We reached a conclusion to the first Ford Festiva (or Kia Pride, Mazda 121, SAIPA, etc.) in our last installment, which saw the little hatchback finalize its Ford duties in 1993 and its Kia responsibilities in 2000. And while it continues life today as a Wallyscar in Tunisia, our coverage here moves on to Ford’s not-so-anticipated follow-up entry to Festiva, another Festiva! It’s an Aspire to you.
Today’s topic is an automaker you’ve likely never heard of. It’s a small company that was founded not that long ago, offers vehicles in very limited markets, and produces around 600 vehicles per year. Its product is based upon old ideas from other manufacturers, all done up in fiberglass until very recently. Let’s enter the wonderful world of Wallyscar.
We return to the Ford Festiva once again today, as the subcompact Mazda-designed hatchback stormed North American shores. It did so wearing a Ford badge and a South Korean VIN, courtesy of a Kia factory. But North America wasn’t the only place it landed.
As we learned last time, the Festiva was built in several different countries and assumed many identities over an extensive history. The Festiva still has not reached the end of its life, but we’ll cover that in a separate article. We pick up today in North America, circa 1987.
We return to our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the Ford Festiva today. An important world vehicle for the likes of Ford, Mazda, Kia (and eventually many others), the Festiva arrived at a time when rear-drive subcompacts were being replaced by much more efficient models that were front-drive. And the Mazda-designed Festiva was certainly more efficient and more front-drive than the Fiesta it replaced.
We embark on the important and global tale of a subcompact hatchback today. Your author referenced it last week in Part I of our Kia large cars series, and now it’s time for the promised comprehensive Rare Rides coverage! Manufactured in various places around the world, our subject vehicle lived a long life and had no fewer than 10 identities over its impressive 17-year span. We’re going to party, karamu, Festiva, forever.
In 1991, customers had a couple of hatchback options from the Blue Oval in the United States, in either the compact or subcompact segments. At the bottom of the barrel (in all ways) was the Mazda-designed Festiva, and positioned above it was the Mazda-based Escort.
Across the pond, Europeans received a Ford which was actually a Ford — the Fiesta.
It’s like Woodstock, but for fans of 1990s econoboxes that make double-digit horsepower.
This weekend, the eighth annual “Westiva” gathering will take place in the rugged foothills of Kananaskis Country, Alberta, drawing proud Ford Festiva enthusiasts from far and wide. Heads up, Montana — if you’re a resident with a passion for slow acceleration and spartan interiors, there’s a group of friends waiting north of the border.
The Ford Festiva aka Kia Pride aka Mazda 121 spent much of the last decade being a fairly common sight in American self-serve wrecking yards, but lately I’ve been seeing many fewer examples of this little gas-sipper. You can buy this car new in Iran, where it is badged as the Saipa 132, and some outlaw factory is probably still building the things in China. We’ve seen this ’90 Festiva in this series, and now I’ve found a decal-enhanced example of the final model year of the US-market Festiva (the next generation Pride was called the Aspire in the United States) in a Denver yard.
By 1990, it just wasn’t done for Detroit to build its own really small subcompacts. Instead, badge-engineered cars designed and/or built by overseas subsidiaries or partners got the job done. GM had the Suzuki-based Metro, Chrysler still had the Simca-based Omnirizon, and Ford had the Mazda-based Festiva. You still see the occasional Festiva on the street, what with gas prices being what they are, but most of them were crushed long ago. Here’s one in Denver, sitting in the limbo between the street and The Crusher.
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