1991 Ford Festiva GL 1.3 from North America


I would love to own another one


Went though 4 alternators.

The water pump seal went, and the car lost all its coolant once. But the car also had 288,000 miles on it by then.

The jump wires had rotted away for the charging system, and caused the car to stop running once.

General Comments:

The car was roomy for such a small car.

The car was faster than most people would expect it to be.

Took all of the abuse, and just kept going.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th September, 2009

1991 Ford Festiva L 1.3 from North America


Worthless piece of junk


Transmission broke - 3 times!

CV axle failed.

Windshield washer broken.

Battery died.

Rear brakes stick.

Driver's door doesn't open or close right.

Windows don't open properly.

Exhaust rusted out.

Light switch/turn signal arm messed up.

General Comments:

I bought this $700 piece of junk from a dealer in early 2006. I was told Festivas get 40 mpg and gas prices were going up at the time, so I forked over my hard earned cash and drove off in my very own Ford Festiva.

Within a week I had to spend as much as I paid for the stupid car to replace the muffler, which conveniently rusted out, the transmission, which conveniently seized up 400 miles from home, the battery, which conveniently died on the day I bought the car, and the window mechanism, which conveniently broke.

For the last year it ran OK, and I got the advertised gas mileage, but a lot of little things went wrong - the driver's side door developed issues with the handles, lock mechanism, and window crank, the back brakes started to drag, and the control arms by the steering wheel stopped working properly. It also made strange rattling noises at highway speeds, and the new transmission made a kind of whirring noise at speeds over 35.

Finally the new transmission blew and I replaced it, only to have a CV axle go bad and 4th gear stop working at the same time.

That was the last straw, so I dumped the car on my brother who is now the proud owner of a car worse than the Yugo I drove before.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 6th May, 2007

13th May 2007, 21:23

Wow, you must be very hard on vehicles, or had very bad luck. My Festiva served me for over 150,000 miles, with 100,000 miles put on her before I got it, and I never had to replace anything (except brakes, and routine maintenance). Sorry to hear about your bad luck, I found mine to be the most reliable car I have ever owned.

1991 Ford Festiva L 1.3 from UK and Ireland


Cheap, cheerful and utterly reliable


Fanbelt snapped at c. 90,000 miles, replaced in about 3 minutes.

Slightly erratic electrics due to damp and sand; solved by removing/replacing one of the fuses as necessary.

Rear right-hand wheel bearing uncapped (but still ran fine).

Slightly sticky clutch cable.

General Comments:

This car is very very rare in the UK. Its Kia twin (the Kia Pride) is much more common.

This car was bought by me to complete the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. It was bought largely on the strength of being mechanically simple and, crucially, being a left-hand drive.

Before I bought it, the car had sat in a damp lock-up in Swansea for a few months. After that it sat in the rain on my drive for a few more months. Despite being quite damp and hardly driven, it never, ever, failed to start.

The Festiva has an unremarkable squared-off shape that screams "build a car on a miniature budget". This was evidently unsuitable for a "rally" car so we added a double white racing stripe, a pair of colossal suns, body-length red spikes and a host of stickers. Coupled with a 3-foot CB aerial and enameled white wheels, we were subject to awestruck glances from small boys from Britain to Gambia.

The engine and transmission in these cars are good. The Mazda-sourced 1.3 fuel-injected motor is smooth and responsive. Also the car weighs about 700 kg if you strip it out (as we did) so is really quite nippy.

Being an American car, it has insane seatbelts that attach to rails running the full length of eact door opening. These were particularly useful for impressing African traffic policemen.

We took out the back seats and fitted a bulkhead (made out of an old bathroom door that I found in a skip). Following this "van conversion" the tiny car swallowed an impressive amout of spare tyres, jerrycans, food and general kit.

The glove box is a bit tiny, but the dashboard and interior are pretty well laid out. Considering how little space there is to play with the designers did themselves proud.

Having a 5-speed gearbox was a real bonus on the long motorway hauls; considering the lack of rear interior panelling the car was pretty quiet and used almost no petrol.

The fanbelt supplied with the car looked quite ragged, but because of this made quite a cool whine like a supercharger drive-belt. It chose to snap in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania during a sandstorm, but was only the work of a few minutes to change.

The Festiva handled the Sahara quite well, due to being lightly loaded and having small overhangs. It got stuck a fair bit, however, due to its tiny 12" wheels. They were very narrow and didn't give us much clearance. Wide 15-inchers would have rolled over the sand much more easily and, if I was repeating the event, would be the single (and only) aspect of the car that I would change.

Apart from the little wheels, the only major snag with the car was insuring the thing! It is not a well-known model in the UK and car insurers run a mile as soon as you mention the words "American Import". A few can handle reasonably popular imports like a Ford Mustang, but this little car left dozens of pre-programmed computer work-it-out system utterly flummoxed. Eventually, the good people at Adrian Flux insurance were able to sort me a policy (for a whopping £840/year, which is actually insane). It is really worth making sure that you can insure a car before you buy it!

This car sold in Banjul (Gambia) for over £600 which is more than twice the price I paid for it!

The car is image-free, has very lightweight bodywork and a slightly lame stereo. Other than that you really can't go wrong. Over 4,000 miles of hard driving really proved the Festiva's worth. From the sheer madness or Marrakech's 1-way system to the sands of Mauritania, it never failed to do the job, while being a constant grin-inducer. We were sorry to part with such a marvellous little car in Africa, but know that someone has got themselves a machine that will go on for ever.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th March, 2007