Ford Verve? Isn’t that the Fiesta replacement?
It certainly is, although by the time it goes on sale in November 2008 it’ll probably be called Fiesta again. Whatever the name, the new car will have a radical new look that’s previewed by this concept model. Ford consulted female buyers and they wanted something that would stand out a bit more on the high street. Compared with the current Fiesta, which - let’s face it - is a bit dull to look at, the new model will sport a sharp new shape. It’s very much the current Ford look applied to a small car, particularly those Focus-style wheelarches. And the sculpted sides give it a lithe, powerful appearance.
Doesn’t sound that girly…
It’s not. Although they consulted the fairer sex over it, the car they’ve come up with is actually pretty androgynous. It won’t turn blokes off and the looks aren’t so butch they’ll dissuade women from driving it. That said, no red-blooded male will put up with the shocking pink interior armrests and seatbelts. And the pink stitching on the seats isn’t exactly macho. But they’re just details. The important thing is that the Verve is stylish, slinky and not in the slightest bit offensive.
What’s the Verve like on the road?
Most importantly, considering Ford wants to make an impact with this car, it looks great when it’s on the move. The detailing on the side panels is far more sophisticated than the current Fiesta, and the way the car pinches in behind the front wheels and then kicks out as it moves rearwards enhances that dynamism. Behind the wheel, although this is only a concept car it feels very sorted. The steering is surprisingly responsive and the car manoeuvres nimbly with the sort of agility you’d expect from a Ford. No surprise, really, considering it uses the same underpinnings as the excellent new Mazda 2.
What engines will the Fiesta use?
Push the ‘Ford Power’ button on the dash and the Verve's 1.2-litre engine comes to life with a rorty throb. It actually sounds a lot bigger because silencing it hasn’t been high on the agenda for Ford’s engineers. As with the current model, the next Fiesta is likely to have a huge array of engines. The body shape has therefore been designed to look as good in bog-standard spec on steel wheels as it does here on the Verve's 18-inch alloys with sporty additions like the rear spoiler. Think of this as the top-spec ST version.
Back to the inside, apart from the pink bits, what’s the rest like?
Very smart. Ford wanted to create a premium car feel and it's certainly been successful in doing that. The dash is stylish but easy on the eye. We like the twin binnacles for the rev counter and speedo. And having touch-sensitive, tastefully backlit buttons for the sound system at steering wheel height works well too. Aside from less lurid colours, we’re told the shapes on the dash are pretty much the same as you’ll see on the finished model.
What other changes can we expect before production?
If (like us) you think the lower intake at the front is too big and Peugeot-esque, don’t worry. By the time the car is in showrooms it will have shrunk and they’ll make the traditional grille bigger. The roofline will also be slightly higher and less coupe-like in order to ensure there’s sufficient headroom. And it’ll have a more traditional B-pillar to ensure it passes stringent side impact tests. Other than that, we’re told when the new Fiesta is shown in production form at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2008 it’ll be pretty much like this.
The Verve is a great-looking car and bodes well for the future of the Fiesta. It moves Ford’s supermini up a gear in the looks department and proves that just because a car is cheap, practical and aimed at the mainstream it doesn’t have to look boring. It also shows that the step up to high quality interiors will continue in the Blue Oval’s next small car. Even in concept form, this model drives well; once the chassis has been properly developed for production, Ford should be onto another winner.