America's Big Three is looking a little queasy. GM and Chrysler are trying to reach some agreement over a future shared and Ford's balance sheet is not exactly glowing either.
It is into these conditions, with manufacturers across the globe announcing revised earnings targets and production cuts, that Ford is launching its little global car.
Indeed, Fiesta will even be sold in the traditionally small car phobic US. Everything changes, it seems, even the attitudes of those in the world's biggest market.
The previous Fiesta was the package. Great body; in fact, it still looks good after five years or so on the market, an inspiring performer that responded well to direction, and a range of lively engines.
"Out with the old and in with the new" they say, but what do you do when the old, in this case the outgoing Ford Fiesta, is so good?
You sob into your tissue, of course.
But when images of the Verve concept were first shown ahead of last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, the murmurings were that while it was blazing hot Ford could never build something as bold as that.
It's just more than a year later and South Africa is the first market outside of Europe where the new-generation Fiesta, which sprouted from that very concept, is being introduced. And early reports have already hyped this car to within an inch of deity status…
Yet another Ford of Europe creation, styling played a huge role in conceptualising the Blue Oval's direction for its next mini hatchback. Ford's "kinetic design" philosophy first seen in the Iosis concept (which went on to become the Mondeo sedan) is very evident, too.
Yet despite the Verve concept's brazen edginess, in production form Fiesta has remained very true to the study.
Styling is bold and sexy and a huge trapezoidal grille dominates the front end. Shoulder lines are strapping and short overhangs lend athleticism to the car.
Sharp - both inside and out
Verve's edgy chromed trapezoidal grille has been banished in favour of a muted black finish, while its killer 20-inch wheels have given way to more sobering 15- or 16-inch tyre sizes, depending on the derivative.
Even Fiesta's interior architecture, with a cell phone-inspired central hangdown section, has been left mostly unaltered from that first seen in the concept.
But perhaps bigger than new Fiesta's captivating appearance is its ability to charm its driver.
Although steering has moved from a hydraulic to electric power steering setup, it remains one of the car's strong points. An absolute breeze at pedestrian speeds where it responds to the delicate touch, the steering is equally good through quicker sweeps when it firms up appreciatively.
Meanwhile, a body that is 40 kg lighter than before but also 10% stiffer and lower by a good few centimetres translates to a car that seems to relish enthusiastic driving.
Fiesta's diminutive dimensions make it feel very nimble at all speeds, but space within the cabin is commendable and its impeccable road manners could easily have you believing you're zooming about in a much larger car.
Ride comfort for occupants both at the front and rear is good and could easily be compared with that of the Mazda2, which incidentally shares much of its mechanicals with its American cousin.
Ensuring the safety of occupants is a shell constructed from 55% high-strength steel, while dual-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger and ABS with EBD take care of the rest.
Three four-cylinder engines are offered - a 60-kW 1.6-litre common-rail turbodiesel and 71-kW 1.4- and 88-km 1.6-litre petrol motors - and all are mated with a five-speed manual gearbox.
It can't be said that any of the powerplants are slouches, but the smaller petrol engine was a blast along the launch route that saw us flitting in and around Cape Town. However, the diesel's noise- and rattle-free performance was a revelation, too. The 88-kW 1.6-litre petrol is an all-new engine.
Three specification levels are offered on a mix of three- and five-door body styles, although the turbodiesel is only available in the base Ambiente trim as a more versatile five-door model.
Equipment levels across the range is good with Ambiente models coming standard with a six-speaker radio/CD, air conditioning, power front window, power steering, satellite audio controls, and a headlamp delay feature.
Useful features across the range include an anti-stall function on all engines and Ford's innovative capless fuel system.
In South Africa, prices include a four-year/120 000 km "bumper to bumper" warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan. Service intervals are at 20 000 km for the petrol models and 15 000 km for the lone diesel.
Although Fiesta has a clear female bias, at least on paper, if Ford's marketing gurus are to be believed, its fun and performance factor should see male drivers falling for the little car's charms, too.
Ford doesn’t think they'll need too much convincing either The company has, since Fiesta was first introduced here in since 1997, sold 62 000 of the total 12 million over the 32 years. One thousand units are expected to be sold locally by the end of this year.
1.4 5dr Ambiente - R 136 990
1.6 5dr Ambiente - R 145 990
1.6 TDCi 5dr Ambiente - R 166 990
1.4 5dr Trend - R 148 990
1.6 5dr Trend - R 157 990
1.4 3dr Titanium - R 158 990
1.6 3dr Titanium - R 165 990
1.6 5dr Titanium - R 168 990