A punchy and efficient 1.0-litre engine makes for an entertaining junior hatchback

What is it?

It’s a Ford Fiesta with more horsepower per litre than a Bugatti Veyron. That’s what you need to tell your friends when they ask why your sporty new Fiesta only has a 1.0-litre engine. 

That doesn’t explain to them why Ford couldn’t paint the whole car the same colour, mind. That’s explained by this being the Fiesta Red Edition, or Black Edition, depending on which you prefer. Colours aside they’re the same, and effectively replace the old 1.6-litre Zetec S in the line-up.

We liked the Fiesta Zetec S 1.6 at Autocar. We ran one for a year and, absence of a 6th gear aside, found it a delight to spend serious amounts of time in, with a deft blend of ride and handling. A Mountune kit gave that 1.6 Fiesta a full 138bhp. Now, the new 1.0 makes the same as standard.

What's it like?

The harder, faster Fiesta ST has been nicking most of the limelight recently, but the Zetec S’s warmness gave it much to like before. It was pleasingly compliant around town and at motorway speeds, yet it retained just the right amount of body control on back roads, with keen steering to complete the package.

Sensibly, then, Ford hasn’t messed with the chassis too much for this edition. As in: it hasn’t at all. The Red/Black’s Sport suspension, like the Zetec S’s, sits 10mm lower than standard, with springs that are 12 per cent stiffer than standard at the front, and six per cent stiffer at the rear. The rear’s relative lack of stiffening over the front is compensated by an 11 per cent stiffer torsion beam than the regular Fiesta’s – which is a pretty good car to drive in cooking form too, remember.

Then there’s the steering, which offers “greater torque build up” - or is heavier, to you and me - to feed back information through the rim in shoutier fashion. Wheels are 16in alloys as standard, with 17in alloys (as fitted to our test car) an option.

The chassis, and an engine that’s around 35kg lighter than the 1.6, make the Red/Black Edition cars a real pleasure to drive. If the ST is just a bit too firm for you (and I could understand if your daily grind made it so), the Red/Black retain some of the essential qualities. It’s an agile car, with good turn in and responses, pleasing steering weight, speed and accuracy, and a willingness to be steered on the throttle in the way that Fords do.

The engine’s a willing companion, too. It doesn’t feel as urgent as the Mountune 1.6 did. Its power, inevitably, being turbocharged, arrives in softer fashion, while there’s little rort to get excited about. A mildly satisfying three-cylinder thrum is the best you can hope for, while fewer bangs per revolution means it sounds like it’s working less hard at a given engine speed. Just as well, because it still lacks a sixth gear.

Should I buy one?

Sure. It’s fun, engaging, and at 104g/km and 62.8mpg, pretty sensible at the same time. In fact it’s that efficient that Ford would argue the Red/Black Edition doesn’t need that sixth gear that would add cost and complexity. To our minds it still wouldn’t hurt. This remains a good car in which to spend lots of time. 

Ford Fiesta Red Edition/Black Edition

Price £15,995 0-62mph 9.0sec Top speed 125mph Economy 62.8mpg CO2 104g/km Kerb weight 1091kg Engine 3 cyls in line, 999cc, turbo petrol Power 138bhp at 6000rpm Torque 155lb.ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 5-speed manual

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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n50pap 19 June 2014

The red one looks better

The Red Edition does look better IMO. I'd go to my usual Ford dealer to try one, but their showroom is full of B-Max, C-max and S-max models. This car is probably too racy for their customer base.
fadyady 18 June 2014

The little wonder

Ford's 1L is a wondrous unit. It could help convert diesel-drivers (pinning for that "effortless" power\torque delivery). Agree with Autocar's 50mpg estimate in real life driving. The red paint-job however is an acquired taste.
Moparman 18 June 2014

Nice but wait for the later editions...

I am sure that a few years down the road there will be another special edition with this engine mated to a six-speed and even more kit for roughly the same price. Unless you absolutely need a new compact car ASAP you would be better served by waiting as the manufacturers prove time and again.