(first posted 2/11/2016) Another road test is up from R&T’s 1987 July issue of this small Ford.
Oh wait- it’s a Mazda. No, it’s a Kia!
I remember these as being utterly cheap and disposable, econoboxes. Not quite as bad as the first round of Hyundai’s and Yugo’s but clearly a few notches below a lot of other compact hatches on the market, fords own fiesta included. Usually seen in a shade of teal with scary structural rust and a lack of muffler by the five year point.
“Disposable”? These turned out to be un-killable; as tough and long-lasting as anything by Toyota. There’s still a good number on the streets here.
It may not have been dynamically quite up to the Fiesta, but it was a lot more durable.
My wife’s first car! We drove that thing for over 300 000 km’s and finally had it towed away when the front of the car collapsed onto the ground…tough as nails, no mechanical failures and unkillable, indeed! I wish there was something made like that today…
Exactly. They are very tough. A neighbor of mine used one to commute until about 4 years ago. And just last year (2015) this one crossed my ways:
Maybe so in Oregon, but in central new York only the strong survive. Especially in salt city Syracuse.
I remember when this generation Ford Festiva first hit the US market. I liked its styling. I liked it more than the Ford Aspire that was also on the market.
The Expire Aspire was the successor to the Festiva and very much inferior. I drove one as a rental and it was like a tin can. The tachometer stuck at 4000rpm even after the engine was turned off.
Ah maybe it was the aspire I am recalling and not the festiva…. Regardless, its been years since I’ve seen either
The Aspire was simply an updated Festiva. Same EFI engine, 3AT and 5MT, same platform, updated body and interior with modern safety features like standard dual airbags (not quite required nor universal at the introduction, nor was the optional 4 wheel ABS), updated (modern) hubs so the wheels are far easier to source for replacing or upgrading, better brakes, first time we got a 5 door bodystyle in our market.
It aspired to be turning 4000 rpm.
I always hated the “L” trim levels Ford was using back then. I was like “these things are so cheap they couldn’t afford to use more than one letter?”
I know. It was like advertising “L” for “loser”. At least there was never a “Festiva Pony”.
By adding the L to Festiva you get a Festival. Who doesn’t like a nice festival?
I actually remember being a young teenager in the summer of 1987 and wanting a Festiva because they stickered at just $5700 US.
Was this the last car (in the US/Canada) with 12-inch wheels from the factory?
IIRC, the current Hyundai Accent is the last car with 14-inch wheels from the factory.
The Mitsubishi Mirage has 14″ wheels.
“Jeez, that’s some bad kerning on the Ford Festival–oh…”
This was the first new car my wife and I ever bought. A 1990 model, and if I recall correctly fuel injected by that time. It was all we could afford, even with her fathers’ Ford retiree discount. I recall that when all 4 of us went somewhere, my oldest son and I, both about 275# at that point, had to sit diagonal from each other so the car wouldn’t lean precariously to one side. Good times. After a while my wife named it her “little bar b*tch puddle jumper.”
Before Hyundai (its former chief competitor) acquired Kia Motors and then becoming Hyundai’s separate division, Kia Motors was owned by Ford’s Asian Subsidiary Mazda. Today’s Mitsubishi Mirage was roughly about similar in size with the Festiva except there is no 4 cylinder available for the Mirage and its standard engine is only 3 cylinder. Anyway here is the link to that catchy commercial in 1987 – 29 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YECNec-bpgM
Kia has never been owned by Mazda. Kia, however, has licensed to build certain Mazda models and utilize their technology over the years.
Not directly though but generally speaking Kia had a kinship with Mazda.
A technology licensing agreement. Like Hyundai did with Mitsubishi. The Koreans needed Japanese technology to get competitive quickly.
Mazda was never a Ford subsidiary; under Mulally, Dearborn has divested most its holdings from a maximum of 33%. They’re still partners, but Sumitomo Mitsui is the largest shareholder now. BTW, Mazda HQ is in an easily-remembered city: Hiroshima.
The Japanese have been big on reciprocal corporate ownership like this.
