Reserved – 2002 Ford Fiesta

After taking a look at the 1976 Ford Fiesta, let’s examine its more restrained successor, the model of 2002.

2002 Ford Fiesta: car rental bucharest
2002 Ford Fiesta: car rental bucharest

“It was designed to please the public, men and women alike, with those big headlamp eyes, and that smiling radiator mouth.” Those are the words of Chris Bird. The project started in 1998 and is one of the unalloyed Bird Fords. The project bore the code B256 and featured a new floor pan for three variants: the five-door, the three door and the Fusion. At this point Chris Bird had replaced Claude Lobo and wanted to put his mark on Ford. Ford themselves seemed to be keen to capture what they felt was VW’s spirit of serious design even though the New Edge look of the Focus and Puma seemed like it was going down well after the public came to accept the Focus’ startling looks.

2002 Ford Fiesta sketch: auto&design
2002 Ford Fiesta sketch: auto&design

To that end, the mission involved making a design that had some commonality with the Focus and also signalling a new coolness.

2002 Ford Fiesta rendering: auto&design
2002 Ford Fiesta rendering: auto&design

This is why Ford went on a hiring binge that brought in Bird, J Mays and eventually Martin Smith plus a welter of less well-known designers such as Ernst Reim who they had worked with. That said, the Fiesta emerged from the Dunton design centre (not Merkenich) so its cast of helpers featured many existing Ford hands such as Chris Svensson, Mark Adams and Lee Moran.

The first sketch shows the car with flat surfaces, Focus-style lamps and an arcing roofline. It’s recognizably like the final car due to the flatness of the surfaces. One wonders if the sketch medium (Photoshop, I suppose) determined the look or if the look would have been the same if it had been drawn by hand. The second drawing is closer to the final car and may be a post-design sketch. Quite a lot happens between selection of renderings and the final 3D models which is not captured in sketches. Other hand-sketches show cars with the Focus front lamps and lower tail lamps but with a squarer roofline.

2002 Ford Fiesta model: auto&design
2002 Ford Fiesta model: auto&design

The styling model (above and below) shows the Focus lamps and deeper grille. The rub-strip is lower. Most importantly, the roof is an arc ending in an Ka-like lip. The high, vertical lamps are bit slimmer than on the production model.

2002 Ford Fiesta proposal: auto&design
2002 Ford Fiesta proposal: auto&design

Also present are the pronounced wheel-arch features which tie the car to the Focus and also signal an important Ford characteristic. “Our new version of New Edge Design will be simpler and clearer but will retain the athletic feel,” said Chris Bird.  The next step took the form of the C-Max and Mk2 Focus and then changed direction again when Martin Smith announced the arrival of Kinetic Design that ironically made Fords look, once again, quite like a lot of other cars. The satisfying quality of Chris Bird’s Fords was that they stuck to classic design principles that Dieter Rams would recognise and yet looked like nothing else. Fourteen years later the 2002 Fiesta retains a pleasing rightness to it, high calibre styling at an affordable price. And DCDQ, of course.

Author: richard herriott

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

13 thoughts on “Reserved – 2002 Ford Fiesta”

  1. I probably got carried away at the time that the daringness of the Mark 1 Focus (which I still admire) wasn’t continued with the Mark 2 Focus and with this Fiesta, which both seemed at the time disappointingly unambitious. And, to a degree, I still think that. But back then it closed my mind to what good designs both those cars are in their own right. And, unlike their successors as Richard points out, you don’t mistake them for Vauxhalls or Kias.

  2. I expect I am in a minority of one around here on this issue, but this generation never did anything for me, and still doesn’t – I find it merely bland rather than tidy and restrained. And I have never gotten along with the frontal aspect, for reasons I find difficult to articulate. But then, I secretly liked the guppy-face Fiesta, so I suspect my opinion on all this is pretty worthless.

  3. I remember finding this generation of Fiesta somewhat dull after the avant garde mark 1 Focus. The design is too resolved, leaving nothing for the eye to linger upon. Whereas the mark 4 Golf countered that with superb fit and materials, the Fiesta exhibited too much matt black plastic.

    Reading this history, I am reminded how styling is a visible reflection of the internal politics of a company. With Jacques Nasser beset by wrangling, no-one continued to advocate his radical agenda. The result was retrenchment.

