Here at Driving Spirit we are big fans of the Fiesta ST. No, wait, we’re HUUUGE fans of the Fiesta ST. Think of everything you want from a modern hot hatch and it’s got it.
However, while the ST is very, very good it certainly isn’t for everyone. The stiff ride can be a test of endurance on bad roads, the real-world economy can be a bit scary and the insurance costs will undoubtedly block access to some. So how about a Fiesta that looks as good as the ST, goes fairly quickly but is still friendly on the spine and purse strings? Say hello to the Fiesta Zetec S Red and Black editions.
You only need a quick look to realise that it’s got the physical attributes. Available in red with black roof and trim, or black with red roof and trim, the Red and Black editions both boast a bodykit that’s almost identical to the ST. Beefy bumpers, big spoiler, sill extensions and black 17-inch wheels are all part of the package.
The interior is typical Fiesta, namely great seats and driving position but let down by a fussy centre console and lack of touch-screen. Standard equipment includes manual air-con, Bluetooth media with USB, and Ford’s Quickclear windscreen while options include full climate control and a Sony Nav system with DAB.
International Engine of the Year
I’m saving the best to last because under the bonnet lies the beating 3-cylinder heart of the Zetec S. It’s the award winning 1.0-litre Ecoboost, now celebrating it’s third year as the reigning International Engine of the Year.
In the Red and Black editions it’s been boosted from 125PS to 140PS. Yes, that’s 140PS (or 138bhp) from a 1.0-litre engine, almost the same output as the last-gen Fiesta ST but from a capacity that’s equivalent to three cans of your favourite fizzy soft drink. Or to put it another way, it’s a higher output per litre than a Bugatti Veyron, Audi R8 V10, Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 997 Turbo.
The result is a rapid little thing. OK, the ST would leave it for dead at the lights but the Zetec S is still a nippy runabout and 60mph in under 9 seconds isn’t to be sneezed at. The lightweight steel used in the Fiesta’s construction is partly responsible, giving the Ecoboost less weight to pull around, but it’s also the way in which the engine does its work.
From as little as 1,400rpm there’s 180Nm of torque to play with, rising to 210Nm for short periods on overboost. Keep the throttle nailed and you pass through a strong mid-range and it continues to pull all the way to 6,000rpm. It’s a flexible unit and offers good responses no matter where the rev counter is pointing. The Zetec S comes with a five-speed ‘box, and while some may think that’s one ratio too few it’s actually been given shorter ratios to improve responsiveness.
There’s a huge amount of cutting edge engine technology at work here, all designed to boost power, improve thermal efficiency and minimise friction in the quest for better economy and lower emissions. You’d be surprised at just how hard that little engine works. The turbocharger, for example, spins at up to 248,000 rpm, almost twice as fast as the turbocharger in a 2014 Formula 1 car engine, and at those speeds the fins on the blades can reach an astonishing Mach 1.5. Remember, all of this is happening underneath the bonnet of a humble Fiesta.
The revised chassis settings add to the fun. The Fiesta has long been the default choice if you enjoy driving and the Zetec S benefits from a few subtle changes. It’s lower and stiffer than a standard model, gifting the Fiesta with sharper responses to go with the excellently judged steering. It’s noticeably softer than the ST but that supple ride makes it a very competent cruiser at high speeds.
The Ecoboost also goes about its business in a very quiet manner. It’s incredibly quiet, even at motorway speeds, and under hard acceleration it lets out little more than a muted three-pot burble. It could do with more of a voice to go with the sporty aspirations but the quiet demeanour certainly adds to the Zetec S’s easy-going nature.
The Zetec S has few direct rivals. This combination of performance and economy is only matched by the likes of the £17k Polo GT and £16k Ibiza FR Edition, both of which share the same 1.4 TSI engine that uses cylinder activation to cut fuel use. It’s not really a fair fight though – the Fiesta easily beats them on economy, emissions and driving pleasure.
Fast, Frugal, Fun
The biggest rival for the Zetec S is the ST itself. For a little over £1,000 more you can have the full-fat sporty Fiesta. However, if there’s that nagging doubt in your mind about the fuel bill, the insurance renewal, and resisting the temptation to drive the ST to its full potential … if you have these doubts the Zetec S is an ideal compromise.
Fast, frugal, fun. The ST scores two of these but then so does the Zetec S. You just have to ask yourself which you’d prefer.
Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition Specs
|Performance & Economy||Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition|
|Engine||999cc 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Transmission||5-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||140 / 138|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||210 / 154|
|0 - 62 mph (seconds)||9.0|
|Top Speed (mph)||125|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||104|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||62.8|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1,091|