A surprisingly positive review for what I remember as a car that people bought because they had to, not because they wanted to. It wasn’t bad-looking, and still isn’t, but they did descend into beater territory very quickly!
The ones that didn’t get used up within 10 years all seemed to reappear, along with the remaining Geo Metros, when gas threatened to hit $4/gallon back in ’07-’08. I’ll still see one every now and then, so the ones that didn’t get killed by lack of maintenance must have been built of fairly sturdy stuff. I see more of these than I do their successor Aspire at any rate.
These turned out to be almost un-killable. Their survival rate is impressive, and there’s still a decent number in regular use here. Including one a half block from my house. It hauls two very overweight young women, who barely fit. It’s a kick watching them get into it. 🙂
These things were as common as rats in Vancouver in the late eighties. The default econo box if your didnt have ” Corrolla pockets.. A 10.8 0-60 ment they could keep up with Caddilacs..
While I liked these cars for their “minimalist” approach to car ownership, I thought whoever it was at Ford that came up with the name should have been made to live in one. I was p.o.ed that this person corrupted both the name and image of the original Fiesta with this Asian-built lookalike. To add insult to injury, the colors these were painted were very unappealing and the available options (like a factory installed tachometer) seemed to change with the seasons.
Yes, better than the Aspire, but that’s about like saying sunburn is better than poison ivy.
A co-worker of mine had a Festiva that racked up over 500K miles as a service tech territory car (in the land of salt-laden roads!) Original engine & transmission, but he went thru several wheel bearing replacements.
Seemed to test out pretty well but for $130 more the basic 323 seemed much more car.
I bought a new Festiva L in June of 1987, which made it one of the first on the road here. I’d looked at the VW Fox, which was approximately assembled and then marked up by the dealer. I looked at the Civic, but the dealer convinced me that the 4-speed base model wasn’t worthwhile. He didn’t have one,and he didn’t want to get one. I’m sure it was twice the car the Festiva was for a couple hundred more dollars, but Honda dealers weren’t going to waste their allocations on cheap Civics when they could sell $10K Civics. I recall looking at the Samarai, but the dealers wanted essentially 50% more than the advertised MSRP. We had had enough of Mopar in 1987, so the Omni America was off the shopping list. I don’t have any idea why I didn’t look at the 323. The Festiva had a Mazda steering wheel, Mazda shifter, Mazda engine and other details that were obviously Mazda. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I didn’t spend a few bucks more for a Mazda. OTOH, the Mazda dealer in my hometown was the same place that sold VWs. They always acted like whatever you just expressed interest in was slightly more sought after than a Ferrari 250 GTO.
Early 2000s Mazda 2 Demios still appear to be using the same body pressings as this car albeit in four door configuration likely the same mechanicals too this Mazda/kia/Ford having been rebodied into the 121/Aspire the back again to the original shape, Toyo Kogyo sure go a good run out that design.
I don’t think that’s true, Bryce. Although the Mazda 121 Metro/Demio was clearly an homage to this generation of 121/Festiva with its extremely boxy lines.
However, the featured generation of Festiva/121 was manufactured until 2000 as the Kia Pride and was sold in the UK up until then as a truly budget (and dated) offering.
The tooling then ended up in Iran and China, I believe.
This was a Kia Pride where I live, and I had a brief drive of one once – must have been a loaner from a main dealer. I remember it as being very “tinny” , but it looked OK in bright red and drove OK. I was probably cutting it some slack because I knew it had Mazda DNA and I knew they were good.
I almost bought a 1990 model in about 1997. My Datsun pickup had blown the head gasket and I needed wheels badly. A nice lady was selling hers for $850. It drove well, and back then I was young and invincible so it didn’t seem terrifyingly small. But the clutch pedal engagement was incredibly high, and I couldn’t afford both $850 and the cost of a repair. Ended up with a 1971 VW Super Beetle, and spent lots of time wondering what life would have been like with the Festiva.
Anyone know if the high engagement clutch pedal was actually by design?
Minor adjustment issue said lady owner likely rode the clutch a lot.