  4. Comparing the sales numbers of this Fiesta (without adding the sales numbers of the Fusion) with those of its successor and its predecessor, it does not seem to be a successful car. Maybe because the design is a bit too unemotional and too practical. Looking much more solid than a Ka or a Focus, this Fiesta was not really able to conquer the (female) hearts of many Opel, Peugeot, or Volkswagen-owners. Ford did a better job by creating its successor (apart from the interior).

    By the way, this light-blue is one of the best colours of Ford, especially combined with the next generation of the Fiesta.

  5. This generation of Fiesta was the Flat Pack Focus. Many of the design elements from the first Focus were present, but the final result was disappointing.

  6. It very much looks like I am in the minority here regarding how this motor car is viewed. At most there is acknowledgement that it’s not bad. That’s not good enough, especially amongst a community of correspondents who are more attuned to such things. I would explain my regard for the car being related to my admiration for the same reticence. Where you plural see plain shapes I’m writhing in ecstatic appreciation of the nuances. On balance that means perhaps Ford undercooked this one. On the plus side, at least I see a design I like quite often. The metallic orange and blue ones plus the ST models are the most pleasing. The peers are not so noticeable for me too: Clio, Corsa, Polo.

    1. I’m happy to side with Richard on this one. Even though I was a little underwhelmed when it launched, it has grown on me. I will admit there isn’t a lot to hang one’s hat upon, but it has an excellent stance and proportionally, it’s very correct. The facelift model loses some of the original’s reticent charm however.

      I do understand why people don’t find it satisfying however and visually the outgoing car probably did a better job of engagement. It will be interesting to see the 2017 model outside of captivity and discover which of its predecessors’ vessels it drinks most heartily from.

  7. The Fiesta generations between the first and the present are a bit “Flyover”, they now seem scarcely more memorable than Corollas and Sunnys.

    The 2002 iteration was a decent little car with much to please those whose ambitions extend no further than that sort of thing. Also well regarded in the trade as one of the last superminis not to be blighted by the ticking time bombs of sophistication.

    For Ford’s current premium, high-tech, ambitions that wouldn’t be good enough. £15K (as if list prices had any meaning) for an entry level Fiesta. I think not…

    The 2002 Fiesta had a long second life as the BRICS markets Figo and Ikon, growing a particularly neat three-box variant.

    Ford in Europe might have done better to bring in the Figo / Ikon as their entry level offering rather than the mutant-Cinquecento Ka, which at least served Fiat well. They seem to have adopted this approach with the Madras-built Ka+, which I find unconvincing. It’s a sort of Hyundai clone, visually disconnected from its Ford Europe origins.

    Then again I’m no fan of “One Ford”. But that’s another argument…

    1. Can you really say that about Great Britain’s best-selling car? You remember when a new Fiesta appears which you can’t say about a Benz or Nissan (Juke excepted). The jump from the 2002 model to the just-about-outgoing is severe. The Fiesta became another kind of car. The ’02 model has a lightness to it and as a three-door is agile. If I have a complaint it’s that Ghia version didn’t express enough of its heritage. Was leather even available on the Fiesta of that time?

    1. Dependible, contemporary, driving, quality. The term appeared in a lot of Ford literature around the time but didn´t catch on. It´s nigh on impossible to remember what the terms are because they are not grammatically unified. A Ford is: dependendiblem and contemporary, it has quality… It´s hard to put it into a sentence. Ford´s were supposed to have good quality (the “good” has to be put in afterwards), be about driving (again, one has to add a bit) and were contemporary and dependible. I think that marketing had a brainstorm and settled on four ideas that needed a further tweek to make hang together.

    2. Poor old Ford. Always looking for a nice new acronym to catch on like NVH. I don’t know if Ford actually was first to use NVH, but I think of it as theirs. The acronym that is. The actuality of dealing with is is another matter. Ford spouted on about NVH in the 60s. Meanwhile the French actually did something about it.

    3. I would wager that getting anything past Ford’s accountants must be a Herculean task. So while Fords marketers can bandy about as many nifty little acronyms as they dream up, talk (as any cost accountant will gleefully tell you) is cheap. And that they like.

      Further to my earlier comments: I’m currently in Dublin and have noticed this generation Fiesta is everywhere here. Curiously, looking with more interest than is customary at this time of year I noted that the door pressings on the five door model (which on balance I prefer) lend the flanks a slightly insubstantial appearance. Which is a pity as it’s otherwise difficult to fault.

      I’ll leave Richard to his paroxysms over the finer points, but I still consider it to be a thoroughly nice, slightly invisible (which has its advantages) car.

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