Johannesburg, 28 November 2008 – The Ford Fiesta has lived up to the high expectations set for it following its debut in October, with the South African Guild of Motoring Journalist’s naming it a finalist in the 2008 Car of the Year competition.

South African buyers got their first taste of the Ford Fiesta in 1997. The car was well received and in 1998 walked away with the South African Car of the Year title.

The recently launched Ford Fiesta has been designed and developed using global resources to meet the differing needs of customers around the world. Ford carried out extensive research on customer needs, wants and desires when planning the new small car. The result is not just a new car but a process, which will dictate the future of Ford product development and through which other Ford cars will be born.

“We have been very excited about the introduction of the new Ford Fiesta,” says Casper Kruger, General Manager, Ford. “The Fiesta spearheads a new direction for Ford and by all accounts it has been favourably received.”

The model chosen to represent the Fiesta in the competition is the 1.6 Trend, powered by a 1.6-litre Duratec Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing (Ti-VCT) petrol engine. It produces 88kW at 6 000rpm and has a torque peak of 149Nm at 4 250rpm. Despite its feisty character, the 1.6-litre petrol engine obtains a combined fuel cycle measuring in at 5.9 litres/100km.

The 1.6 Trend comes well equipped with air conditioning, power steering, power windows front and rear, remote central locking, tinted windows, headlamp delay feature, radio/CD with 6 speakers, steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth vehicle interface with voice control.

The exterior styling features include body colour bumpers and a rear spoiler, body colour door handles, front and rear mud flaps and 15” alloy wheels. Safety is also of the highest standard with dual airbags, a driver seat belt reminder, ABS with EBD and a centre high mounted stop lamp providing peace of mind.

One of the challenges for the design team was to improve the interior space and stowage for driver and passengers, without increasing the overall dimensions of the car. In five-seat mode, the Fiesta offers 284 litres of luggage space. Front legroom is also impressive with 1069mm available. Various storage compartments in the cabin provide plenty of room for oddments with large front door bins capable of storing 1.5-litre bottles or a road atlas.

Designers focused strongly on the handling characteristics in the new Fiesta. The Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) replaces the traditional hydraulic power-assist system of the previous-generation Fiesta. Extensive effort was devoted to detailed tuning of the Fiesta’s EPAS system to ensure that it delivers the precise steering feedback expected from a Ford vehicle.

“The Fiesta was designed to appeal to the needs and desires of a wide range of people without compromising on safety, performance, design and practicality as such we expect the Fiesta to perform well in this competition,” adds Kruger.

The Car of the Year finalists will be put through their paces by SAGMJ jury members in January. The adjudication process will, as always be a rigorous and thorough test of the finalists and will ultimately reveal the new Car of the Year victor. The coveted accolade will be presented at a gala ceremony in March.