Ugly, crude and slow little sh!tboxes that I wouldnt want to own. But damn if these werent tough little SOB’s. I worked with a guy who had one, and there wasnt a better example of ANTI pride of ownership. Yet that little turd took ever bit of abuse he threw at it, smiled and kept right on coming. Theres somethign to be said for a car thats dirt cheap yet reliable.
I had one, an ’89 LX in red. Traded in the full blown ’86 Buick Century estate wagon that I inherited from my late mother (and absolutely hated, although it was a very good car).
Loved the little Festiva, with one exception: The stock Yokohama tyres it came equipped with were made of bakelite or something else with equal road adhesion. A couple of times in the rain, on a straight road at moderate speed they broke loose on me and caused the car to spin.
Having traded in a large station wagon on a little econobox, of course this is when I got into historical re-enactment. And raised a troop of Scots lowland infantry (Covenanters) from the Bishop’s Wars 1639-40. Which means I was carrying a lot of the unit’s equipment. Like the pikes.
To those not in tune with 17th century military tactics: A pike was a 16-18′ spear, wielded in blocks of them, and one of the two regular infantry weapons of the period, the other being the matchlock musket. If you noticed in the R&T specs, the Festiva is listed as 141″ long. Which is another way of saying roughly 11.75′.
Enter the home made roof rack, done out of lengths of 2×2’s. The pikes would be strapped to the roof with the butts roughly even with the back bumper, and the iron pike heads approximately 4-6′ ahead of the front bumper. I found it the one effective way of getting some little blue-hair driving 30-35mph in a 45 or faster zone to get up to the speed limit. Just inch forward until the pike heads are tapping her rear window.
The Festiva only lasted two years, as it was replaced by a Dodge Dakota. It’s carrying limitations proved to be too much, and I’d started my 17th century sutlery business by that point. But it will always be fondly remembered.
Funny way to prod the little old ladies!
Your pike storage reminded me of this 323 with canoe:
Interesting car. Even more interesting when somebody put V6 SHO engine in the back..:)..(have a magazine with article about this somewhere..)
I was keen on these econoboxes, but my admiration turned sour when looking for a drive shaft for an Isuzu pickup truck. Each junkyard I visited had two or three Festivas which were so severely crushed, I doubt the driver survived the impact. Side door impacts were the worse where the body would fold like aluminum foil.
I now appreciate the 7 airbags in the current Fiat 500.
I bought an ’88 LX model new. It was reliable and could hold four adults with no problem. The A/C was definitely a drag on the engine, which still had a carburetor. Got 40 mpg consistently. The only problem I had was that the original tires were not M+S, which did not do well in Maryland winters. Once decent tires were installed it was unstoppable. My first and only Kia!
Ugh, I know that the C/D review of this thing also referred to Yuppies. For those of y’all who didn’t live through the ’80’s, yuppies were what we called Millenials then. Some power that was at Ford apparently actually thought that because they had an overpriced econobox, sticking the yuppie label on it might sell it, or it was an honest and cynical marketing decision. Unless Ford had decided that Yuppie actually stood for young urban poor person. This is the sort of car that made Roger Smith state that a two year old Buick was the best car for someone looking for a car under $5K.
Actual Yuppies in 1987 were buying BMWs or Saabs and a few of them even bought Sterlings; if they couldn’t afford a BMW or Saab they bought Grand Ams. This tiny, oddly proportioned Cracker box riding on 12 inch wheels was not anything anyone aspired to and not yuppie at all.
They may have been durable, a quality left out of the first Sephias to arrive, but imagine driving this for longer than you absolutely had to. I am having a Broughamance attack.
Yeah, I was baffled by the title of the article. A Festiva wasn’t my idea of a yuppie car.
This is to say that those Yuppies were also the Baby Boomers. Fewer Automobile companies catered to Generation X (my generation) like Toyota with their Project Genesis releases of the new MR2, Echo and newly redesigned Celica. A couple of years later the Scion division was really meant for the people of my Generation especially with their xA and xB releases. I am not sure whether the Chrysler Corporation also catered to Generation Xs as well especially with both the Dodge and Plymouth Neons back on 1994.
