"The Zetec-S is also one of those refreshing cars that feels faster than it actually is..."
Andy Enright gets familiar with the latest addition to our long term test fleet - Ford's Fiesta Zetec S It's easy to get a bit carried away when choosing a long term test car. Yes, I'd love a McLaren MP4 but I doubt too many of our readers would be able to identify with the day-to-day issues I might encounter. At least that's what I console myself with when the press office doesn't return my phone calls. No, what's really needed from this sort of report is a car that you or I might well actually buy and there's no better contender on that score than Britain's best selling car, the Ford Fiesta. That said, telling you something you may not know about a car that many of you know inside out isn't easy. The Fiesta has been such a success because it's always been great to drive, it's keenly priced, the latest models look good and are built well and there's a certain anti-snobbery about a Fiesta. Drive one and you're saying that you know a good car when you see one and you're sort of above trying to impress people with mere badges. And that's pretty cool. So what is 'our' Fiesta? We've resisted the temptation to go for the most expensive, sportiest model we could lay our hands on and have instead gone for one of the most interesting and most fun models in the range. The Fiesta Zetec S trim level offers a sporty vibe without the accompanying big insurance bills and we've got the 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder engine under the bonnet. While a 1.0-litre Fiesta might sound about as exciting as an Antiques Roadshow DVD box set, bear with us here. This one's got some juice. There's a lot to like about this particular engine. When I first got it, I had a suspicion that the tiny 999cc three-cylinder engine would be the car's weak link but it's anything but. There's bags of torque and you end up driving this Ford almost as if it has a diesel engine. There's little to be gained by throwing a bootful of revs at it and it just rows along serenely between 1,700 and 2,200rpm. It's not what you'd call eager, but it's got enough torque to ensure that you're not constantly working the gearbox to make respectable progress. Start it up, and there's a chirrup from the starter motor, but then an almost silent idle. There's none of the warble that you'd expect from a three-cylinder engine.
Of course, you could save up a bit more and go for a diesel and if you were a long distance driver, I'd certainly recommend this course of action. Having said that, it's hard not to love the fact that the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine weighs around 40kg less than an equivalent diesel and you'll notice that when it comes to ride and handling. Put simply, a light engine improves the way the car turns into a corner, it means the brakes have a whole lot less work to do and the suspension can deal with the issue of isolating the car from the road imperfections rather than struggling to contain the weight of a hefty hunk of iron in the nose. This engine is offered in 100 or 125PS power outputs. We've managed to secure the 125PS car, which will scuttle to 62mph in a respectable 9.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 122mph, so it's quickish but nothing that will get an insurer's pants in a bunch. In fact, the Group 15 rating is a whole lot less than you'd pay for some other warmish hatches like the Suzuki Swift Sport which is rated at Group 19. If you're a younger driver, even Group 15 is going to require some thinking about but it might be affordable if you've a couple of years of no claims under your belt. The Zetec-S is also one of those refreshing cars that feels faster than it actually is. I found myself buzzing along a country lane in one, having a whale of a time and then guiltily sneaking a glance at the speedo, only to find I was travelling at a hardly ballistic 45mph. The five-speed gearbox seems a bit quaint in a market where six speeds are increasingly the norm, but it's enough here, the ratios being well-chosen. I soon found myself throwing hugely gratuitous heel-and-toe downshifts in just for the fun of it, something I've missed in my other daily driver, a Golf Mk 7 without a clutch pedal. The only real downside of this engine is its fuel economy. Ford quote a combined economy figure of 65.7mpg but after using half a tank and then refilling, a few quick calculations revealed that I'd managed just 42mpg which is some way off. Even having driven it very sedately I haven't once seen better than 51mpg. Quite how Ford manages to bamboozle the NEDC economy test so effectively is open to question, but don't take those published figures as gospel. Having a family has put safety several notches further up most buyers' priority list with a car of this type, so the Fiesta's 5 star NCAP safety rating was a must for many school runners. There's a whole heap of safety kit here that comes as standard, from ESP stability control to anti lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist. You also get daytime running lights, plus Ford SYNC with emergency assist if you do require help, while 'our' car is also fitted with some safety features as part of the optional Driver Assistance Pack. Active City Stop helps prevent you running into the back of a car in front if you get distracted in crawling traffic, while rear parking sensors are always welcomed in city centre multi-storeys. Other options fitted to this car include the 17-inch alloy wheels, Panther Black metallic paint, a sat nav system with DAB radio, a spare wheel (!), an adjustable level boot floor, keyless entry, as well as automatic headlamps and wipers. There's also something called EATC that was listed as a £275 extra that a bit of determined Googling told me was climate control. Overall then, it's a promising start to our tenure with our long term Fiesta Zetec-S. Other rivals may have the edge in certain areas, but this impressive all-round package's promise on paper is being delivered in reality. That's why the Fiesta still tops the sales charts. Check back here for more updates as the miles clock on. FACTS AT A GLANCE CAR: Ford Fiesta Zetec-S 1.0 Ecoboost PRICE: £15,395 (£18,065 as tested) - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 15 CO2 EMISSIONS: 99g/km PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 9.4s/ Max Speed 122mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 65.7mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Seven airbags / stability control/ ABS & EBD with EBA / Ford SYNC WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: [3dr] Length/Width/Height 3969/1764/1468 mm WHO TO SEE:
Facts at a Glance
FACTS AT A GLANCE CAR: Ford Fiesta Zetec-S 1.0 Ecoboost PRICES: £15,395 (£18,065 as tested) - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 15 CO2 EMISSIONS: 99g/km PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 9.4s/ Max Speed 122mph FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 65.7mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Seven airbags / stability control/ ABS & EBD with EBA / Ford SYNC WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: [3dr] Length/Width/Height 3969/1764/1468 mm WHO TO SEE: