The Festiva was a three-door hatchback launched in 1986 by Ford. It was designed by its then subsidiary Mazda in Japan, and manufactured by both Mazda and South Korean partner Kia. When in the early Nineties, it was time to build a replacement, Ford entrusted the entire production to Kia, mostly because of the lower production costs at the Gwangmyeong plant. But when the car came out in 1994, the cost-cutting attempts were all too evident in everything from its ungainly egg-shaped styling and basic features to the lacklustre engine and transmission.
What was even more ludicrous was that Ford decided to call this car, which had nothing outstanding or aspirational about it, the Aspire. Powered by an anaemic 63-horsepower, 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine, the Aspire came with a choice of two transmissions, a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. The car’s acceleration was pitiable, with the 0-100kph run taking more than 16 seconds, and the engine was annoyingly raucous.
At a time when most manufacturers began cramming their cars with new features, the Aspire, which in its four-door base trim, offered the most basic of amenities. There was a higher SE trim available in the two-door variant offering a few other features as options, but the model was dropped the very next year due to low demand. The overall ownership experience was so disappointing that the car’s name seemed, although inadvertently, apt — it did well in prompting its owners to aspire for something better!
Sales were so slow that Ford discontinued the model in 1997, barely four years from its debut.