Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: Ford Press | posted July 05, 2012 18:03
Picking up where the Escort left off
Downsized but not out
As tightening ecology, emissions and crash safety standards accelerate challenges to car engineers, the first casualty was weight. For car makers to ensure that the ever growing 95% percentile humanoid does not get cramped for space in a compact, the cars had to grow. Now it won't surprise today's sub compact, is as big as a compact only a few generations ago.
Today's Ford Fiesta, now onto its 6th generation, is as spacious as the 5th generation Escort barely 15 years ago, is living testament to this intense game of catching up, blurring established size categories. Consider too that when the first Fiesta was conceived in 1976, Ford was targeting the Honda CVCC "college kid car" market, inadvertently filling a gap that used to belong to the FIAT Cinquecnento and later, the 126.
Where's the link?
For all intents and purposes, the Ford Focus took off where the Escort left off. The Focus remains Ford's rallye motorsport spearhead. But one thing the Focus never had, that the original Escorts did was the slavish Colin Chapman like obsession with reducing weight. This spiritual mantra found a new life in the Fiesta. When this 6th gen Fiesta was launched, it drew popular acclaim for being lighter than its predecessor. An engineering feat no doubt.
Turn of the Century
With the Escort's successor, the Focus Mark 1 making headlines in Europe as the Golf-killer and dominating, once again, the WRC, Asians were clamoring for the Focus. But having partly owned and fully managed Mazda, Ford at that time decreed that Asians will have nothing less than a compact car from Asia. That was the Ford Laser/Mazda 323 series, which culminated in the Philippine market Ford Lynx. It was a good, competent car, far less rust prone than the last Escort. Like the Escort, the Laser/Lynx also made a virtue of lightness, only to get heavier as crash safety regulations got tighter. In hindsight, ASEAN had it 2 ways: while it did not have to deal with the rust prone dull, duller and dullest last three Generations of the Escort it has to put up with the Laser/Lynx which was not any different from the Japanese branded offerings. Having made the decision to build the Focus Mark 2 in the Philippines, the ASEAN market got to skip the Focus Mark 1, and as the Mark 2 was the better for it, except for one thing: weight.
The Focus Mark 2's corpulence was in keeping with global trend of compact car inflation from engine size, interior space and overall size, all in the interest of crash safety. Meantime, the Fiesta was already onto its 5th generation. Having lost its following in the USA when the era of cheap oil arrived, the Fiesta continued to be staple motoring for Europe and Latin America. Brazil sourced Fiesta's and its SUV CR-V look alike crossover named Eco-sport were studied for manufacture at the Ford Greenfield Santa Rosa plant. Ford needed a light car to show the world that they'r not just about XR-3's, WRC and mastodon F-150's/Expeditions.
While Focus continues on with the role of the Escort, it was left to the Fiesta to revive the original raison d'etre of the first Escort: lightness. Since it could not turn down the weight of the Focus, it was left to the Fiesta to satisfy the criteria that made the first Escort such a world wide hit. What several generations can do to model line up. At launch, the Fiesta, like the VW Beetle was only available as a 2-door sedan. Today, the 2-door will be launched later, doubtless as an RS or XR3i. Who knows, being the light and lively member of the family, it may replace the Focus in Ford's motorsports program.