This is the face of Ford’s future.

For months, we’ve been teased with images of the troubled automaker’s Verve concept. Now, however, we’re getting a look at what Ford’s new global small car really will look like.

The three-door, shown here, is one of at least three different Verve variants that will begin fanning out to markets around the world, starting next year. European buyers will be offered this and a five-door hatchback, while a four-door sedan version is being styled up for China and the United States.

There’s also a strong possibility that U.S. buyers could get this three-door, Ford marketing czar Jim Farley tells TheCarConnection.com, based on the results of a series of consumer clinics.

The European introduction is scheduled for later this year, hence Fiesta’s much-heralded reveal at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. China will get its subcompact about a year later, but the American debut is being held back until 2010.

“We need 24 months to figure it out,” concedes Farley, who joined Ford, last year, after a long stint with Toyota. He admits that there is a “thermonuclear war” underway for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the young buyers who will make up Fiesta’s core market.

There are several reasons to pay particular attention to Fiesta. For one thing, it marks the beginning of a worldwide transformation at Ford, which will now rely heavily on its European design and engineering operations to help craft its future products. Fiesta will be the first of these global models, though plenty more are in the pipeline.

For buyers, what will matter more is that this won’t be the typical, bare bones subcompact. Ford promises that Fiesta will be a surprisingly lavish and well-equipped model – and for that you should expect to pay at least a modest premium over some of the segment’s truly entry-level offerings. (But, Farley stresses, Fiesta should still come in at a sticker price under that of the bigger Ford Focus.)

Look for some of the more compelling touches first seen on the Verve concept car, along with some features normally only found in larger, more up-market products. That includes safety equipment such as front, side and curtain airbags, and even a driver knee airbag, electric power steering, a MacPherson front strut/twist beam rear suspension and, Ford promises, excellent driving dynamics.

For all global markets, the Fiesta engine lineup will include five powerplants: two gas engines, a 1.3-liter and a 1.4-liter four, and three diesels, topped by a 1.6-liter diesel four with 85 hp. A five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic are the transmission choices for European customers.

Inside, the Fiesta’s styling theme is based on the look and feel of mobile phones, Ford says. The audio system in particular is integrated into the whole center stack, with separate areas for the volume, the display and the electronics, which Ford says frees the stylists’ hands. The European Convers+ system incorporates a large center screen with buttons for audio, phone and vehicle settings — and seems like a natural spot for Ford to integrate its Sync system when the Fiesta makes it to the U.S.

Other features on the Euro Fiesta include Bluetooth connectivity; a capless fuel refiller; a telescoping steering wheel; and special ambient lighting.

Ford sold a Fiesta in the U.S. from 1978 to 1980. Since then, the minicar has been one of Europe’s favorites. In Europe the Fiesta goes on sale late in 2008. Ford says by 2010, versions of the new global small car will be sold on every continent except South America and Antarctica.

European Fiestas will be built in Spain and Germany; North American plans have yet to be announced, though it seems likely the automaker will opt for a low-cost factory, such as its operation in Hermosillo, Mexico.

 

©2008 by The Car Connection™ All Rights Reserved—The Car Connection is a Trademark of Car Advisory Network

Paul A. Eisenstein

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