You know you’re getting older when the car you’re considering buying is not necessarily the fastest in the range. But maturity doesn’t have to mean a loss of enthusiasm, which is why our favourite Fiesta is shaping up to be the Zetec S, a car that can provide quality entertainment with little compromise.
It doesn’t quite have the gusto of the 148bhp Fiesta ST, but still delivers a well-rounded package with an affordable £11,595 price tag and group seven insurance.
There are two engine choices – a torquey and frugal 1.6-litre TDCi turbodiesel or the rev-happy 1.6-litre 16-valve Duratec petrol engine tested here. Straight-line performance isn’t a Zetec S strength. At 9.9sec to 60mph, you won’t see one at Santa Pod, but a closer set of ratios for the five-speed manual transmission and an instant throttle response help keep the Zetec S in its high-revving sweet spot. On a fast, flowing B-road, the Fiesta’s 99bhp feels powerful enough and the slick gearchange (from the ST parts bin) makes the frequent cog-swapping a delight.
Though the engine might be seen as a bit pedestrian, the tuned chassis is inspired. Riding on 16-inch alloys, and with firmer springs and dampers than the standard car, the Zetec S possesses a natural sporting poise.