News : Ford celebrates 40 years of the Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta has hit 40 and, to celebrate, 40 of the nation’s favourite Fiestas travelled in convoy from the Ford Engine Plant in Dagenham to Brighton Racecourse for the 2016 Ford Summer Festival.

In the 40 years from 1976-2016, Ford has sold 4,339,149 Fiestas in the UK, with European Fiesta sales set to surpass 18 million before the end of this year. In 2014, the Ford Fiesta became the UK’s best-selling car of all time, overtaking the Ford Escort. It is not only the best-selling car in the UK this year; it has been the UK’s most popular car every month for the last seven years.

The Dagenham to Brighton drive was open to all Ford vehicles – each receiving a unique numbered plaque. Around 200 Fords took part with models ranging from Cortinas to Rangers and, to mark the occasion, numbers 1-40 were allocated to Fiestas from the past four decades.

The Ford Fiesta MkI began production in the all-new Valencia factory in 1976 and sales in the UK commenced in 1977. Production versions of the Ford Fiesta MkI took part in the Dagenham to Brighton drive on Saturday.

Ford of Britain Chairman and Managing Director, Andy Barratt, said, ‘The opportunity to have these wonderful heritage vehicles lined up next to our latest Fiestas, such as the ST200, is very rare and was fully appreciated by the Ford fans that made the 69-mile journey down to the festival.’

06 Fiesta 40th leaving Dagenham



  • Engine production begins at Valencia
  • Fiesta name chosen personally by Henry Ford II for its alliteration with Ford, its spirit and its celebration of Ford’s new connection with Spain


  • Production of new Fiesta begins in Valencia, Spain in May
  • Fiesta initially available in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre Ghia versions


  • UK sales of the Fiesta begin
  • Export of Fiesta models for the US market begins


  • Millionth Fiesta built for worldwide sales


  • Ford introduces the new Fiesta XR2 with a 1.6-litre engine, stiffer suspension, unique perforated alloy wheels and styling treatments, including available auxiliary driving lamps. The first 100mph Fiesta


  • Fiesta is best-selling car in its class in Britain and Germany for six years running


  • Aerodynamic new Fiesta MkII introduced. This new model was longer and more fuel efficient, available in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre
  • 1.3-litre model launched with a fifth gear
  • Fiesta 1.6-litre diesel introduced. This overhead-cam, indirect injection engine would become a mainstay of the Ford line-up for more than a decade


  • XR2 MkII version of new Fiesta introduced with 1.6-litre, single-overhead-cam engine and 5-speed gearbox, plus low-profile tyres, improved suspension and brakes


  • Best sales year in Britain with 153,000 Fiestas sold


  • Fiesta MkIII launched with anti-lock brakes and lean-burn engines, in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre versions
  • New Fiesta featured a longer and wider body shape and an increased wheelbase. It was available for the first time as a five-door model
  • Fiesta is first small car with ABS
  • Fiesta MkIII adds 1.4-litre – the first Ford engine to meet pending European emissions standards due to take effect in 1996 – and 1.6-litre engine options
  • Fiesta XR2i joins the range later in the year with new 1.6-litre twin cam engine and 5-speed gearbox as the range’s hot hatch.


  • Introduction of Fiesta RS Turbo at Turin Motor Show
  • Using the XR2i engine with an intercooled Garrett turbocharger, the Fiesta RS Turbo was 1.6 seconds quicker than XR2i to 100km/h (62mph)


  • Fiesta RS 1800 introduced. Powered by a 16-valve 1.8-litre engine with improved hot hatch handling, plus five-spoke alloy wheels and a body-colour spoiler
  • Introduction of 1.8-litre, 16-valve Zetec engine


  • Driver airbag becomes standard


  • Introduction of the new Fiesta MkIV with all-new rounded, aerodynamic shape and oval grille
  • Available with 1.25-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre engines, plus a 1.8-litre diesel
  • Dual airbags standard


  • All-new Fiesta MkV introduced at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show
  • Production begins in Cologne and Valencia of the new Ford Fiesta


  • All-new Ford Fiesta MkV launched initially in the five-door version with a new line-up of engines, including the new Duratec 1.3-litre and the 1.6-litre 16-valve Duratec petrol engines
  • Fiesta three-door model and the range’s 1.4-litre Duratec petrol engine and new 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi common rail diesel engine
  • Durashift EST automatic shifting manual transmission introduced


  • 2.0-litre 148bhp Fiesta ST launched as the first production offering of Ford Team RS. It was the most powerful Fiesta ever at the time


