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Ford Australia has revealed that it will not import regular variants of the new-generation Fiesta light car, however it will release the high-performance ST flagship in the second quarter of 2019.
The Fiesta's future in Australia has been up in the air since it was announced that the seventh-generation Fiesta would be built in Germany instead of Thailand where the current model is produced, but Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy suggests it was shifting buyer preferences that sealed the Fiesta's fate.
"Australians are obviously head over heels in love with SUVs," said Mr Smy. "We know that 2017 was the first time passenger vehicles were outsold by SUVs, so we see there is opportunity in (small) SUVs, with EcoSport for example, longer term than (light cars), with Fiesta."
Last year, the overall light-car segment dropped 11.3 per cent while the overall small-SUV segment leaped by 6.5 per cent.
This trend can be tracked to the Fiesta's sales, which dropped 43.1 per cent in 2017 to a total 1550 examples sold.
"As you've seen, we've shifted Focus production from Thailand to Germany, so it's not a cost-saving exercise. It's more that the market is looking at different vehicles... there is more opportunity elsewhere, and we need to run an astute business," said Mr Smy.
While it's confirmed the Blue Oval's local arm has no plans to import regular versions of the German-built Fiesta, Mr Smy did not rule out the possibility of a return down the track.
"Fashions and trends and market cycles change, so we wouldn't ever categorically rule out a particular vehicle – it depends on the way the market is going," he said.
"We're fond of Fiesta, we are obviously very fond of the ST, and as the market dictates we'll work to deliver products that Australians want, and in that sense we wouldn't necessarily rule out expanding the range – should that be necessary."
The flagship ST hot hatch will carry the torch for the nameplate for the forseeable future, though Ford Australia has yet to confirm if it will be offered in three- or five-door guise.
"We've decided to keep the Fiesta ST hero because we know how that resonates with people who are into dynamic, fun-to-drive vehicles, and the current Fiesta ST has such a great reputation," added Mr Smy.
Under the bonnet of the latest ST sits a 1.5-litre 'EcoBoost' three-cylinder petrol engine that produces a claimed 149kW of power and 290Nm of torque; a 15kW/50Nm hike over its predecessor.
Efficiency has also been improved, with the German-built light car claiming a fuel consumption figure of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres and carbon dioxide emissions of 114 grams per kilometre. Ford employed a cylinder deactivation system and petrol particulate filter to help achieve these results.
The ST features three driving modes; 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Track', which allow the driver to progressively adjust engine, exhaust, steering and stability control settings on the fly.
Aesthetically, the new ST can be distinguished by its unique bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels, new Recaro sports seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
Exact specifications and pricing for Australia are yet to be revealed, though we don't expect the new ST to stray too far from the current model's $27,490 (before on-road costs) price tag.