First Drive: Ford Fiesta Red/Black Edition

It’s got more power per litre than a Bugatti Veyron, which sounds astonishing for a car as diminutive as the Ford Fiesta.

There is only one-litre of engine though, so maximum power is limited to 138bhp. Still, that’s enough to outgun the outgoing 1.6-litre Zetec S model.

Ford has dropped the uprated Ecoboost engine in to the Red Edition and Black Edition, explaining the interesting colour scheme in the photos, and doing enough to attract attention from its ST big brother.

The ST tends to steal the limelight, such is its more focussed nature, but the Zetec S always had a softer edge, making it a more appealing every day proposition. Thankfully not much has changed in the switch to the three-cylinder engine.

That means the suspension sits 10mm lower than in the standard car with springs that are a touch stiffer than normal, while an uprated rear torsion beam keeps things in check at the back. The steering is heavier, with less power assistance than normal, although this doesn’t improve the amount of fell you get. That’s not to say it’s bad, just heavier than normal.

Despite the extra effort needed, the car is actually around 35kg lighter than the Zetec S, which makes cornering a more enjoyable affair. There’s a great front end that turns in with vigour, but it’s all so adjustable mid-corner when driving… enthusiastically.

The power delivery is surprisingly smooth too, despite losing a cylinder. There’s a bit of a dead spot low down in the revs while you wait for the turbo to spool up, but once it’s spinning it’s very easy to keep the engine revving where there’s always power.

As you move through the gears you suddenly become aware that there are only five of them. Ford is adamant that the car is efficient enough not to warrant a sixth, but five ‘fun’ gears and one left for an economical motorway cruise wouldn’t go amiss.

The economy is a sore point though. While the headline figures shout about 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of just 104g/km, the reality is quite different. On a blast around the Sussex countryside, the on board computer refused to climb beyond 40mpg, even when relaxing on the A27.

That’s because the car needs working hard to get the best out of it, with higher revs required to access the 138bhp available. Drive more steadily and you drop out of that power band, leaving the car feeling a little sluggish.

Show it a clear country road though, and it comes in to its own. The Suzuki Swift Sport might leave it behind, but you’ll be smiling just as much in the Fiesta. An excellent driving position and well spaced pedals help you focus on the task in hand too, while standard air-conditioning, Bluetooth and Ford’s Sync infotainment system will keep you cool and entertained.

Less entertaining are the controls for the infotainment system. Setting the sat-nav on the test model required two people and a lay-by, and even then it was a struggle.

But this isn’t a car to sit and fiddle with. It’s a car to drive, and it’s exceptionally good at being driven. There’s just one fly in the ointment, and that’s the price. At £16,000 it’s just £1,200 less than the almost iconic Fiesta ST, and £2,000 more than the Suzuki Swift Sport.

It’ll be a brave person that pays the full asking price, considering the competition, but whatever you end up handing over to your local Ford dealer, you’ll be leaving with a smile on your face.

Model Tested: Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition
Price: £15,995
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo petrol
Top speed: 125 mph
0-62 mph: 9.0 seconds
Power: 140 PS (138 bhp)
Torque: 210 Nm (155 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 62.8 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 104 g/km
Car tax band: B / £20 per year
Insurance group: 18E
Kerb weight: 1,091 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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