  • All-new Fiesta MkVI unveiled at Geneva Motor Show
  • MkVI Fiesta goes into production in Cologne, Germany, Valencia, Spain and Nanjing, China, with new 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT petrol and sub-100g/km 1.6-litre Duratec diesel engines


  • Introduction of the Fiesta MkVII, the first Fiesta to come with the three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. Launched with Ford’s MyKey technology that would become a mainstay in many future Ford vehicles


  • Fiesta becomes best-selling vehicle ever in the UK, surpassing the  4,105,961 registrations achieved by the Ford Escort


  • Best year for Fiesta sales since 1996 – selling more than 133,000


  • Fiesta ST200 launched with a specially=developed 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine that delivers 200PS  – fastest-ever production Fiesta
  • Fiesta becomes best-selling car in the UK every month for seven years in a row
Keith Adams


  1. 40 years !!

    I hadn’t realised the Fiesta’s sales figures were quite so record breaking.

  2. I remember when the Mk2 was launched and feeling very jealous of anyone with one. As a family we have had 6 Fiestas over the years. The Mk 7 is a lovely car and a mini version of the Mk 1 focus which is the best car I’ve ever owned

    My son has the new 1L Ecoboost Fiesta, a great car. Thinking back the only thing I have ever had to replace (outside of normal service items) is a clutch paul. (Touch wood!).

  3. Like many of my generation, passing their test in the 80s, I learnt to drive in a Mark 2 Fiesta. The perfect learner car for the time, four speed box and all.

  4. My wife has the recent 1L Ecoboost Zetec model and it is a great car with an amazing engine. It’s as much fun to drive as my old MINI Cooper D was. The engine combines the torque of a diesel with the zippiness of a petrol, it pulls strongly from 1200rpm upwards like an electric motor, with a lovely 3 pot growl that sounds akin to a muted V6.

    • I drive a Fiesta Zetec 1.0 Ecoboost (99 BHP) & totally agree with your comments. This 3 cylinder turbo charged engine is an absolute gem – It just pulls & pulls & constantly feels eager. They are very economical & you currently pay zero road tax.
      The Fiesta also has a superb handling chassis & levels of ride & comfort that would shame many cars in the class above.
      Take a look at the MK 7 Fiesta’s score with Warranty Direct & you might be very surprised to learn that a Ford ranks so very highly in terms of reliability.
      It’s not hard to see why Fiestas are consistently the UK’s top selling car!

  5. As noted, European Mk. I Fiestas were sold in the USA from about 1977 to the early-1980’s. When the Mk.II started, in the USA Ford took the name and put in on a car made by Kia, in Korea, based on the Mazda 121. Our Mk. I Fiestas had 1.6 L ‘Kent’ engines, in part due to our pollution controls and our driving conditions. One thing that hurt the Mk. I sales in the USA was the lack of Automatic transmissions as an option. Many ended up being engine donators for racing cars (Formula Ford ?). Current almost all NA market Fiestas are made in Mexico.
    I drove a Mk. I as a holiday rental in Ireland in 1984. An ok car, handled well but I cut 2 tires and it had a manual choke – something not on USA made cars since the early 60’s. Still it was and still a star of the Supermini Class.

    • The US supermini that replaced the Fiesta there was actually the Festiva, a similar name. It was sold in the UK as the Kia Pride.

      Manual chokes seemed to be fairly standard on European cars until the mid 80s, when they dissappeared. I wouldn’t know how to use one!

  6. Having had three – a MK1, MK2 and a MK3 I can say that I love fiestas. So much so when my missus wanted a new car we bought – a Mk5 Fiesta!

    Easy to maintain in the first four forms, my old man has some great stories about their construction, including the Mk3 fiesta that was used at Dagenham as a works car because one side was a three door and the other a five door!

  7. Interesting article. Had two Mk4s and a Puma in my early years of motoring – the most fun generation of Fiestas to drive with quick power steering and rev-happy Zetec engines.

    The timeline refers to the 1999 facelift model as the Mk5 – is that right? I know some people call it the Mk5, others the Mk4.5.

    • If the mk4 is a mk, then the 1999 model should surely be the mk5 as they were both effectively mk3 based.

      The 1989 base survived until 2002. It wasn’t until the mk6 that the Fiesta was all new.

      • I was also confused by the marking system, especially as the Mk2 was a facelifted Mk1 rather than an all new design.

        I was surprised the Mk6 didn’t carry over much into the Mk7, normally Ford get at least 2 generations (sometimes 3) out of a platform.

      • Mk 1 & 2 were exactly same car underneath just face lifited.

        Mk 3 & 4 were the same.

