If you want to get better, you improve on the shortcomings.

That`s what Ford did in 1989 with the mini Festiva, its high-mileageSouth Korean import that takes up where the Pinto left off in trying to getconsumers out of Japanese small cars.

Ford`s Festiva had a few glaring shortcomings: It was mighty small; itwas terribly underpowered; and it was offered only with a manual transmission,which put it out of reach of about 80 percent of the public that doesn`t like or doesn`t know how to drive a stick.

Ford has managed to remove two of the roadblocks. By adding a fuel-injected version of the 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine, the mini Festiva isfar more sprightly than with the carbureted 1.3.

But for 1989, you can get the fuel-injected engine only with the optional ($515) automatic transmission. For 1990, the fuel-injected 1.3-liter willbe the only engine offered, with manual or automatic.

At least Ford solved the manual-only problem by adding the automatic for1989. The automatic is a bit noisy at initial acceleration, but the fuel-injected four is still a perky little engine teamed with the automatic.

The added pep helps solve the problem of being greatly underpowered, butjust don`t expect too much from Festiva. If thoughts of Indy are in your mind,Festiva will get you as far as the visitors parking lot.

With 4-speed manual, the Festiva is rated at 38 miles per gallon city/40highway; with 5-speed it`s 39/43; and with automatic it`s 30/31.

The one area in which the front-wheel-drive Festiva still comes up shortis size. The mini is built on a 90.2-inch wheelbase and is only 140.5 incheslong. It`s surprising the car is still roomy, front and rear.

Good leg, head and arm room front and rear. However, lower seat backs are stiff and hard to take for long distances. The rear seats fold down to handle more cargo in the hatchback, but they don`t lie flat.

With Festiva, you benefit from a high-mileage, low-cost car that`s easyto maneuver into the tiniest of parking places. The offsetting factor is that semis look like Sears Tower barreling down on you.

We drove the top-of-the-line LX, which comes with power brakes, rear-window defroster, AM/FM stereo with digital clock, tinted glass, tiltsteering, rear-window wiper/washer and locking fuel filler door, to name themajor items on the rather ample list of standard equipment. Air conditioningis a $720 option.

Festiva sales have been rising, demonstrated by the fact that Ford justraised the price by 1.7 percent, or an average of $111. The base Festiva rose to $6,073; the LX we drove costs $7,476.