrap-around effect that is immediately recognisable day or night.

The side profile is more settled and less wedge-shaped, combining with 71 mm additional body length and 12 mm additional width to give a longer and more premium appearance. The belt line stretches to the headlamps, and the window line is also stretched, in-keeping with the flowing, uninterrupted design. Even the door mirrors feature a straight cut between the upper and lower sections that is no longer interrupted by the indicator lens.

2017 Ford Fiesta interior:
2017 Ford Fiesta interior:

The body side delivers an exceptional degree of sculpture for the Fiesta’s segment, designed to deliver captivating reflections under city lights. Unique wheel designs up to 18-inches include non-symmetrical designs that evoke movement even when standing still. At the rear, new horizontal rear lights further enhance the Fiesta’s widened stance with broad shoulders, and feature a C-shaped signature light pattern.”

They refer to the broad shoulders. I spotted that too. The indicator lens on the door mirrors is a subtle touch, you could aver.

The interior shows Ford are having trouble with the integration of the touchscreen element. Oddly, Ford’s own website didn’t show the interior so I had to pilfer that image from the Telegraph.

And the retention of the three-door version? What does that mean? It is evidence that Ford didn’t have to do much engineering so as to keep the option open. Had this been a completely new body, they might not have gone to the trouble of retaining the three-door.

All in all, it’s different but the same. Is it still kinetic design? Over to the readers now: does it meet and exceed your expectations?

*front grille, of course.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

34 thoughts on “More Ballsiness”

  1. Oh dear. It’s utterly predictable, isn’t it. It reminds me of the Corsa insomuch as it’s clear the ideas cupboard was empty when it came to bettering the outgoing model’s design. Nope, we got nothing.

    Also, it literally echos the Corsa with that red piping that runs under the centre interior air vents. Which raises the interesting question of how do two (presumably) independent design teams arrive at the exact same detailing at the same time? Is there some secret car designers’ magazine that a few years ago said that bathtub-shaped red trim under air vents would be on-trend for 2016/17?

    The sixth generation Fiesta was a huge leap over the previous version. Show most people the front of this new one and I bet they wouldn’t even know it was new. The rear is Ford *-MAX generic. What a huge disappointment. Think back to Ford design circa 1998 and weep.

    1. “Show most people the front of this new one and I bet they wouldn’t even know it was new.”

      Gotta be honest – I glanced at the pic and genuinely thought it was a (mild) facelift.

  2. It’s a reskin of the same underlying structure, with a new interior. Yes, it’s so similar as to be a facelift. The current Galaxy is the same.
    John: the Opel Adam has the same red piping/panel. To be fair, designers are looking at similar things at the same time. They also share similar social circles.

  3. My Lord, does no-one at Ford read Driven To Write? Although by all accounts a good car, I was no fan of the outgoing Fiesta’s design, in particular its gloomy rear accommodation. So now a new generation of kids have to look forward to being stuck in the back of the same old architecture. No wonder they’re all fixated on their tablets.

  4. Trying to be more positive, do I detect that, by fiddling slightly with the grille proportions, they’ve made it look ever so slightly less irritatingly Aston Martin like?

  5. In spite of what is visually obvious, although I thought the new car was irritatingly like a less well defined and resolved version of the old, I had not believed it to be a Corsa like, deep facelift. I have not read, yet, the published wheelbase dimension, which is normally the biggest give away.

    Although the side glasshouse is very similar, there is something more spikey about the way that the rear trailing edge of the rear quarter light, surrounded by chrome, ends up in a sharp point. It makes the rear pillar look too narrow and weak at the top, and too fat and ungainly as it blends into the rear flank above the wheel arch. The front is more guppy-like than ever – looking like the face of one of those fish-man baddies from Stingray.

    The dash could have come from a number of other cars – 208, new i30, Mazda 3 – and so offers something fresh only to existing owners.

  6. The old Fiesta is a terrific car, let down by a cabin inspired by a 2003 Nokia phone.

    The new one does indeed appear to be a rather timid reskin – the horizontal, rather than vertical, rear lights being the laziest example of the ‘how can we make it look different?’ school of thought. But at least it gets a better cabin.

    So, yes, similar to the ‘new’ Corsa. Except that the Corsa is a deeply average machine and needed reinvention. The Fiesta is at the top of its game and needed less work.

    I just hope the new one retains all of the zest of the old one.

