The fifth generation Fiesta of 2002 was model of restraint.
Editor’s note: First published on 13th December 2016, this piece is being re-run today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 5th generation Fiesta’s introduction.
“It was designed to please the public, men and women alike, with those big headlamp eyes, and that smiling radiator mouth.” Those were the words of designer, 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 as design director 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. To that end, the mission involved making a design that had some commonality with the Focus and also signalling a new coolness.
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.
The styling model (above) 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.
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.
 Editor’s note: Chris Bird joined Ford’s design team in 1999, by which time, the Fiesta was about a year into its design gestation.
 DCDQ stood for Dependable, contemporary, driving, quality. The term appeared in a lot of Ford literature around the time but didn’t catch on.