Ford Fiesta Zetec-S Red and Black Editions review

The Ford Fiesta Zetec-S Red and Black Editions pack a 140PS punch from their tiny 1.0-litre engines. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

Ford's Fiesta has been a hit when fitted with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder engine and these Zetec-S Black and Red Editions are the most extreme versions yet, with 140PS from the tiny three-pot. They look racy, will hit 62mph in nine seconds and start at less than £15,000.

Background

About forty years ago, Ford built a 5.0-litre V8 version of the Mustang. Developing 140PS, it was tested by Road and Track magazine and recorded a speed to 60mph of 10.5 seconds, eventually running out of ideas at 106mph. The 'metric Mustang' as it was called, ditched the old cubic inch capacity labelling and switched to litres. These days Ford can do amazing things with a litre. The Fiesta Zetec-S Black and Red Editions use 1.0 litres of cubic capacity to amazing effect, matching the 5.0-litre Mustang's power output, easily bettering its performance and handling and offering fuel economy that Ford engineers would once have thought pure fantasy. We've come a long way in little over a generation.

Driving Experience

You might well have seen the 80, 100 and 125PS versions of the Ecoboost 1.0-litre engines before, but Ford's engineers have tweaked the powerplant to offer up a few more ponies. Not only does the 140PS output make these Fiestas the most powerful 1.0-litre volume production cars ever but you also get more power per litre than in a Bugatti Veyron or a Lamborghini Aventador. This results in some fairly crisp acceleration figures, the lightweight powerplant helping the Fiesta to 62mph in just 9 seconds and topping out at 125mph. In fact, this engine delivers more than twice the specific output per litre than its predecessor - the 1.6-litre 100PS engine that powered the Fiesta S just 10 years ago. Like all the Ecoboost engines, this one uses turbocharger to plump up the midrange torque, and the three-cylinder powerplant features twin-independent Variable Cam Timing and high-pressure direct-injection technologies. The Red and Black Editions also get revised gear ratios for the five-speed manual transmission and a more focused suspension set-up. In addition to new shock absorber and spring settings, the sport suspension uses a stiffer rear axle and revised tuning for the Electronic Power Assisted Steering system to deliver more detailed feedback through the wheel.

Design and Build

As the name suggests, the Zetec-S Red and Black Edition versions of the Fiesta come in very specific colour schemes. These two-tone models are available in Race Red, complemented by Panther Black roof and detailing; or Panther Black, with Race Red roof and detailing. The three-door models feature front upper and lower grille surrounds, front bumper aerofoil and mirror caps in contrasting colours, with standard black 17-inch alloy wheels. The body kit offers front and rear sports bumpers, side skirts and rear roof spoiler; and the contrasting colour roof on both models has been painted to achieve a consistent and higher quality gloss finish than can be achieved using a foil applique or sticker. Inside, you'll find a black leather sports steering wheel and gear lever gaiter with red stitching, black floor mats with red stitching and charcoal black sport seats with contrasting red stitching and bolster exteriors. The rising beltline of the Fiesta in profile doesn't seem to bode well for the rear seat passengers in the three-door car but there's surprisingly decent legroom and headroom that's manageable even for a six-footer.

Market and Model

Prices start at around £16,000, which might seem quite a lot for a Fiesta with a 1.0-litre powerplant but this unit develops the same power output as the engine you'd get in a similarly-priced SEAT Ibiza 1.4 TSI and Ford has levered in quite a bit of kit as well. As well as the tuned suspension, revised steering, body styling parts and alloy wheels, you get equipment like stability control, anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, a Quickclear windscreen, a trip computer, a CD player with controls on the steering wheel, central locking and electric heated mirrors. The EasyFuel cap-less refuelling system is also very slick. Obvious rivals include the SEAT and Suzuki's Swift Sport, which develops 136PS and is just over a grand cheaper. Perhaps the biggest threat to this car is the fact that Ford's brilliant Fiesta ST - all 182PS of it - starts at just £17,250.

Cost of Ownership

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, it's worth bearing in mind that these tiny, high output engines never make anything like the promised fuel economy. Ford quotes a figure of 62.8mpg on the combined cycle, but should you average over 40mpg, you'll be doing fairly well. Emissions are rated at just 104g/km, which is a brilliant figure for what is ostensibly a performance hatch. For all the carping about fuel economy, getting better than 40mpg from such a quick and capable petrol-engined car isn't all that bad. Residual values will reflect the fact that the Fiesta is a brilliant driver's car and one that needn't be expensive to fuel, tax or insure.

Summary

The 140PS 1.0-litre engine that powers these Ford Fiesta Black and Red editions is quite the feat of engineering, spawning a whole host of amazing figures. The thing is, we buy performance hatches not for arcane stats but because of the way they drive. Fortunately, Ford has that covered off too. One of the benefits of the three-cylinder Ecoboost engine is that it's light and small, so it's mounted low in the car and your steering wheel is consequently turning a lot of fresh air rather than a hefty lump of iron under the bonnet. Yes, you're limited on colour and the black car with the red contrasts is only going to suit the more extrovert buyers but it's hard to think of anything more fun for fifteen grand.