IN among Ford’s suite of seven crossovers and sports utility vehicles is a trio of cars that have morphed from more conventional beginnings.

The Active versions of the Ka, Fiesta and Focus are in simple terms those with a bit more grip, ground clearance and cladding.

I am not sure whether I qualify for the tag of “active lifestyle” customer at which Ford is aiming these Active versions but as a rural dweller with occasional wanderings off-road and likely to meet with treacherous conditions on at least a few days of the year, I was intrigued.

But let’s get one thing clear from the start. These are not four-wheel drive off-roaders.

I sampled the Fiesta Active, with a six-speed automatic gearbox and in a desirable B &O Play trim level. A heated steering wheel and seats were welcome sights on a chilly day.

But the first things you notice are the rugged exterior design with the additional cladding and roof rails, together with the raised ride height that eases entry and egress. And those tasty 17-inch alloy wheels would probably look equally at home on a performance model.

Inside, you will find either two or three drive modes – normal, eco (manual transmission only) and slippery – along with a sport mode selector with automatic transmission versions when you get to enjoy the quite exhilarating performance of the excellent Ford Ecoboost engine. There were even paddle shifters on the steering column, but for most drivers these will surely be redundant.

As the first of the Active crossovers, it was important that the Fiesta retained its fun element, and within minutes I found myself smiling at the drive dynamics. This is still very much a Fiesta.

What it brings to the party perhaps more than anything else is the raised ride height that delivers greater ability over rough road tracks and a higher driving position for more confident urban and highway driving.

What comes as a surprise in the tested version is the quality of the interior, which features sports seats with exclusive materials and designs, a voice-activated connectivity and entertainment system, and B&O Play premium audio.

Powertrain options include Ford’s multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine offering up to 140 PS, and a 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine offering up to 120PS. But the tested three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine offering 100PS is really all you will need for a fun drive.

If you prefer automatic transmission, then the six-speed auto mated with the same engine is probably the one to go for. On the downside, it will add more than £800 to the price ticket and mean a slower sprint time by 1.7 seconds to reach 62mph, 10mpg penalty and a higher CO2 emissions rating.

The Fiesta Active delivers a more rugged interpretation of the elegant all-new Fiesta exterior design, featuring dark cladding that flows from the front bumper lip, through the wheel arches and side profile to the rear. A dark grille with unique mesh pattern also features a dark surround, and front fog lamps are housed within dynamic C-shaped bumper recesses.

A bespoke rear bumper delivers a more commanding appearance, supported by available LED tail lamps. Bright scuff plates feature front and rear and customers can also opt for a black or red contrast roof depending on body colour.

The Fiesta Active’s ride height is increased by 18 millimetres over the standard Fiesta chassis, and track increased by 10 millimetres, delivering greater rough road capability.

A leather steering wheel and gear knob, and satin aluminium detailing deliver a high-quality feel, while the sports seats are available with coloured stitching that forms horizontal bars down the centre of the backrests, and offer lumbar support for the driver and four-way adjustment for driver and passenger. An openable panorama roof is available as an option.

The Fiesta Active’s capabilities are supplemented by a suite of driver assistance technologies introduced that would not look out of place in more expensive cars. These technologies are supported by cameras, radars and ultrasonic sensors, which are able to monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and scan the road ahead up to a distance of 130 metres.

They include pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection to reduce the severity of some frontal collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control, adjustable speed limiter, cross traffic alert and a rear view camera.

Ford’s Sync3 communications and entertainment system enables drivers to control audio, navigation and connected smartphones using voice commands and this is linked to a colour touchscreen.

Reflecting the consumer shift towards portable digital multimedia, Bluetooth connectivity and two USB ports come as standard, but Ford has not forgotten those who prefer a CD player and offer one as an optional extra.

Which brings us to the B&O Play system, which comes with ten speakers and a boot-mounted subwoofer and a central mid-range speaker on top of the instrument panel. Total amplifier power is an astonishing 675 watts.

The Fiesta Active should appeal to a wide customer base. You don’t need to be particularly active to enjoy the raised ride high, extra cladding and improved traction on poor surfaces. Combined with the technology on board and the brilliant engine, this is a compelling package.


Ford Fiesta Active B&O Play Auto

Price: from £20,195 (Fiesta Active range from £18,045)

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost turbocharged petrol, producing 100PS

Transmission: Six-speed automatic driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 12.0 seconds; top speed 111mph

Economy: 46.3mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 139g/km


Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****