Ford of Europe has decided to retain the 30-year-old Fiesta name for the latest generation of its B-segment small car to be previewed at next month's Geneva motor show.

"Its worldwide name is confirmed - Ford Fiesta," the automaker said in a statement on Friday.

Ford said the redesigned Fiesta - previewed in concept form as the Verve, a name some industry-watchers thought might be carried over to production - is the first result of its new global development process. European production begins next autumn.

"Fiesta has its heart in Europe but its eyes on the world," said the automaker's chief of global small car development, Marin Burela. "We're building on Ford's hertitage of excellence in small car development to give the new Fiesta truly global reach and identity. By 2010, this new small-car family will be manufactured in Europe, Asia and North America and be marketed as Fiesta in all of the world's key automotive markets."

Surprisingly, there was no mention in Ford's statements of production in South America - the current Fiesta, slightly altered from European versions, is built in Brazil.

A North American launch will mark the Fiesta's return, primarily in sedan form as previewed recently at the Detroit motor show by the Verve concept, to that market for the first time since the first-generation hatchback version was shipped from Germany in 1978-80.

Ford's Americas president, Mark Fields, claimed: "When it arrives in North America in 2010, the Fiesta will set a new standard in the small car segment. Even before it arrives in this market, though, the new [car] demonstrates how leveraging our global strengths can yield attractive benefits for customers around the world."

Verve concepts were shown at the Frankfurt motor show last September (three-door hatchback), and in sedan form, at Guangzhou, China, in November and at Detroit last month. The sedan version is also likely to dominate sales in China, where that body style is more popular than the hatchback dominant in Europe.

Here in Europe, the new Fiesta will make its production-ready debut at Geneva next month and will go on sale in autumn in three- and five-door hatchback forms.

By 2010, Asia, South Africa, Australia and North America will also have variants of the car in what Ford calls "a variety of regionally tailored models derived from a common platform".

"With the all-new Fiesta, we want to create a world standard for small car quality, design and comfort in a vehicle that is as exciting to drive as it is to look at. We believe this all-new model will attract a whole new generation of small car buyers, whether they are in Britain, Spain, China or California," said Ford president Alan Mulally.

Ford said it had designed the car to be stylish with a high quality interior.

According to Jim Farley, the automaker's US marketing chief: "The Fiesta is great to look at, great to drive and it has quality you can see, feel and touch.  It's going to be an important growth product for North America."

Spurred by the 1973 oil crisis, the first-generation Fiesta was a pet project of then-chairman, Henry Ford II from the early 1970s. He personally oversaw a development process that led both to the new car and a new assembly plant in Valencia, Spain - the opening was attended by the newly crowned king, Juan Carlos.

In Europe, the new Fiesta will again be built at Valencia from early 2009, supplementing Cologne, Germany, production which starts next autumn.

Asia production details will be revealed next April at the Beijing motor show with a North America announcement to follow.

Ford said the new car is lighter and stronger and will have a comprehensive safety package including a driver knee airbag.

In Europe, the five-engine choice will include a new 115PS 'Duratec' 1.6-litre 'Ti-VCT' petrol unit. Updated 1.25- (60 and 80PS) and 1.4-litre (91PS) Duratec petrol engines plus 1.4- (68PS) and 90PS 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi common-rail diesel engines, (the latter available with a diesel particulate filter) will also be offered.

A five-speed manual transmission will be standard but a four-speed automatic transmission will be available with the 1.4-litre petrol engine.

New equipment will include electric power assisted steering. Ford said that, unlike key competitors in the European small-car (B) segment which have grown in size and weight [but just like affiliate Mazda's new 2/Demio which shares the newly developed platform], the new Fiesta stands on virtually the same footprint as before and is actually lighter than its predecessor.

"Staying small and resisting weight gains were key objectives of the new Fiesta development process," said chief engineer Joerg Beyer. "We've been absolutely committed to keeping Fiesta a compact car and having a razor-sharp focus on cutting weight. That really pays off when it comes to fuel economy and CO2 emissions."

The new Fiesta makes extensive use of ultra high-strength steels in its body structure, including boron steel and dual-phase steel, described as "the secret" to the car's "quantum leap" in structural stiffness for its light weight. These steels are used particularly in safety critical areas, such as the A- and B-pillar, part of the ultra-rigid 'door ring' structure of the body side.

The redesign keeps the proven MacPherson strut front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension layout with enhancements.

New technology highlights include keyless technology, 'Ford Power' engine start button, Easyfuel capless refuelling, USB connectivity and 'ambient' interior lighting.

Ford said it has carried the highlight of the Verve Concept interior - the futuristic, mobile phone-inspired, human-machine interface technology of the instrument panel centre stack - through to production.

Gone is the flat, upright centre stack of the instrument panel, a feature typical of many small cars driven by the need to package a large radio head unit behind the fascia panel.  New technology allows separation of the key elements of audio system - the control buttons, display and underlying electronics - in a distributed architecture that gives designers more freedom to create aesthetically pleasing, functional shapes.

The car's available 'Convers+' system, follows the centre stack contours to frame a large-screen display and control panel with key buttons for audio, in-car phone and vehicle settings. Switches in the steering wheel allow the driver to control the system's key functions.

Ford expects more than 85% of buyers to order one of two available multi-function displays.

Another Verve Concept feature - the lozenge shaped array of large twist dials for the heating and ventilation systems at the midpoint of the centre stack - was also retained; this feature is said to have been inspired by the design of contemporary power showers.

Connectivity features include MP3 player tray, built-in sockets for an auxiliary (AUX) audio cable and a USB, along with a 12 volt outlet that allows the car's audio system to control and charge the MP3 player.

Bluetooth connectivity with voice control will also be available.