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Ford’s U.K.-specification Fiesta Active stands a little higher than the regular FIesta and has roof rails, larger wheels and some added cosmetic touches. (Ford)

What we're driving: 2018 Ford Fiesta Active

When a company adds the title “Active” to the name of a best-selling model it might generate the expectation of all-wheel-drive, chunky tires and a general “take me to the mud” image.

Not so the Ford Fiesta Active in Europe, where Ford also uses the “Active” designation for the even littler Ka and the larger Focus.

It is mostly about style rather than technology substance. Not that the Fiesta lacks a high level of the latter, including the continuing use of Ford’s truly impressive 3-cylinder gasoline engine that brings great performance—particularly in 103-kW (138-hp) form—and a fine aural identity.

The Fiesta Active does have some added rough-road (but not, realistically, “off road”) ability: a “Slippery Drive” mode which adjusts ESC and traction control settings to low-adhesion surfaces; ride height raised by 18 mm (0.7 in) and suspension with enhanced knuckle geometry, plus special settings for springs and shock absorbers. It also gets revised power steering.  

And, to use Ford marketing speak, “rugged exterior design features;” unique 17-in alloy wheels and some extra body cladding. Ford sees this, apparently, as SUV styling. Sports seats are fitted and there’s a leather steering wheel. Safety includes Pre-collision Assist with Pedestrian Protection.

A “bespoke” rear bumper is mentioned. Exciting stuff! But the Fiesta Active  also gets an opening panorama roof to allow added enjoyment of any rugged scenery, to the accompaniment of a B&O PLAY premium audio system and Ford’s SYNC 3 voice-activated driver interface is fitted.

The Fiesta Active  has fine handling balance despite its slightly raised height and a generally good ride on its larger wheels and slightly stiffer suspension. And with a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration time of 9.4 seconds with the 138-hp triple and a very slick 6-speed manual gearbox, the Fiesta Active is very much an enthusiastic driver’s car.

But does the “Active” nomenclature merely equate to marketing and gimmickry? Despite the author’s cautious position regarding such dressing up, the Active treatment does all cohere to make the Fiesta even more attractive than the regular version and better able to usefully tackle a potentially wider variation of surfaces.
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