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.
Even the steering is less satisfactory. It’s apparently been made heavier but what I noticed most was an apparent loss of some of the feel of the standard car.
Certainly, I felt less confident in placing the Zetec S on narrow lanes. Even the fact that the Zetec S is the only model in the range that will allow you to switch off the ESP is not the advantage it might sound: even in unswitchable cars, the ESP operation is unobtrusive and delayed until you probably actually need it.
I spoke to Darren Palmer, who project-managed the Fiesta, about the set up for the Zetec S and while he was never going to be critical of his team’s work, he did describe the standard Fiesta set up as ‘optimal’ from which you will draw your own conclusions.
Should I buy one?
It is often the case with small, light cars that are as clearly conceived as this that the more feature content you add on, the more of the original vision is taken away.
The Zetec S is undoubtedly the quickest of the new range of Fiestas, both in a straight line and around a corner, but I’ll be surprised if, once we’ve sampled the cheaper, lighter and less complex models in the range, we still conclude it’s the best.
Even so, none of this should detract from the fact that like every other Fiesta we’ve driven, it is a great new supermini. So if you want the flashest looking, fastest driving version of what seems sure to become Britain’s best new small car, it’s ready and waiting for you. But we’d first want to be very sure there wasn’t a cheaper yet more satisfying model further down the range.