Ford Fiesta at 40: we celebrate the UK's best-selling car

Born in 1976, we recount all seven generations of the UK's best-selling car ever - the Ford Fiesta

This year marks 40 years since the first Ford Fiesta rolled off the production line in Valencia, Spain. When Ford first launched the car back in 1976, few could predict the phenomenal sales success that would unfold over the coming decades. The Fiesta is the UK’s best-selling car of all time, passing the Ford Escort to claim the title in 2014, thanks to sales of over four million. For the last seven years in a row, the Fiesta has been the most popular car in the UK every single month - over the past four decades, one in every 20 cars sold in the UK has been a Fiesta. To mark this milestone date, Ford gathered 40 Fiestas spanning every generation for a Dagenham to Brighton celebration run.

The Dagenham to Brighton convoy saw 40 different versions of the crowd-pleasing Fiesta travelling together, from the Ford Engine Plant in Dagenham to Brighton Race Course, as part of the 2016 Ford Summer Festival, a celebration of all Ford models. The 40 Fiesta models included a version from all seven generations, including the 1976 Mk I, the XR2 and the Mk II Popular. The Fiesta Mk I owners club were also present, bringing a variety of models including a Mk I Fiesta Van.

The drive from Dagenham to Brighton featured a wide selection of Ford models, with around 200 Fords taking part, from Cortinas to Rangers. All vehicles in the convoy received a unique numbered plaque, and to mark the occasion, numbers 1-40 were given to the specially selected range of Fiestas from the past four decades.

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Also on display at Dagenham was the 10 millionth Ford vehicle produced, as well as a Mk IV 1.4 Fiesta Ghia, and the Mk VI Fiesta World Rally Championship car. Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain’s Chairman and Managing Director, 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.” 

Scroll down for a little bit of history about the UK’s favourite-ever car…

Fiesta MK I  – 1976

Production of the all new Fiesta begins in Valencia, Spain in May, as a direct result of secret Project Bobcat, developed to create a new Ford small car. Named the Fiesta by Henry Ford II, and initially available in 1.0-litre and 1.1-litre Ghia versions, UK sales began in 1977, as did the export of Fiesta models to the US market. In only its first generation, Ford reached worldwide Fiesta sales of 1 million, and introduced the XR2. With stiffer suspension, unique perforated alloy wheels and additional styling elements, the XR2 looked the part – and was the first Fiesta to reach 100mph.

Fiesta Mk II – 1983

The Fiesta MkII debuted a more aerodynamic shape for the already iconic supermini. Longer and more fuel efficient than the Mk I, the Mk II came in 1.0-litre, 1.1-litre or 1.3-litre versions, with the latter available with a fifth gear. The Mk II became the first Fiesta with a diesel engine, featuring indirect injection. An XR2 version of the Mk II launched in 1984, with a 1.6-litre, single overhead cam engine, low profile tyres, improved suspension and uprated brakes. 1987 saw the best year for Fiesta sales yet, with 153,000 sold. 

Fiesta Mk III –  1989 

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The Fiesta Mk III was launched as the first small car with ABS, and a five-door option was available for the first time. Also featured an increased wheelbase, longer body, and a new 1.4-litre engine - the first Ford to meet pending European emissions standards due to take effect in 1996. The XR2i introduced with new 1.6-litre twin-cam engine. The 134bhp Fiesta RS Turbo & RS 1800 were both introduced, as were driver airbags, which became standard in 1993. 

Fiesta Mk IV – 1996

Ford introduced the Fiesta Mk IV in 1996, with a new rounded, more aerodynamic shape, and oval grille. The car was available with 1.25-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre Zetec engines, plus a 1.8-litre diesel. Dual airbags were made standard, and production moved to Cologne, as well as Valencia. This generation of Fiesta was also marketed as the Mazda 121, sharing a body, engines and production line.

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Fiesta Mk V – 2002

Launched initially as a five door version, Ford produced another new line-up of engines, including 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre 16-valve Duratec petrol engines, a 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi common rail diesel engine, and produced the new Durashift EST automatic shifting manual transmission. Ford introduced a three-door version in 2003. 2005 saw the arrival of the 148bhp Fiesta ST, the most powerful Fiesta ever at the time. A year later in 2006, Ford launched a refreshed version of the Mk V with voice activation and Bluetooth.

Fiesta Mk VI – 2008

Ford chose the Geneva Motor Show to unveil the Mk VI Fiesta. The introduction of the Fiesta ECOnetic made the Fiesta the UK’s most fuel efficient 5-seat family car, recording 76.3mpg and 98g/km CO2 – still impressive today! Production started in Cologne, Germany, Valencia, Spain and Nanjing, China. In 2010, Ford increased the power of the 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi engine to 94bhp. In 2009, the Fiesta made its North American debut. In 2011, the Fiesta RS world rally championship car makes its competitive debut.

Fiesta Mk VII – 2012

Ford Fiesta ST200 - front driving

Ford introduces the Fiesta Mk VII in 2012, the first Fiesta to come with a three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. The Mk VII launched with Ford’s MyKey technology, allowing parents to set maximum speeds, regulate audio volume and promote good habits for younger drivers. 2013 saw the launch of the multi-award winning 182PS ST, followed by the 140PS 1.0-litre Red/Black editions in 2014, with a better power-per-litre ratio than a Bugatti Veyron. In 2016, the Fiesta became the best-selling car in the UK for the past seven years, every month in a row. Ford also launched the ST200 with a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine, delivering 200PS, making it the fastest-ever production Fiesta.

Which is your favourite Fiesta? Let us know in the comments below!

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