Ford of Europe will debut its new Fiesta three-door at the Paris Motor Show, September 2002 with a UK launch at the British International Motor Show in October 2002.

In the UK the three-door will be available from December with Finesse, LX and Zetec trim (but not top-spec Ghia, which remains exclusive to the five-door) with prices starting, Ford said in a statement, below £8,000.

The three-door launch coincides with debut of Durashift EST auto-shift (clutchless) manual transmission, which will rival the similar Easytronic unit available in General Motors’ competing Opel/Vauxhall Corsa range, as an option for 1.4-litre petrol versions.

Ford said the Fiesta three-door is “aimed squarely at younger drivers and it follows the five-door model and tall-roof Fusion ‘urban activity vehicle’ on to the market.

Industry observers expect a Brazilian-built Fusion, with two-litre engine (1.6-litres is the largest currently on offer) and optional four-wheel-drive to be offered in the US from 2004 – the first-generation German-built Fiesta sold from 1976 is still popular with enthusiasts there.

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In addition, the Fiesta platform is likely to be adapted for a new four-door sedan to replace the present, previous generation Fiesta-based saloon sold in developing markets such as India and Mexico.

That car is expected to debut in China in 2004 or 2005, and will be locally-built.

Meanwhile, the new three-door Fiesta, with a more steeply raked tail than its upright five-door siblings will be sold across Europe and possibly further afield.

There is no word yet, though, about the range following the larger European-built Focus into Australia and New Zealand early next year.