    1. The buttons remind me of a Nokia 7110 I used to own:

      One day I pressed the button to pop out the slider and the piece detached from the phone and flew across the room. Without thinking, I picked the mouthpiece off the floor and started saying “Hello? Hello?” into it, like Mr. Blonde talking into the policeman’s dismembered ear in Reservoir Dogs.

  7. Nothing to scare the horses here. I clocked right away that the new model is a reskin of the old one. The similarity of the glasshouse around the A-pillar is a dead giveaway, although I note Ford have slightly fiddled with the door shut where it meets the glass. The rear lights are a lot less interesting; surely splitting each cluster between the body and the hatch is more costly? The designers have worked quite hard to subtract visual heft from the flanks, which is welcome; hopefully the will invest a similar effort on the next Focus.

    Whilst the fit and materials inside the outgoing Fiesta are on the whole very good, Ford Sync 2 is a mess of buttons crying out for a touchscreen. Thankfully Sync 3 addresses this, even if the faux-phablet poking out of the new Fiesta’s dashboard looks as uncomfortable as it does in every other car taking this approach.

    Margins are obviously wafer thin in this segment and the similar approach GM took to warming over the Corsa make negative comparisons inevitable. Ford came at their task from a superior position, however: having benefited from an unusually thorough midlife update and the mid-cycle introduction of the 1-litre Ecoboost three pot, the outgoing Fiesta is still a class leader. Like I say: nothing to scare the horses here.

    1. In fairness, yes, the margins are slim and if we look at the history of the Fiesta we see that the first one ran on for years, the second one ran on for years with a big facelift (89-03) and only the last two models were new from the ground up. That was atypical. Still, it´s not a new model really. It´s a big refresh with more emphasis on the interior and trim variations. I don´t like it much though I don´t like the outgoing one much either. There´s not much to look at. The 2002 model is the one I like best. It has a clear theme nicely detailed. Good old Chris Bird again.

    2. Yes the 2002 model was a delight of fully resolved design, although arguably a touch plain for the layperson. It was certainly a huge step up from prior models, which boasted mostly economic running costs and a propensity to rust.

  8. As Chris points out; “The designers have worked quite hard to subtract visual heft from the flanks, which is welcome; hopefully the will invest a similar effort on the next Focus.”

    In fairness, they had less work to do in the Fiesta’s case than they will have if they stick with the current Focus bodyshell – as is likely. The Focus is a decent car, hobbled visually by its lumpen appearance. A gentle refresh masquerading as a top-to-tail reworking such as this will not address it’s visual deficiencies.

    Another 7-8 years playing an increasingly distant second fiddle to the Golf beckons…

  9. air vents are a bit more on the lower side than they should be.

    I don’t think the key problem of the current Fiesta (rear legroom) got sorted out. in saloon shape, the Fiesta is only one or two inches shorter than a Civic saloon, and they are at different extremes in rear legroom.

    1. True, but there you are comparing best (Civic) with worst (Fiesta). Doesn’t look like Ford have cured the claustrophobia for rear occupants caused by the rising DLO either.

    2. well, they have quite the same exterior size (apart from width). Ford is managing to make claustrophobia great (small?) again both for Fiestas ans Foci (Focuses?)

    3. Very true. My mark 1 Focus was not a particularly nice place for passengers either. In comparison, the near contemporary FN Civic I also owned had capacious rear accommodation once inside. Ingress and egress was also much aided by a wide door and front seats that slid a long way forward. Honda are terrific at such details; Ford, less so.

  10. The Generations 1/2 (essentially the same) lasted 13 years, and that seemed too long, Generations 3/4 (essentially the same) another 13 years Generation 5 lasted 6 years and wasn’t replaced by a facelifted version since, I assume, its shape was too practical and logical to fit in with what the market then wanted (though in view of the still current theme, I’d point out that it lasted in Brazil for 12 years). Though maybe a bit more of a thorough facelift than the previous generations, that is still what this will look like to many people.

    Ford don’t really expect this to see them through to 2023 do they? Or is this a hint that the Fiesta plays a less important part in their future plans? I’d like Fords a lot more these days if they actually looked less generic.