I’m amazed by how fast it was: 0-60 in 10 seconds! Google tells me that the 2013 Civic got there in just over 9 seconds.
How the econobox has changed. Back in the late 1980`s through the mid 1990`s your choices were as follows:
Festiva`s with 1.3 liter 4 cylinder and 12 inch tires.
Geo Metro, Chevy Sprint, Pontiac Firefly with 1.0 liter 3 cylinder engine 12 inch tires or it`s twin Suzuki Swift with the 1.3 liter 4 cylinder engine and 13 inch tires..
Subaru Justy 3 cylinder with 4 wheel drive and 12 inch tires.
Hyundai Excel 1.6 liter 4 cylinder and 13 inch tires.
All looked cheap at 1st glance but once you put a few options in them the price grew quickly making you jump up to a more expensive new car or go to the used car lot. Still see the very odd Festiva on the roads, Geo Metro`s and their twins are still regular sightings. Cannot remember last time I saw a Hyundai Excel and have not seen a Subaru Justy since they were new.
And its so hard to get 12 inchers nowadays.
My sister bought a stripper festiva in ’88, what a great car it was.
These are sought after for people who deliver mail/newspapers. Must be the tight turning radius. Maybe its the roominess or the simple mechanicals.
When I worked in the shop in the 90s, one of these came in for a lube. I kid you not that each 12″ tire was inflated to exactly 100psi. The owner must have been after every mpg he could get.
“Must be the tight turning radius. Maybe its the roominess or the simple mechanicals.”
Or all of the above in one package.
I always like these cute little cars. They sure had lots of visibility. They were pretty popular in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) at the time. Here is a couple pics of some neat variants: a Festiva 5-door hatchback from Turkey we did not get, as well as a 4-door sedan.
I had a 90 civic, datsun b210, an 80 tercell, a 90 geo metro xfi and a 90 festiva, which
I called the Bestiva, I loved that car, never let me down and so tough, sold it to buy parts for an old chevy truck. In my mind it was the best car lb for lb I ever had. However my 91 740 Volvo wagon is climbing the ranks knock on wood.
The first (and still only) new car I ever purchased was a 1988 Festiva. Anthracite gray, I think, with a brownish interior. The car had a lot of good qualities. It was the most maneuverable car I’ve ever owned, got phenomenal gas mileage, (over 50 mpg on road trips), and wasn’t as slow as you might think. Fun car to zip around in as long as your definition of “zip” was sufficiently broad.
It was “cheap,” however, in more ways than one. The only time it left me stranded was when the gear shifter assembly fell out of the car – literally. The entire shifter assembly dropped almost to the pavement. It turned out the only thing that held the shifter assembly in place was a piece of cheap white plastic about a half inch square.
I drove the hell out of that car in college until a Christmas tree truck (I’m not kidding – I live and went to school in the NC mountains – it’s a major industry here) pulled out in front of me and stopped – without brake lights. I rear-ended the thing. Trooper cited the truck driver for having no lights, let me off with a warning. I was unharmed but the Festiva was toast.
There are few things as sad as going to a tow yard to get your belongings out of what’s left of a beloved car you cannot afford to fix.
All’s well that end’s well though. I used the insurance settlement to buy a 1976 Datsun 280Z which turned out to be one of the best cars I ever owned.
When I saw this online I just could not resist ; D I think its a Festiva…
Not sure what that is, but it’s not a Festiva, and not anything I can easily identify. (Is that a Volga station wagon in front of it?)
It is funny though!
Appears to be an Oka
The blue car is a Yugo.
I bought a used 1990 Festiva in 2013 with a cracked windshield and 12″ tires for $650. Paint job was a teal, with lots of additional vaguely matching “touch up” paint from spray cans. Ripped out the rear seat, all the AC, the radio and anything else that was extra weight.
I did a tune up and the car – with 175,000 miles on it – got 43-mpg. Today it has 225,000 miles and still gets 43-mpg. Speedy and nimble. The ultimate beater.
I have gotten more questions and comments about this car than any other car I have ever own, which includes Jaguar XKE coupe racer, 427 Corvette coupes, TR GT-6, Tri-power Pontaic GTO amongest others.
