1990 Ford Festiva
1990 Ford Festiva

By Bob McHugh

The under $3,000 used car may not be unusual, but finding one that’s actually worth buying is getting more difficult. That said, if you’re looking for an inexpensive basic, economical car, in this price range, include the Ford Festiva in your search.

One of Ford of Canada’s better ideas back in 1989, Festiva, made by Kia Motors in Korea, became an only-in-Canada Ford badged import, that later made it into the US. In Korea it was known as the Kia Pride and is basically a licensed remake of the Japanese Mazda 131 (not sold in Canada). In any case, the Festiva is a better little car than its convoluted heritage might suggest.

A front-wheel-drive, small two-door hatchback, Festiva can slip in or out of tight parking spaces that would be impossible for many other vehicles. Its tall box-like cab may lack style but it’s a highly functional design. The interior is surprisingly roomy and can seat four tall adults in reasonable comfort.

British Columbia was used as a test market for early versions of Festiva. It came with an imaginative selection of no-extra-cost exterior accent packages. Aimed at youger buyers, they could choose to personalise their new Festiva with some wild looking decals.

Festiva has two trim levels the “L” and the “LX”. The higher priced LX came with a rear wiper/washer, split fold-down rear seats, door pockets and some extra exterior and interior trim.

A small 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine is the one and only power plant in all Festivas. Super economical to run, it sips fuel at a miserly rate of 5.1 L/100 km (55 mpg) on the highway and 6.6 L/100 km (43 mpg) in the city, with the manual transmission.

In ’89, if you ordered it with a four-speed manual transmission the engine had a carburetor. However, the automatic transmission version came with a slightly more powerful fuel injected engine. The fuel injected one is the better choice if you live in a smog control area.

In 1990 all engines came with fuel injection and a five-speed manual transmission replaced the four-speed. A few small design changes were made to the front and back of the car and the interior also got some minor revisions.

Festiva carried on unchanged until the 1992 model year when a sport option was offered for the first time. It doesn’t go any better than the base version but it does have a rear deck lid spoiler and sporty looking cloth seats and door trim.

Small lightweight cars don’t do too well in “real world” impacts with heavier vehicles but in a simulated frontal crash tests into a fixed barrier the Festiva did quite well. And other than a seat belt buckle recall on the Festiva made in ’89, ’90 and ’91, it’s got a clean safety record.

When you consider that you can generally buy a newer, less used Festiva for about the same money as a much older, higher mileage Civic or Tercel, it can be a smart choice for a budget conscious used car buyer. A cleverly designed mini-transporter the Ford Festiva is easy on the pocketbook and does its job supremely well.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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