I come from a background of people heavily into cars, so I was brought up to believe that your car, is in a way an extension of your personality. Which is why I hate telling people I own a Festiva.
This particular Festiva, not to be confused with the much better Fiesta, is a 1994 model with a 1.3 litre engine shared with the Mazda 121, making only 63hp (47 kW) from the factory. The second gen of Festiva was jointly designed by Ford and Kia and was also marketed in some countries as a Ford Aspire, or a Kia Avella. In 1994, the Festiva came in either the 2 door Trio, or the 4 door GLX models, both of which were available with a 5 speed manual or a 3 speed automatic in Australia.
Inside, you will find the interior to be a mixture of grey plastic, and cloth that looks like it was stolen off of a bus seat somewhere. It is a very boring car to look at from the inside. The base model Festiva comes with no extras, some say there are models of Festiva that came with air conditioning, which adds to the myth that there was actually more than a base model for this car. Music is provided by a 6 channel radio/cassette deck with speakers in all four corners. The Festiva does have a rather good heater, warming up the entire car very quickly, due to its size.
On the instrument panel, we are met with the standard speedo, tacho, temp and fuel gauges.
The steel wheels are covered by cheap plastic hubcaps found on the base model. The large windows and the egg shaped body of the Festiva give it an almost cartoon appearance, as if it was drawn by the animator for some chicken based superhero children’s program.
Thankfully, this car is a manual, since going up hills with this car in an automatic Festiva would be nothing short of torture. What the Festiva lacks in style, it certainly does not make up for it with power. This thing is absolutely gutless. It struggles to keep up in traffic, and on the freeway, it is not uncommon for Festivas to be passed by semi-trucks.
Brakes on this car consist of a torsion rear axle with drum brakes, and disc brakes up front, without any sort of ABS that the Kia Avella was sold with. Unfortunately, the Kia Avella was never available in Australia, despite it being a much better and safer car.
When it comes to safety measures on a Festiva, you have seatbelts, and, well, not much else. None of the models in Australia came with airbags, and in 2010, the Festiva was given a 1 out of 5 star rating by Monash University’s Used Car Safety Ratings.
Cargo and passenger space is also a problem, anything larger than a primary school child will not fit in the back seat, and you do not have a lot of space in the boot to fit your weekly grocery run. However, the seats of a Festiva, are quite comfortable, you could easily sit in them for an hour or two in traffic, and not have your butt go to sleep.
But Festivas are insanely cheap. A quick search on Gumtree will find low km Festivas for less than $1000, and its tiny motor does not use up much fuel. $20-$30 will quite easily get you 400km, even when fuel is beginning to touch $1.50 a litre, if you don’t drive it like a complete maniac. Maintenance is also relatively cheap and easy, if you are handy with tools, you can even do most of the work yourself if you buy a Haynes manual, or just search a how to on YouTube.
A Festiva is not so much a car, as it is more of a car shaped appliance. You see them almost every day on the road, but you take no notice of them, they blend in and may as well be invisible.
So if you are a parent looking to buy your child their first car, perhaps consider a Festiva. The lack of power should stop them getting into too much trouble when they eventually take it out for a spin on their own, and the cheap cost of running this tiny car will be a gentle introduction into the world of adulthood. And if they do get into trouble, and wreck it, at least it didn’t cost you too much.