    1. As Chrisward pointed out above, given that the margins on B-segment cars like this are so tight now, it’s hardly surprising Ford and GM have elected to reskin rather than renew. It makes so much more sense from a cost perspective. I expect there will be a greater degree of platform sharing and joint ventures taking place in the segment of the market in years to come. The costs are now too high for manufacturers to go it alone when they make next to nothing on transaction prices. The likes of VW, Renault/Nissan and PSA can amortise volume across brands, which perhaps gives them something of an advantage. Perhaps a JV with one of the Japanese marques would make sense if Ford and GM have too much mutual distrust to climb into bed together.

      Given how similar these cars are beneath the skin, surely this wouldn’t be a tragedy?

  11. My first thought was: Ford is building the real successor of the 1999 Fiesta – they must be crazy !

    The front has less of Aston Martin and more of carp-design. Not beautiful – to be polite. But if the styling is dued to the new technology of the soft and flexiblle installation of headlamps and grille for more security – it is forgiven. The back is… i can´t say anything about it and to be honest, about the interior too. Stop, the Vignale-version has the same ugly stitching as other Vignales. Not the slightest touch of fresh air for the class of small cars…

    Other points are disappointing too. More length, but not (much) more wheelsbase. And the SUV-like Active-Line is a very halfhearted answer to the SUV-Boom – why not offering a new Ford Fusion to be really competitive to the French Bestsellers and the Mokka?

    I am very sure, this new Fiesta won´t be produced for the next 8 years like its predecessor.

    1. How about four? Not six. Three is too few. Four. That will give them a breather before starting afresh in late 2017 for a 2021 launch.
      So, which of this class of cars is okay? I might very well nominate either the Mazda 1 or something from Hyundai or Suzuki.

    2. Three doors – the Opel Adam
      Five Doors: The new C3 and ze old Kia Rio are the frechest fruits in the basket

  12. Which of them is the most expensive one? Not easy to see – so the Fiesta Vignale will be a very exclusive car on our roads.

    1. I’d have thought it was the copper coloured one. It’s the white one. The difference is in the interior, I suppose. There are some Peugeot 208s that have a lot of brightwork and manage to carry off a posh demeanour. The Vignale version is not expressing itself clearly. The Vignaliness really should be expressed in something more substantial: engines, different sheet metal. Paint and fabric options plus a different bumper don’t cut it.

    2. The sand-coloured one on the left has more than a hint of Peugeot about it.

  13. Having seen some pictures of the rest of the range in Autocar, there’s a surprising amount of variation around the front detailing. As you can see from Markus’s photo above, not every model has the ST’s drooping “Blakey” gape. Half of them have a vertical arrangment of front fog lights, half horizontal. Regardless, I feel the visual tautness and dynamism of the previous generation has been lost.

    1. At least three totally different under-bumper treatments. That kind of puts paid to any illusion that the frontal treatments of today’s runarounds, with their nod to racing style ‘aero’, are actually the product of rigorous calculation to obtain the optimum efficiency. Once, my inner anorak would have prided himself on quickly learning to differentiate the model differences by the contour and positioning of faux ‘diffusers’, ‘splitters’, ‘brake scoops’, etc. But now I think I’ll do something else. Ford’s engineers deserve better stylists.

  14. Sean: when introducing aerodynamics the car makers strongly emphasised how determining aerodynamic requirements (I think). The implication (borrowing a lot from Modernism’s rhetoric) was that new car X’s form was *the* answer or inevitable and best design. Also implied: others are wrong.
    Aerodynamics aren’t that determining. These cars are all approximately aeroefficient and other parameters might have been altered to provide the desired cD plus frontal area result.

  15. The Active model bumper set looks like a variation of the standard bumper set, with added faux-by-four touches. The ST Line bumper set is an option that will also no doubt be trotted out over numerous models. The Vignale also gets its own bumper set. Although I like the shape and texture of the grille in-fill, I very much doubt Ford will make back their money on the tooling for that.

    Incidentally, I am surprised that manufacturers do not offer a variety of in-fills for the grille area. Doing so would offer quick and cheap differentiation and more scope for personalisation.

    1. Believe it or not but people are buying the upper spec models of these sorts of cars. A fifth of Mondeos are Titanium. Same for the Galaxy. Renault´s Initiale line also sells well, they say. The Espaces I have seen have all been top spec.

  16. Markus: thanks for naming the Adam. It’s a charming car which I’ve come to like a lot. You won’t be surprised to know I can’t visualise the C3.

  17. The Mk1 Focus estate is a car I know well. I drove one around central Europe in 2004 (I think) and found it commodious and agile and blighted by bad seats.

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