        Mk 5 was a modified Mk3 platform.

        Mk6 and 7 are the same and is a new platform.

        When they were designing the Mk5 my Uncle worked as a consultant designer for Ford, and they originally wanted to build the car on the same platform, but the designers won them over and a heavily modified version was used.

        • I didn’t realise the Mk5 was anything more than a tweak to look a bit more Focus like.

          The Mk4 reminded me a of a rounder Renault 14 when I first saw one.

          • I think your getting your Marks mixed up – the heavily revised styled Mk4 was never actually listed as a Mark by Ford – it was known as the millennium update

          • I find their versioning misleading too – I’d always understood the 1983 car to be a ‘heavy facelift’ (bodywork front and back and new interior) of the original, hence things like the glasshouse seeming pretty much the same and models of both versions being limited to 3 doors despite 5 door superminis becoming popular by 1983. And the 96 and 99 also significant updates of the 1988 car. Still, I can see the marketing appeal of distancing the 1996 car from the 1988 one. I’d always assumed the 2002 version was all-new, given it’s proportions were so different to the 88/96/99 generation. Then again, they must have spent so much refining that generation it would seem a shame to waste it. I seem to remember reading somewhere around the time of the first Mondeo’s launch (here, possibly!) that Ford didn’t expect to make a profit on that car’s absolutely new from the ground up design until it’s second generation, so I assume although the two generations are quite different in terms of size, appearance and proportion there’s a fair bit of commonality under the skin? I wonder if the platform has evolved slowly enough that there’s obvious links under the skin between what’s currently on the market and the 1993 original.

      • Surely the current car is only mark 4?

        MK1 – 1976 to 1989 with facelift in 1983
        MK 2 – 1989 to 2001 with major facelift in 1995 and minor tweak in 1999
        MK3 – 2001 to 2008
        MK4 – 2008 to present with facelift in 2012

  8. My Mum had a Mk3 which was the car I learnt to drive in & for many years after able to use when it was free.

    Eventually a little end went, but by then my Mum had bought a Mk5 which she still has.

  9. A manual choke, I wish my car had one of those.
    I feel depressed, remember all of these, although the first ones always seemed to look tatty quickly.
    Had one driving lesson in a 6 light XR2, almost rear ended someone because was expecting Renault 25 brakes.. Which oddly left the Fiestas standing.
    Not particularly impressed with the new ones, and by the sounds of the ones around here they eat syncros, especially reverse.
    I expect they’ll trundle on for another few years, although I’m still to be convinced by Ecoboom technology – when they end up being bought by the sort of people who change their oil once every Plutonian year… Things are not going to end well..

    • Why would anyone wish for the return of a manual choke, even if they did understand how to use one? The world has moved-on to more efficient and predictable methods of starting a cold engine.

      • Don’t understand any confusion regarding the operation of a manual choke. Pull it about halfway out and push back in to about a quarter as soon as the engine fires.
        There was one advantage a manual choke had over the automatic chokes in that the cold engine didn’t need the choke unless under load or acceleration. So you could knock the choke off when driving with little load or descending a hill. Autochokes were always set a good bit on the rich side, you could easily back off the enrichment device and the car would still run smoothly when cold.
        Also on anything with a (pre-HIF) SU carb the ‘choke’ was a simple mechanism that lowered the jet which was great for figuring if the mixture was a bit lean or indeed if the engines compression was good or not when test driving some old BL or Chrysler – you got suspicious if the car didn’t seem to need the choke when cold.
        Anyhow, a manual choke could be more efficient than an auto or later injected systems because you could knock off the choke on a cold engine when you didn’t need it.

  10. Although I’ve never owned a Fiesta, I’ve driven quite a few as Hire or courtesy cars and found them all nippy, with the more recent ones as well equipped as my Focus III. If I needed to downsize, a Fiesta with an Ecoboost engine would probably fit the bill.

    Not surprised it’s sold so well over the 40 years and have got used to it being the top selling UK car. My daughter currently works in Valencia and I keep reminding her about the history of the Ford Factory and the Genesis of the Fiesta there!

  11. The Mk VI/VII is good fun to drive and throw about, though I’m sure I’m not the first to say the interior is dated and poor… even on top spec models it feels disappointingly cheap. Especially when you look at the RRP Ford wants (though of course you’d be nuts to pay anything close to that).

  12. What about all the Fiesta’s made in the UK at Dagenham????
    Forgot to add the line; “2002; The Fiesta is the last car Ford made in the UK, after closing the Dagenham assembly plant.”
    Or was this timeline “bilge”, Ford’s very own Press announcement, totally forgetting or deliberately eliminating all referances to all the efforts made by the workers at Dagenham over the years?????