The best little car that I have ever own – I love it! Quirks (of which there are several) and all. Fun and a total blast to drive, as well as CHEAP to operate and insure.
Drove one from 175K to 275 K with almost no repairs- new alternator and battery. Extremely reliable, very good strength to weight balance, great on gas. Lived several years on California desert and several cross country drives- never over heated even in 115 heat, and never an untimely breakdown. Carried a spinet piano in the back once- always no back seat for more cargo. Driven a Festiva or Aspire Same motor and drivetrain basically) ever since
I owned a 1990 blue one that was nicknamed “Smurf” – it was a great car that had so much room. It was a car that I wish I could have sunk more money into as it lost AC and kept popping out of gear. Alas, I traded it in in 1997 for my current Ford Escort so I’m not unhappy. I do miss the cheap cost of a set of tires and the go-kart handling characteristics of this thing. Unfortunately the sheet metal was so thin that you could dent it by looking cross-eyed at it.
I’d buy one again in a heartbeat if I could.
I have been living in my 1988 Festiva for over 10 years! #PeaceLoveCar It now has over 515,000 miles on the body! Be sure to check out the website http://www.PeaceLoveCar.com for more info on this amazing car.
Traded in an often-broken 1986 Toyota Camry LE sedan for a 1990 Ford Festiva L 5 speed EFI in the 2000s. I only paid the taxes, the car lot and I basically did an even swap.
I’m sure they made money off the Toyota, but that Festiva was far better to me and I sorely regret getting rid of it (I relocated across country after 9/11).
Only car I ever traded in at a dealer. I hated that Camry and I’m sure the feeling was mutual, despite the money I wasted on it.
One of the 3 and sometimes 4 members of a carpool (c2000-02) I was in had a well-used, very high mileage 1st gen Festiva. The carpool commute was 100 miles round trip from our meet point. A cramped ride indeed. The owner was a frugal attorney. I believe it had something like 250k miles on it and he had purchased it new. He drove at a steady 56 mph on the 55 mph Interstate. As I recall, he mentioned that it kissed 40 mpg.
I always thought that they were overly channeling the Ford Fiesta with these. Right down to the 12-inch wheels and OD 4th gear. I saw a couple of them languishing on dealer lots until they were a year over. Some people got reliable transportation for very cheap.
I’d be curious if any of the Festiva or Aspire models held the top reliability model for Ford, in any year. I know that the Isuzu I-Mark did so for GM USA for at least a year or two. in the 80’s.
Hard to say, maybe some of the other Mazda based Fords were equal or better, like the Tracer or Escort.
I helped fix a cousins Escort once, the brake pads were worn down so badly that they damaged the discs. I asked him what maintenance he did on it and he said he just put gas in it and changed the oil maybe 2 or 3 times. It had over 100,000 miles on it. I was surprised the car could survive that much neglect.
To echo other’s sentiments about the Fiesta/Pride, these things were the Atomic Cockroaches of the Road back in the 80’s-90’s and well into the 00’s. A former co-worker had one for 10-12 (not sure) years. When it was finally taken off the road due to an accident, it had approx. 385,000 miles on it. The car still ran and drove (kind of sideways, actually), but the insurance totalled it, but she wanted something a little bigger anyway.
She ended up with an Escort wagon, which was nowhere near as reliable/durable as the Festiva had been. She eventually dumped the wagon on one of the first Hyundai Elantra GTs (circa 2001) that I’d ever seen. was a really good car for her, but like so many other cars up here in Rust Country™, the tinworm got to it before it ran out of mechanicals.
When I was working in Korea from 1995-2004 these where the Roach of the Korean Road. They were famous even then for their unkillablility. The were called the Pride in Korea and where the first car of many young people. A friend of mine drove the wheels off of one. He got it for free and drive it to all his lessons for like three years. I think he had the oil changed once a year and that was it. He died before the car did.
Good car, but it’s really a Mazda, not a true Ford, good reliability but not as good as the Fiesta. Ford Europe knows how to make great good cars (specially small cars), asian Fords are not so good.
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