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Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition review

The Good

  • Fun to drive
  • Frugal
  • Looks the business

The Bad

  • Not the fastest in its class
  • Three-door only limits practicality
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The Ford Fiesta is renowned for being the sharpest-handling supermini and the range-topping Fiesta ST hot hatch variant has won many plaudits for offering a top-notch performance package for less than £20k. But what if the ST is just too stiffly sprung and thirsty for your daily grind?

The new £15,995 Fiesta Zetec S Red and Black Edition could be the sweet spot you’ve been waiting for. With a smooth 138bhp petrol engine and revised handling, it should be a hoot to drive and cheap to run. Meanwhile a two-tone paint job helps set it apart, which is a good thing when you’re buying Britain’s best-selling car. So what’s the catch?

Design

It’s easy to overlook the Fiesta when there are so many on the road. But this neatly designed car is ageing well. The Aston Martin-inspired grille, swept back headlights and door mounted rear view mirrors are all sporting touches that hint at the Fiesta’s sharp chassis.

Our test car was a Red Edition, which means it has Race Red bodywork with a Panther Black roof, door mirrors, grille and wheels. It lends the Fiesta a sense of purpose and looks neat enough to convince your neighbours you haven’t got creative with a tin of black spray paint. 

The Black Edition is Panther Black with a Race Red roof, door mirrors and grille surrounds. Ford wisely stopped short at painting the wheels red so they are black, too. It’s arguably a more daring look, but the red roof looks slightly incongruous to our eyes. 

Both cars get black sports seats with red side bolsters and red stitching, which is carried over on the leather steering wheel, gear gaiter and floor mats. It looks smart and the driving position is excellent, but this is probably the area where the Fiesta is most feeling its age. The weedy trip computer between the gauges looks dated, while the dashboard has more buttons than a Nokia 3310. The latest Volkswagen Polo is nicer inside.

Practicality

The Red Edition is only available as a three-door, which could be an issue if you have kids or take older generations out and about. The rear space is fine for shorter trips though, even if you probably wouldn’t choose a sporty Fiesta if you were expecting to carry backseat passengers more than occasionally. 

There’s plenty of space in the supportive front seats and a large windscreen gives a great view of the road. Its 290-litre boot is a good size – 10 litres larger than the Polo and a 79 litres bigger than the MINI Hatch. But there’s quite a high boot lip to lift heavier luggage over and the rear seats don’t fold flat.

Performance and handling

This special edition Fiesta uses Ford’s award-winning three-cylinder, turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine tuned to 138bhp. It’s an incredible achievement and the most-powerful 1.0-litre ever fitted in a production road car, with more power-per-litre than a Bugatti Veryron or Ferrari 458 Speciale

We feared such a set-up might make this Fiesta the automotive equivalent of a firework, with nothing, nothing and bang, you’re off as the turbo kicks in. In reality, the engine is happy at low revs and pulls in fifth gear happily as you accelerate from town speeds to the national limit. Officially this Fiesta will hit 62mph in 9.0 seconds, but it felt quicker to us, perhaps because of its zesty nature and likeable three-cylinder exhaust note. Still, it’s a little off the pace of the MINI Cooper (0-62mph in 7.9 seconds) and SEAT Ibiza 1.4-litre TSI ACT (7.8 seconds). 

But then a car like this isn’t really about straight line speed. Along a twisting, bucking British B-road the Red Edition is in its element. The suspension is 10mm lower than the standard Fiesta, slightly stiffer and has a beefed-up rear torsion beam axle. The steering, meanwhile has been given a weightier heft and 17-inch alloy wheels with fairly low-profile tyres are standard. 

It all adds up to a driving experience best described as ‘taut’, without being raw like the ST. The Red Edition dances along a challenging road, always telling you what’s happening through its gritty steering and cornering with confidence. With a 1.0-litre under the bonnet instead of the 1.6-litre in the old Zetec S, there’s less weight over the nose and an even greater keenness to dive into bends.

Economy and environment

It is arguably here the EcoBoost motor scores most highly, with official figures of 62.8mpg and 104g/km of CO2 costing just £20 annually in tax, helped by stop and start as standard to cut the engine in traffic. The Ibiza is impressive, too, with 60.1mpg and 109g/km – identical figures to the MINI Cooper. 

We saw around 45mpg on the trip computer over the test route, even though we weren’t driving at all economically. The ST model returns 47.9mpg, emits 138g/km of CO2 (£130 each year to tax) while costing at least £1,255 more, so the EcoBoost is noticeably friendlier on the bank account.

Equipment and value

As you’d expect from a special edition, standard equipment is more generous than usual, with a Quickclear heated windscreen, Ford SYNC, front fog lights, alarm, trip computer and air-con out of the box. That’s without mentioning the styling additions and bespoke paint job. Options fitted to our test car included cruise control (£150), DAB radio (£100), climate control (£275) and auto headlights and wipers (£150), bringing the total cost up to £16,670.

While functional, the SYNC infotainment system is unlikely to excite tech geeks, especially when compared with the touch-screen system found in the Polo and the MINI with its ‘Connected’ apps. With the new Ford Focus getting a touchscreen, we suspect the next Fiesta will, too.

Safety

The Fiesta is one of the safest cars in its class, thanks to a top five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. An impressive 91 per cent for adult occupant protection is backed up with standard anti-skid electronics and a full complement of airbags.

Verdict

It would have been easy for the Fiesta Red and Black Edition to fall foul of soulless marketing, with some tasteless graphics stuck on the side and the same power as standard. Luckily for us Ford has given us a neatly executed special edition with a really memorable engine, backed up by the fantastic handling the Fiesta is already well known for.

An equivalent Ibiza is quicker, but the handling feel of the Fiesta is on a different level. It’s a trickier choice between the Fiesta and MINI, which has a smarter interior, so it’s likely to come down to your individual priorities. If you are considering a Fiesta ST, but worry it’s too hardcore or expensive to run for your budget, the Red Edition might just surprise you.

Specification

Engine1.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Power138bhp
Torque154ft/lb (210Nm)
Acceleration0 to 62mph in 9.0 seconds
Emissions104g/km of CO2
Economy62.8mpg combined
PriceFrom £15,995

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