Luxe Yellow paint is an option exclusive to Fiesta Active B&O Play and Active X versions

Luxe Yellow paint is an option exclusive to Fiesta Active B&O Play and Active X versions

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It's always fun listening to auto execs come up with new phrases to explain where a new product fits so take a bow, Ford of Britain fleet director, Owen Gregory, for this little gem to describe the Ka+, Fiesta and Focus Active variants: "We want the spirit of SUV-ness but with sharper ride and handling while avoiding fuel economy compromises."

That, actually sums up the three Active additions - Fiesta available now; Ka+ in the autumn and just-redesigned Focus (a pre-production Active estate was revealed to media this week in Nice) to follow in Q1 2019 - quite well.

It's a trick long used in Brazil, where the local Ford unit developed the first generation EcoSport small SUV back in 2003 (4WD followed in 2004), and most small hatchback models (and some vans) from major automakers are offered in 'pseudo-SUV' form. In fact, what is now the Ford Ka+ Active for Europe was announced, as the Ka Freestyle, in both Brazil and India (where ours come from) earlier this year.

Ford of Britain's Gregory sees the new models appealing to buyers "with an outdoor/adventurous outlook" who want a higher driving position (ride height is up by 23mm, or just short of an inch in Imperial measurement), more expressive, SUV-inspired styling "with Ford driving dynamics". New drive modes for snow/ice and off-tarmac surfaces - very similar to PSA's GBP400 optional Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist for some Citroen and Peugeot models - inspire "more confidence", Ford says, and then there are interior materials "designed for muddy boots and wet passengers".

Ka+ Active

Chris Rushton, product manager for small cars and Mustang, says the Ka+ Active is a true five-door, five-seat car (it proved roomy enough subject to some negotiation from the back over front seat legroom allocation). He expects the standard non-Active Zetec hatchback, priced from GBP10,800, to now account for the majority of the nameplate's sales - 70% or so - with the new Active variant, from GBP12,950 - taking an estimated 30%. There's also a basic GBP10,800 Studio standard hatchback, targeted at fleets. He describes the Active's territory as a "fashionable segment" and, though the new variants are more expensive, Ford offers "a competitive lead-in price".

The GBP1,100 price premium adds, over Zetec, alloy wheels, body kit, a unique grille, 'rough road suspension', silver roof rails, rear tinted 'privacy' glass, Active logos, a unique Sienna Hazel interior trim and all-weather floor and cargo mats. There's also some other trim/finish tweaks, a leather steering wheel, larger front anti-roll bar and retuned electric power steering.

Unlike Japanese and Korean models in the B-segment, which tend to offer several trim/equipment increments with few, if any, options, the Ka+ Active, like the rest of the range, now - as part of a recent range-wide update - offers a number of factory options either as single items or in bundles, such as the GBP350 City Pack which adds rear parking sensors, power heated and folding door mirrors and electric rear windows. Other items include a GBP150 spare wheel in lieu of the pump and goo that comes standard, electronic temperature control (GBP275), a winter pack including heated seats and windscreen (GBP300) plus a technology pack  with keyless start and automatic wipers and headlamps (GBP350).

Digital radio, a 6.5" touchscreen (tablet-style as almost every automaker is now adopting) with newly available SYNC3 connectivity, emergency assistance, Bluetooth, USB ports, AppLink and voice control is standard.

While UK buyers can now have the standard Ka+ with the 1.2-litre I3 EcoBoost in 70PS and 85PS tune, replacing an older I4 unit, the Active offers only the 85PS unit, expected to account for 96% of sales or - diesel is not dead yet, even in small cars - the proven 1.5 TDCi I4 turbo with 95PS is now also available. Transmission is the new five-speed manual introduced with the Fiesta.

"Ford has sold well over 60,000 KA+ since we first introduced the model in late 2016, and now we're offering customers even more choice with our first diesel engine for greater fuel-efficiency and cruising ability, and all-new petrol powertrains that are more responsive in town, all meeting the latest stringent emissions standards," sales, marketing and service chief Roelant de Waard said.

"Last year, Ford sold more than 200,000 SUVs in Europe for the first time, and demand for SUV and crossover models has never been higher. Our new Active models will this year make the crossover affordable to even greater numbers of customers, with aspirational styling, sophisticated technologies customers would expect to see in much more expensive cars."

Fiesta Active

This variant was previewed at the European media launch a year ago.

Ride height for the Cologne-built Fiesta Active, expected to account for 15% of total nameplate sales in UK, is raised 18mm and the cars have SUV-style body cladding and roof rails, a unique grille, bright scuff plates, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, sport seats and a leather steering wheel, the selectable Normal, Eco and Slippery drive modes, retuned suspension and electric power steering and the availability of SYNC3 Connectivity and a B&O Play premium audio system.

Fiesta Active offers the one-litre, I3 EcoBoost petrol engine in 85PS, 100PS, 125PS and 140PS tune plus 85PS, 85PS stop-start or 120PS 1.5TDCi turbodiesels, all with standard six-speed manual gearboxes while the minority who want automatic (hello!) have the GBP1,310 option of a conventional torque converter six-speed transmission in place of the troublesome Ford-Getrag DCT used in the previous generation Fiesta.

UK buyers are offered the GBP17,795-and-up Fiesta Active with three trim 'steps', as Ford puts it, starting with Active 1 which also adds (over a standard Fiesta Zetec) other items such as power rear windows, rear privacy glass, driver's seat lumbar adjuster and front floor mats.

The GBP19,195 Active B&O Play has yellow interior highlights, a black roof, roof rails and headliner, various driver assistance aids and a TFT screen between the main dials, SYNC3, DAB radio and various connectivity items and, as the name suggests, a B&O premium audio system with 10 speakers. It also has cruise control (without radar which is next to useless on crowded British motorways), rain sensing wipers and auto-dim interior mirror and a centre console/armrest plus illuminated cupholders. I think I can guess the target audience for this one - millennials buying with a PCP (balloon lease), with affordable monthly payments, just like they 'buy' their latest smartphone.

Top is Active X, from GBP20,295, which builds on the Active 1 with power folding door mirrors and puddle lights, part-leather heated front seats, driver assistance pack, SYNC3 pack, automatic temperature control, keyless entry and start, cruise, the rain sensing wipers, centre console, lit cupholders, floor mats front and rear and a rear view camera with parking sensors.

As with the Ka+ Active, various single options and bundled packs are available - one oddity is that you can't have a GBP600 opening panoramic roof and a GBP150 spare wheel together from the factory because that bumps the EU-homologated weight over the scale limit. You can certainly stack on the options - LED headlamps, extra driver assistance items including active (radar assisted) cruise control, navigation and so on - a from-GBP17,795 Active 1 we tried, with optional automatic, priced out at GBP20,900 with the sunroof and a couple of other added goodies.

"Car buyers love the versatility, bold styling and confidence-inspiring abilities of SUVs – and demand has never been higher – which is why we've fused these qualities with our all-new Fiesta's class-leading driving experience and advanced driving technologies to deliver an Active crossover that seamlessly fits with our customers' active lifestyles," said de Waard.

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