A couple of weeks ago I managed to borrow a brand new Ford Fiesta Zetec S for a short work trip (approximately 20 miles). As someone that drives a proper small car – 90s Nissan Micra – and usually borrows brand new Land Rovers for work, I was rather sceptical of Ford’s latest offering. This feeling of unsatisfaction was hightened by the fact that the chap that gave me the keys said “it’s the grey one”. Grey? Not the most exciting colour, I thought – he must’ve meant a nice sexy dark gun-metal silver metallic, surely.
Trying to locate the car in the car park by repeatedly pressing the “unlock” button on the keyfob, and wilfully hoping that its range surpasses that of the usual Land Rover staple, I finally struck gold when a Fiesta blinked its amber lights at me, as if to say “I’m here!”.
And there it was.
And grey it was.
Proper grey – asphalt colour. Ford disagrees, and calls it Sea Grey. If a sea was that colour, I’d most certainly not be tempted to go in it for a swim. Or maybe they simply predicted the colour of the Gulf after BP’s little show earlier this year. Either way, whilst this colour would certainly not work for a salty volume of water, it looked rather good on the Fiesta – trendy, in a modern and minimalistic way. It was highlighted by the bodykit that comes when you get the letter ‘S’ dropping next to Zetec in the model range, along with alloys that are so large for a car this size, they probably generate their own gravitational field when you’re zooming down the motorway.
Most small hatches in the last couple of years all seem to have rather similar styling, much like a fighter jet that’s been shoehorned into a small box, and then windswept to smooth out some of the angular lines. But the Fiesta’s shape is striking indeed. The new Ka looks unmistakenly similar, but somehow wrong, as if it’s been squeezed really tightly from the sides, which has forced its headlights to pop out. The Fiesta just looks right, from pretty much every angle.
My mood was slightly better at this point, and I rapidly climbed inside. The styling of the dash was even more wind-swept than the exterior, and sitting in the low sporty seats it seemed as if the windscreen is about a mile away from you. This might have had something to do with the fact that the car’s owner is taller than a lighthouse, and so the seat was in the rear-most position.
After a few quick adjustments and a pleasantly surprising conventional ignition barrel instead of a keyless start button, the engine roared to life – I think. You can barely hear it idling, and it’s only the gauge cluster that gave an indication of something happening under the bonnet. No worries, we’ll explore the redline region of the rev counter soon enough!
At this point I was getting late for my meeting so upon leaving the site, I obviously decided to take the longer, windier road, with the justification that I’d have to drive the car like I don’t own it (hey, I don’t!) in order to make my meeting on time. Rural Warwickshire is a pleasant drive in any car, but the Fiesta just makes you drive like a loon. It’s unbelievable fun, with the atmosphere further fueled by the red radio display, and the unmistakable stench of Redbull and fags (both of which were present in abundance in the car). It felt like a rave party in a box.
I have to admit, the pure acceleration was disappointing compared to what I was expecting from a 120hp powerplant, and it wasn’t as free-revving as its Japanese competitors. What it did have was quite a lot of mid-range torque though, and keeping it above 4000 rpm brought out the best sound and performance. The MPG in this case plummets unfortunately, but for the amount of fun you can have in this car, it’s fantastic value!
Its trump card has got to be its handling though. And I don’t just mean pure grip, I’m talking about the whole feel of the car, which feels extremely chuckable – who cares how fast you can get from 0-60 if you never need to slow down from 60 for corners? And the poor visibility ensured by the massive sloping A-pillars and miniscule rear windows drops from your list of priorities when all you see in front of you is a swooping strip of tarmac.
The ride is far from rivalling Aladdin’s magic carpet, and definitely makes you aware of every pothole, bump, painted line and ladybug that you drive over. I’d imagine the less sporty versions of the Fiesta are a bit smoother, as your nan is less likely to make the traction control warning flicker like a strobe light, but I’d expect the sort of fun driving experience, even if you go for the treehugging Econetic version.
Most people will be more concerned with practicality and reliability. I cannot comment much on the former, aside from assuring you that it does come with the requisite cupholders – Ford are at last unleashing the Fiesta into the US market, where even golf carts must have numerous cup-holders. And the Fiesta is probably in the same size segment as golf carts over there. I believe the model I drove also had bluetooth connectivity, but as the radio controls consisted of more buttons than some space ships, I didn’t dare to try and figure it out – This is the polar opposite of BMW’s i-Drive. One joystick vs. 1047 individual buttons. Neither wins.
As for reliability, well the car didn’t break down in my 40 miles of driving. However, upon glancing at one of the nicely sculpted door-mirrors whilst driving, I noticed something flapping towards the rear of the car. Worried that I had approached warp speed and it was now relieving the car of random body panels, I pulled over, got out and looked around – didn’t notice anything. Then as I was about to get back in, I found the culprit – the rear of the door seal had split in two. Not brilliant for a car that’s yet to have its first birthday. The owner later told me that the other door has the same problem, but it didn’t cause any leaks. Still, it’s kind of like going to a trendy club with a piece of toilet paper clinging to your shoe – ruinous of the generally stunning appearance.
All in all, I thought the Fiesta was awesome, having approached it with more than a slight sense of doubt. I leave it up to you to decide whether it’s practical enough for you as an every day car, and the diesel models might make more sense, but I can assure you that even if your children can’t see out of the miniscule rear windows, they’ll still be giddy after a drive that can match a roller coaster in amusement.
Hello Ford, welcome back to the world of fun.