Ford of Europe has taken the wraps off its first all-new Fiesta compact hatchback in 12 years. The new model makes its official debut at the Frankfurt motor show next month and goes on sale across Europe in the spring of 2002.

A taller, more macho-looking UAV (for Urban Adventure Vehicle) with a baby offroader look, but only two wheel drive, will be shown in concept form at Frankfurt and go on sale in October 2002. A sportier-looking, lower and sleeker three-door hatchback is also due and there will eventually be other platform spin-offs such as the StreetKa roadster and a new saloon to eventually replace the current Fiesta-based Ikon sold in developing markets such as Mexico and Brazil. Mazda‘s new Demio, to be built in a Ford plant in Valencia, Spain, from 2003, will also share the new Fiesta platform.

The new Fiesta follows an industry trend to taller compact hatchbacks, with a more upright and higher seating position boosted by 45mm. It is 97mm taller than its predecessor, 49mm wider and 89mm longer on a wheelbase stretched by 41mm. The length increase is expected to fix a long-standing complaint about the current car being too tight in the back for taller adults. The boot is also 14% larger.

Styling reflects current trends in the hotly-contested European supermini sector where the Fiesta will do battle with Peugeot‘s ever popular 206, now three years old, the Fiat Punto and the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, launched this year. Like the Corsa and Punto, the Fiesta has its tail lights each side of the rear window and looks a little like the original Fiat Punto, which started the trend, from the rear. The new Ford’s styling is a softer evolution of the larger Focus’ edgy look but the headlamps are a similar design to those on the Renault Scenic, with the front indicators forming ‘eyelids’ over the headlamps.

Three new engines will be offered in the Fiesta. Arguably of greatest interest is the new 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi, developed in conjunction with Peugeot, which is a lightweight aluminium turbodiesel with second generation common rail direct injection. It develops 68PS and 160Nm of torque and achieves 62.8mpg on the European combined test cycle. Ford’s engine has an eight-valve head but Peugeot, which calls the engine the HDi, will also offer a 16-valve version.

There are also 80PS 1.4 and 100PS 1.6-litre Duratec DOHC petrol engines derived from engines currently in the Focus, and the name Duratec is also given to a new low-friction, low-consumption version of the ancient 1.3-litre, eight valve OHV motor dating from 1968 that was used in previous Fiestas and is the only option for European versions of the Ka.

Five-speed manual gearboxes will be standard but Ford will also offer an automated manual similar to the Corsa’s optional Easytronic gearbox.

The new Fiesta has dual-stage front airbags and five three-point seatbelts as standard with side and curtain airbags available as options. Following GM’s lead, the new baby Ford will also have a decoupling brake pedal assembly to minimise driver leg injuries in a crash.

The new car is critical for Ford of Europe which is struggling to control costs and make a profit. Supermini sales account for over 25% of all car sales in Britain alone so success is essential for the new Fiesta. However, unlike its predecessor, it will be built only on the Continent, primarily at Cologne in Germany with some additional production at Valencia in Spain.