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Ford has celebrated the 35th birthday of the Ford Fiesta with a sales milestone. The Fiesta reached 15 million global units last month, putting it just outside the top 10 most popular automobiles of all time.

The Ford Fiesta was the best selling small car in Europe in 2009 and 2010 and is on track to make it a hat trick in 2011.

The first Fiesta vehicles were manufactured in Valencia, Spain in 1976 as a reaction to the fuel crisis that gripped the world. The economical and practical front-wheel drive small car quickly caught on in Europe, and the one-millionth Fiesta model was produced in January 1979.

To this day, the Fiesta continues to be built in Valencia, as well as in Cologne, Germany (the major Fiesta production site); Nanjing, China; Rayong, Thailand (the source of Australian Fiestas); and Cuautitlan, Mexico. Throughout its life, the Fiesta has also been assembled in the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela and India.

Henry Ford II approved the original Fiesta for development in 1972 under the project name ‘Bobcat’. A number of names were floated for the new compact car, including Amigo, Bambi, Bebe, Bravo, Bolero, Cherie, Tempo, Chico, Forito, Metro, Pony and Sierra. The board of the day voted for Bravo, but Ford II personally overruled them in favour of Fiesta.

The 1976 Ford Fiesta Mk1 was launched as a three-door hatchback. Its smallest engine was a 957cc four-cylinder petrol unit with just 30kW of power. It had a top speed of 137km/h and took 17.6 seconds to accelerate from 0-100km/h. It was sold in the UK from £1856.

The current Ford Fiesta Mk6 has come a long way. It is more than 50cm longer than the original car, and is also 155mm wider and 113mm taller.

A range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines sit under the bonnet, depending on the market. In Australia, the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic is the most fuel efficient vehicle with an internal combustion engine on the market, with a combined cycle rating of 3.7 litres/100km.

The performance-oriented Ford Fiesta ST variant is expected to be unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The hot ST model will become the most powerful production vehicle to ever wear the Fiesta badge, drawing its power from a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged EcoBoost petrol engine.

The Fiesta has been a success story for Ford Australia so far this year. From January to June, it was the company’s third highest selling model (6398 units) behind the Falcon and the Ranger, ahead of the locally manufactured Territory and the Focus small car.

Its share of the light segment increased to 9.5 per cent, placing it fourth in its category behind the Hyundai Getz, Mazda2 and the Toyota Yaris.

The Fiesta shares its birthday with the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which as we know is celebrating with the special Golf GTI Edition 35 model.

Do you have any memories to share about the Ford Fiesta? Feel free to reminisce in the comments section below.

Read more Ford Fiesta news and reviews.

  • delux

    “Do you have any memories to share about the Ford Fiesta? Feel free to reminisce in the comments section below.”

    I remember way back in 2009 when I first saw the WS Fiesta, and thought “what a beauty”. That was back in the day when petrol was really expensive and the US was going under.

    • Matt Man

      Ahhh, back in the day when we burnt fossil fuels to get around…. good times.

  • filippo

    I remember renting Fiestas in the UK 10 years ago and thinking it was crazy that such a great handling car was not available in Australia at the time. This was the model shown with the British P557 number plate, that was also rebadged as a Mazda 121 in Europe.

  • Steve

    I wonder if the Festiva will be notching up any milestones soon…

  • RSI

    Memories of a Fiesta? Well, the fiancee and I used to have an ’09 Zetec as our daily driver (sold it a couple of months ago for a Focus XR5), and… to be honest, what I felt was a little bit of sadness every time I drove it – because here was a truly all-round brilliant little car, and I was convinced that the vast majority of its drivers would never fully appreciate how well sorted it was. A great car, and still miss it sometimes.

  • Toyota Guru

    CA says: “Do you have any memories to share about the Ford Fiesta? Feel free to reminisce in the comments section below.”

    Lolwut?!? CA, there’s not much to reminisce about, considering we’ve only had the Fiesta in the Australian market for the last 7 years.

    • macca

      Lots of British Ex Pats in Australia who likely have memories from home about the Fiesta

  • Golfschwein

    That Mk1 is a dainty little thing and still looks perfect today. I remember picking up a WHEELS magazine in my early teens wondering if Ford would ever get around the import quotas we had then.

    They couldn’t, but it’s nice to see the current one finally doing well in Australia.

  • Tommy

    Wow the first gen looks great. How fugly it is now.

    • Nick

      You have horrible taste.

      Stop letting nostalgia cloud your judgment.