Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition review

Ford Fiesta Zetec S Red Edition aims to deliver ST-style thrills with lower running costs

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

When it comes to fun on a budget, the Fiesta takes some beating. By combining sharp handling with eager performance, the Red and Black editions guarantee driving thrills whatever the occasion. The Ford is also sleekly styled and backed by impressively low running costs – although fuel economy could be better.

Fast Fords are a way of life in Britain, and in the Fiesta ST the brand currently has one of the best hot hatches on the market. But if your budget can’t stretch to the rapid range-topper, the Zetec S Red and Black Editions aim to deliver similar driving thrills, but at a much lower cost.

Both models are only available in three- door guise and feature the same 138bhp turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, plus uprated suspension and impressively low 104g/km CO2 emissions.

The Fiesta is a common sight on UK roads, so it’s a good job its looks still turn heads. The overall style is sporty and dramatic with a rising waistline giving the Ford a rakish profile. 

We test the Red version, but both specials are based on the Zetec S, so they’re marked out from the standard Fiesta by a racy bodykit that includes a deeper front bumper, side skirts and a large tailgate spoiler. There’s also a contrasting black finish for the roof, 17-inch alloys and door mirror housings. Overall, the Fiesta looks sporty and more purposeful. However, some buyers will be frustrated by the lack of paint colours – as the names suggest, there’s a choice of our red car or a metallic black model for £500 extra.

As with the standard Fiesta, the Red’s dashboard design is cluttered, with lots of buttons taking up the centre console, and a control dial for the audio system that takes some getting used to. The cabin could really do with an update, though.

The LCD displays in the Fiesta also look dated compared to modern rivals. However, the Fiesta’s traditional speedo and rev counter are easy to get on with. 

Given the Fiesta ST’s hot hatch hero status, expectations are high for its racy little brother. The tuned 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine fires up with a thrum, but there’s a lot of vibration. Yet you’ll forgive the increase in volume because the 138bhp unit features a great soundtrack and eager performance.

The Fiesta’s strong performance is boosted by its crisp-shifting five-speed gearbox, which delivers positive changes, encouraging you to wring out every last ounce of energy from the turbocharged engine. The excellent powertrain is backed up by fast steering and excellent feedback from the controls. In corners, the uprated sports suspension helps the Fiesta feel incredibly agile and delivers great poise and plenty of grip.

The only downside to the Fiesta is that this nimble handling comes at the expense of a firm ride. This means it fidgets and thumps over bumps and into potholes, and it’s less comfortable when cruising on the motorway. However, it’s nowhere near as rigid as the faster and more expensive ST, and the car is easy enough to live with on a daily basis.

Despite being a big seller, the Fiesta doesn’t seem to satisfy its owners. It finished 78th in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, although that’s a big improvement on its 2013 placing of 117th – with last year’s rise explained by buyers praising the tech and handling. Build quality was criticised, but considering Fiestas are churned out in their thousands every month, fit and finish is pretty good.

Safety is impressive, too, with seven airbags and tyre pressure monitors as standard. This racy version also gets Ford’s SYNC system with emergency assistance, which can call 999 in the event of an accident. Active City Stop, which automatically applies the brakes if it senses a low-speed collision, is available as a £200 option on Zetec models and above. The Fiesta’s small wing mirrors can restrict visibility, while the rising waistline and small rear window also hamper your view.

The Ford’s three-door layout means access to the rear bench is tight, and when you’re there, the back seats are tighter. Narrow back windows and dark cabin trim mean it feels claustrophobic, too. There’s lots of room up front, but storage could be better with the shallow cup-holders set behind the handbrake.

The Fiesta fairly well equipped. Air-con, a trip computer, handy Quickclear windscreen and a USB socket for smartphones or MP3 players are fitted as standard, but you’ll have to pay extra for sat-nav and cruise control.

Standard stop-start promises to help fuel consumption, but our test economy for the Ford trailed the claimed figures, at 34.5mpg. 

It’s not all bad news, though. CO2 emissions of 104g/km mean the Fiesta qualifies for £20 road tax and it benefits from strong residuals, with our experts calculating that the Ford will hold on to 44.7 per cent of its value after three years.

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