What is it?
In the absence of anything even with an ST let alone an RS badge in the current Ford Fiesta product plan, this is the most sporting version of Ford’s outstanding new baby you’re likely to be able to buy any time soon.
Power comes from an all new, 118bhp 1.6-litre motor, driving the front wheels through a five speed gearbox. It’s installed in the three door body shell and comes not only with the predictable go faster cosmetics like a large rear wing, bespoke alloys and a pretend rear diffuser, it also receives a 10mm drop in ride height, stiffened spring and damper rates and a bespoke calibration for its electric power steering.
What’s it like?
Don’t expect fireworks from the engine. It may be all new and you may well expect its 118bhp to go some way in a car 40kg lighter than its closest antecedent in the old Fiesta range, but in reality this new motor is more smooth operator than thrill seeker.
Despite notably short gearing – it adds little more than 20mph for every extra thousand revs per minute, performance is most kindly described as pleasant. It just ducks into single figures on the sprint from 0-62mph and will eventually take you to 120mph.
But while it tolerates being thrashed with benign good humour, it’s better left in the mid to upper reaches of its rev range rather than being parked on its 6000rpm red-line. Between 3-5000rpm it’s refreshing responsive yet still notably smooth.
Yes it does mean you have to change gear a fair bit, but with a shift quality as good as that in this Fiesta, this is no hardship at all.
The specific chassis tune selected for the Zetec S is less convincing. You can tell it’s been stiffened up, but for not enough of the right reasons. You feel it more in compromised ride quality than any extra zip into or grip through the corners.
While the standard Fiesta flows beautifully along even very challenging roads, the Zetec S is slightly but significantly more inclined to bounce and bump its way from place to place, and I would expect the disparity in their characteristics to be more marked still away from the car’s Tuscan launch venue and in the rather more challenging environment of the British countryside.