    • That timeline definitely reads as Ford-proofed ‘bilge’ – no mention of UK and German-built cars, nor the first Mk.1 1300 Supersport – an important evolution to the first XR2.
      Amongst many things ignored or whitewashed, the crude ABS system of the new 1989 cars was not standard equipment and so very rarely fitted, the mid-1990’s Mazda 121 clone and the 2012 introduction of a small efficient turbo 3-cylinder engine was only about 25 years after Daihatsu…

  13. Am I missing something in the list. I took a number of students, in the mid late 90s to Dagenham and saw Fiestas coming off the line. Also they made the Mazda version. Apart from a slightly different nose/bonnet line & badge the only main difference was, the Mazda had a 2 year warranty and the Ford had 1 year. Same factory, same workers?

    • Mazda 121s were made on the same line but in batch runs. Mazda had tighter and more stringent quality checks than the Fords so are usually better built even though it was still the same Dagenham plant.

      • No the 1.25 Sigma was available on all trims from the launch of the 1995 car. Most press cars seemed to be in S trim whilst my wife had an early 1.25 Encore base spec car

  14. My first solo drive after passing my test was in a 1983 Fiesta Popular, A417KBU, White, 4 gears, manual choke, no clock and only a basic Ford radio (Tiffany was singing “I think we’re alone now”)
    To me it may as well have been a Ferrari, realisation of a boyhood dream to drive a car.
    Later owned a MK2 XR2 in Mercury Grey E754FRN.
    Fiestas are part of all our growing pains in cars.
    Happy Birthday

  15. I learned to drive in an H reg Fiesta Popular Plus 1.6 diesel. It was quite a car, almost never stalled, the driving instructor could easily achieve 50 mpg when teaching his students( 60 mpg on the open road), and such an easy car to drive. No wonder locally diesel Fiestas, and a few Peugeot 205 diesels, were the car of choice for driving instructors. These were cars that could take quite a lot of abuse and if they( rarely) went wrong, they were cheap and easy to fix.

  16. The Ford Fiesta has been a huge success for Ford in the past 4 decades.

    It would be interesting though to explore Ford’s prior work on light car projects before the Fiesta (aka Bobcat), which ranged at times with the FWD Taunus (aka Cardinal project) and 1960s World Car project, to an alleged collaboration with Toyota on the original Toyota Publica as well as an rear-wheel-drive alternative called the Cheetah based on a cut-down Ford Escort platform.

  17. My driving instructor had both a Mk3 & Mk4 diesel, which was good as my Mum had a Mk3, though the clutch action seemed different on a petrol one.

  18. I owned a Mark 6 Fiesta( 2002-08) and found it a good car to drive, reliable, stylish, and quite spacious for its size. Only letdown was the fuel consumption, it was a 1.25 non Zetec and was no more economical than the 1.5 litre Nissan Almera it replaced, so with petrol at £ 1.42 a litre, I ditched it for a Micra, which gave 10 mpg more. However, in TDCI form, these Fiestas offered the best of both worlds, Zetec performance and 60 mpg. Another nice touch I thought was a button on the dash to open the boot.

    • Yamaha have carried out a great deal of work on engines for Ford cars including the 1.25, engine which was initially fitted only to the top of the range Ghia Fiestas.

      I was not aware of the poor fuel consumption of the 1.25, but is was a delightfully silent and smooth running unit, no evidence of the usual Ford harshness and vocality.

      It is believed that the 1.25 engine blocks were manufactured in Japan and employed a critical manufacturing technique which the Japanese refused to allow Ford to access

      • 1.25 zetec is juicy in Mk5/6/7 form and is fuel economy is actually no better than the 1.4. Ford never made a 1.25 non zetec.

  19. Not fair, South Africa and some other places got a 2 door, coupe pickup model.. Looked quite nice too..
    I can imagine quite a few people could have used a small pickup, but we never got them here.
    The last one I can think of is the A35/40/50 pickups – and the Hyundai Pony and a VW one that looked very similar – but nothing modern..
    Modern Fiestas look a little like a Dustbuster with wheels, the grille is bigger than the car… Not impressed.

    • Small pickups are a niche market. Ones that spring to mind are:

      – Skoda Felicia

      – VW Caddy mk1

      The Proton Jumbuck, while based on the slightly larger Wira which itself was based on the Lancer, is probably small enough to count?

