Spied: 2009 Ford Fiesta

Spy photographers have snapped the first photos of the 2009 Ford Fiesta, photographed while taking a break from testing on North American soil. No longer just for fuel-conscious Europeans, this next-generation Fiesta will be sold in the U.S., as confirmed by Ford officials at the previous Geneva Motor Show.

The Fiesta's design follows Ford of Europe's kinetic design language, and this look is expected to be sold virtually unchanged on each side of the Atlantic.

Ford of Europe design chief Martin Smith recently told Motor Trend: "Cars with one design theme will be sold in the other market", meaning that the demarcation between Ford's U.S. and European design language will become more flexible, and will likely disappear altogether.

The next-generation Fiesta will be based on the Mazda2, and the silhouette of this three-door Fiesta prototype looks remarkably similar to the five-door Mazda2. But the styling similarities end there. The Fiesta's styling is more conventionally European, with prominent wheel arches at each corner. The C-pillar kicks ups assertively, adding a little strength to the familiar hatchback shape. The current Fiesta's Focus-inspired pillar-mounted tail-lamps will be replaced with rear lights that run along the car's belt line.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been eager to leverage the Blue Oval's global resources, and the Fiesta's planned entry into the U.S. market is a bold move in that direction. The appearance of a Fiesta prototype on the U.S. testing scene confirms that the globalization plan is more than talk, and is actually coming to fruition. A 1.6-liter gasoline engine is the only engine likely to be offered on the U.S. version, but Europe will certainly have diesel options, which could conceivably come our way if the U.S. market becomes more diesel-friendly.

Ford's ability to turn a profit on a sub-Focus model in the U.S. is still in question, so we would expect the Fiesta to be manufactured in Mexico, or possibly Brazil, and arrive some time in the 2008 calendar year as an '09 model.