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The late 80s and early 90s were an interesting time for the automotive industry. Rising gas prices and stricter emission laws made compact cars a commodity and the Japanese automakers like Honda and Toyota were quick to deliver. Ford did the same via a plucky little hatchback called the Festiva. However, it wasn’t all-American.

The Festiva was one of the cheapest cars you can buy in America

 1991 Ford Festiva
1991 Ford Festiva | (Photo By John Prieto/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Ford Festiva was in the automotive market from 1986 to 1993. According to Driving Line, during the Festiva’s seven-year production run, it was one of the cheapest cars that you could buy in America. Back then, you could scoop one of these econoboxes up for less than $4,000 brand new, but as you might expect, it didn’t come with much.

Autopedia reports that the Ford Festiva “fit the bill perfectly for those needing a small, inexpensive no-frills car that achieved 40 mpg.” As such, there were three different trim levels offered: L, L Plus, and LX. The base trim came with a 58-hp, 1.3-liter engine connected to a four-speed manual transmission while the higher trims benefitted from an extra gear.

As years went on, the 1.3-liter engine went from being carbureted to fuel injected, which resulted in a horsepower increase to 63 hp. A three-speed automatic was also offered as an option.

What it lacked in features and safety, it made up for in fuel economy

As you can likely guess, the Ford Festiva wasn’t exactly the safest car on the road. In fact, the car only weighed around 1,700 pounds, which is about half the weight of most compact cars on the road today. In fact, a 2021 Kia Rio hatchback weighs about 1,000 pounds more. But you can’t expect a small hatchback from the early 90s to have much in terms of safety or entertainment features. In cars like the Festiva, you’re lucky to get a cassette player and automatic seatbelts.

But what the Festiva lacked in safety and other features, made up for it in fuel economy. After all, Ford produced the Festiva to rival cars like the Geo Metro and Hyundai Excel and it delivered on that front. shows the 92 Festiva fuel economy ratings as 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway according to the new rating standards. That’s still pretty good, and we actually have more than just Ford to thank for the car.

That’s right, although the Festiva was produced by Ford for the American market, it was also a global platform. As such, it was designed by Mazda – since Ford controlled Mazda at the time – and built by Kia. In fact, the Festiva was even marketed in South Korea as the Kia Pride at the time.

Can you still buy a Festiva now?

1992 Ford Festiva
1992 Ford Festiva | Wikimedia Commons

If for whatever reason, you decide that you want to buy a Ford Festiva now, you still can. However, it could be slim pickings and an expensive one at that. A nationwide search on CarGurus reveals one 1991 Ford Festiva listing in Illinois and that car has over 195,000 miles on it.

How much is it listed for? A cool $5,995, or almost twice as much as it was when it was new. That’s a lot of money to spend on a 30-year-old economy car, but if you’re into nostalgic American/Japanese/Korean cars from the early 90s, then a Festiva could be a great buy for you.


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