Continuing on with the Hooniverse Early Korean Car Weekend, let’s discover a very popular Ford model that wasn’t a Ford at all, the Ford Festiva, and the follow-up model, the Ford Aspire. Remember the Hyundai Excel post I did earlier today about the Voluntary Import Restrictions placed on Japanese car companies? Well, Mazda was under the same restrictions, and could not furnish Ford with a fuel efficient sub-compact, and the European Ford Fiesta was way too expensive for the States, so it turned to its new partner Kia to produce a Fiesta replacement. By the way, did you know that Kia changed their logo to appear similar to the Ford Blue Oval? Let’s discover the Festiva, and the follow-up Aspire, by Kia.
The Ford Festiva was marketed by the Ford Motor Company between 1986 and 2002, and was built by Mazda in Japan and Kia Motors in South Korea. The primary markets for this car was the Americas, Japan, the Australasia region, and in certain European markets. Designed by Mazda using the DA platform and B series inline-four engines, the Festiva continued the trend of Fords built and designed by Mazda for the Asia-Pacific market, that would eventually be sold in North America. In mid-1986 Kia Motors began production of the Festiva under license as the Kia Pride. Starting from mid-1987 for the 1988 model year, Kia began exports to Canada under the Ford Festiva name, with United States sales commencing by the end of 1987.
Ford offered a single 1.3-liter B3 four-cylinder engine and three trim levels. The two base models featured a four-speed manual overdrive transmission, with the LX upgraded to a five-speed unit. A tachometer and tilt steering wheel also featured on the LX trim, as did alloy wheels, remote mirrors, cloth interior seating, and an AM/FM cassette radio. Ford released a minor facelift in North America for the 1990 model year. Over the life of the Festiva in the United States, Kia exported roughly 350,000 units.
The second model Ford Festiva was jointly developed between Kia and Ford, retaining most of the drivetrain of the previous model with a more rounded body style. This new Festiva was slightly longer, wider, more aerodynamic, and suspended by MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion bar axle in the rear. While it was sold in certain markets as a second generation Festiva, Ford renamed it the “Aspire” in North American markets, where the five-door model was offered for the first time. The Aspire was dropped from the US Market for 1997 just after a facelift. In other markets, the Festiva continued until it was replaced by the European designed Ford Ka. The Festiva itself was replaced by the Kia Rio, developed without any input from Ford or Mazda. The relationship between Ford and Kia was terminated due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis when Kia declared bankruptsy, and 51% of the company was acquired by rival Hyundai Motor Company who outbid Ford.
The Ford Festiva was actually a tough and economical little car, and there are plenty of them available for sale throughout Craigslist. Here is a 1989 Festiva L 3-Door Hatchback with a 4-Speed Manual, faded paint, and 124,000 miles on the odometer. There isn’t much else to go by, and the asking price is $1,895, which seems like a lot for the car in its current condition. See the Craigslist listing here.
The Ford Aspire doesn’t seem to garner the interest the Festiva does, even though they are the same under the skin. Here is a 1995 Ford Aspire 5-Door Hatchback, with roughly the same amount of miles as the Festiva above. This one does have a 5-speed stick, and the asking price for this very blue oval is $1,995, which again seems like a ton of money for this particular car. See the listing here.
If you own a Festiva or Aspire, you could have joined these people in a celebration of the Korean Ford. See the listing here. So do you have what it takes to go out and seek out what is the oldest Kia products in North America?