The Ford Fiesta has always been brilliant fun to drive. Until now, though, anyone wanting a quick turn of speed had to either go for the hardcore 180bhp ST hot hatch or make do with the lukewarm 123bhp 1.0-litre model.
The new Zetec S Red Edition slots neatly into that void. Its tiny turbocharged engine pumps out 138bhp, which is enough for a respectable 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds, making this special-edition Fiesta a rival for the latest Mini Cooper – as well as our favourite sub-£15k hot hatch, the Suzuki Swift Sport.
Don’t like the red and black colour scheme? Well, tough luck, although for an extra £500 you can have a red roof and a black body instead; this is called (yes, you guessed it) the Black Edition.
What’s the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost 140 Zetec S Red Edition like to drive?
Based on the Zetec S, the Red Edition has stiffer suspension than other Fiestas (apart from the ST), along with retuned steering to help make it even more entertaining to drive.
This set-up is ideal for anyone who enjoys driving quickly but also wants a car that’s easy to live with on a daily basis. In fact, the Red Edition strikes an almost perfect balance between the ST hot hatch (that’s great fun but very firm) and lesser models in the range, which are comfortable but also lean more through tight corners.
Find a country road and the Red Edition is in its element, darting eagerly in to bends and staying wonderfully balanced as you approach its limits of grip. This is an easy thing to do with confidence because the steering is accurate and streams information to your fingertips about what the front wheels are doing.
The Fiesta Red Edition stays remarkably composed, even over battered British B-roads, softening the worst scars in the road while still remaining stoically planted to your chosen line. True, there's a little more steering kickback – an undesirable trait you won't find in the standard car – than is ideal, but this Fiesta is still a hoot to drive, and has a ride and handling balance that shames those of many more expensive cars.
It's not the most refined of hatches, though, with a fair amount of tyre noise droning in the background at higher speeds.
The new 138bhp engine is properly impressive. It’s incredibly smooth for a three-cylinder, and pulls strongly from 1700rpm, so you don’t need to thrash it to get anywhere in a hurry, although many will enjoy doing just that.
Even on more routine journeys, keen drivers will enjoy keeping the engine bubbling up around the 2000rpm mark in the heart of the torque band, although this does requires regular shifts through the light, precise-feeling five-speed gearbox.
Ultimately, a Mini Cooper and a Suzuki Swift Sport (which both get six-speed 'boxes) will show the Fiesta a clean pair of tyre treads in a drag race, but the Red Edition’s closely spaced gearing and willingness to rev make it great fun whether you’re just pottering around town or flying along a country road.
What’s the 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost 140 Zetec S Red Edition like inside?
Much the same as any other Fiesta, which is good and bad.
The good news is that the driving position is superb; there's plenty of adjustment to the supportive seat, and the pedals are thoughtfully spaced out and line up nicely with the steering wheel.
Less impressive are the flimsy air-con controls and the confusing infotainment system, which is littered with similar-looking buttons that make it tricky to use. The latest Mini Cooper certainly has a classier interior and more user-friendly control layout.
However, the Fiesta is more spacious than both the Mini and the Suzuki Swift, with more space for rear-seat passengers and a much bigger boot.
The Red Edition gets the same basic kit as the Zetec S, which means air-conditioning, Bluetooth, front foglights, a heated windscreen and Ford’s Sync infotainment system as standard. However, you do get larger (17-inch) alloys along with the engine and suspension upgrades.
Should I buy one?
The Fiesta Red Edition is brilliant to drive. It’s more fun and more agile than both a Mini Cooper and a Suzuki Swift Sport, thanks to its wonderfully balanced chassis and superb steering. There's no penalty in comfort, either; the Ford rides better than both its key rivals.
The only problem is the price. Starting at £16,000, the Red Edition costs around £2000 more than the Swift and £700 more than the Cooper. Yes, it should be available with healthy discounts pretty soon, but it’s still more expensive than it should be.
We’d be tempted to find an extra £1250 for the even more engaging ST, or save £550 and enjoy even lower running costs and a lot more standard kit with the 1.0 125 Titanium, which is nearly as good to drive and will be cheaper for younger drivers to insure.
What Car? says...
1.0 140 Ecoboost