  20. We’ve had a few Fiestas in the family over the years and never had any serious problems. I’ve had a 1.25 Style since new in 2006 and in 141000 miles it’s needed very little except routine service and wear and tear items.

  21. Learnt to drive in a Mk.V diesel, which was a bit rubbish. But my first car was a new Mk.V 1.25, and I later had a MK.VI ST. Everything else I drove in the last 15 years felt floppy and spongy in comparison.

    That said, my absolute favourite was my little 02 reg Ka- a real go-cart!

  22. The Fiesta was Britain’s first supermini, it took British Leyland another four years to launch the Metro and Vauxhall six years to launch the Nova, so was guaranteed big sales from the start. ( Chrysler would launch the Sunbeam a year later, but this was never a huge competitor). Unlike the ancient Mini, which was the Fiesta’s main competitor, the Fiesta had a decent sized boot for its size, better equipment levels, better refinement( unless you chose the basic 950 model) was more reliable and safer in a crash. Also being British badged, if not always British made( some cars came from Spain), helped the Fiesta’s case and the original model sold a million in its first five years on the market.

    • The 2nd option there looks like a mix between a 9x and a squashed Capri. Think it is a great looking car.

      Superminis have evolved to be little estate cars with near vertical rears, rather than small fastback coupe-likes.

  23. Not far off now would be the 40th anniversary of the Mark 4 Cortina, the car which really left British Leyland behind in the sales charts and proved Ford’s position as top dog in the late seventies. Again it was a case of Ford offering you everything from a basic car to a Ghia with a wood and velour interior( perhaps trying to take on the Princess).
    I’ve always been in two minds about the Mark 4, it certainly was a big sales success and had the interesting V6 option, but didn’t look as interesting as the Mark 3( in 2000 E or four headlamp GXL form) and like all Fords of the time, basic ones were drab and austere. It never came right for me until the light restyle in 1979 that made it better looking and better equipped, Ghia models in metallic silver looked excellent.

    • I guess though that the Fiesta is being celebrated as it is still in production.

      Albeit it is no longer the small, cheap car that it was – in some ways that role has been taken by the Ka, the Fiesta has encroached on old Escort territory but that means that between those who want a big supermini and those who see it as a small but usable family car it remains a huge seller.

      The Cortina-Sierra-Mondeo lineage had too many complete breaks – from the original conservative repmobile – the 3 series of it’s day – to the striking aerodynamic concept car looks – to an attempt at a world beater – progressing through to the actual world car that they sell today (albeit in ever smaller numbers as buyers shun the D segment).

  24. Were UK sold Fiestas made in the UK? Everything I’ve read thus far suggest the Fiesta was from Valencia, but there was some suggestion they were made at Dagenham?

    • Most ‘UK’ early cars came over from Valencia, from what I’ve read all Mk.2 XR2’s and most Ghia versions came from Germany. Many lower-spec German-built 1.1 litre Mk.2’s for mainland Europe came with 5-speed gearboxes, which annoyingly for UK punters we didn’t get, unless you shelled-out for a 1.4 or larger. A relative small number of Fiestas were UK built.

      • It was still a decent number though, seeing that Dagenham would have made Fiesta from the late 70s until 2002 when when the car assembly line shut, and that the Fiesta was all it made from the early 90s onwards, with a lot exported.

  25. Nearly all British market Mark 2 Fiestas were made in Dagenham. With industrial relations problems mostly beaten and labour costs being lower than Germany in the mid eighties, most British market Escorts, Sierras and Fiestas were made here. It did seem, though, that German workers were more trusted to make high performance versions of these cars.
    Never was a big Ford fan after the demise of the Cortina and the Mark 2 Granada, though. I tended to find their cars to be boring or weird looking with harsh, thirsty engines, indifferent quality and indifferent dealers. It wasn’t until the Focus and second generation Mondeo that I started to like Ford again.

  26. Seeing some of the other early styling proposals for what became the mk1 Fiesta during the early-1970s in the Secret Fords books, is it known if any of the ex-Ford people at BL returned to Ford shortly after the merger? As one proposal circa May 1971 featured a similar albeit more refined rear as the Mini Clubman hatchback prototype, while the front of a later Dunton proposal circa 1973 had a more integrated Apache-esque meets Clubman type front that immediately brought to mind the look Roy Haynes was trying to achieve with the Clubman, ADO22, Maxi and Marina.

  27. Also heard that Fiesta production is ending… a shame as I was considering getting one as a replacement for my Focus (in retirement). I don’t care for the Puma/Kuga crossover / SUV ranges. Sad, to me at least at the decline of saloons and Hatch’s in favour of the SUV obsession.

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