Good: brilliant chassis, cracking engine, still distinctive looking.
Not so good: interior cramped and dated, no 140hp engine option.
The Ford Fiesta, born in 1976, celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Like the rest of us that have hit that milestone, it's putting in a bit of effort to stay youthful, here in the guise of the Zetec-S Black Edition. It's a three-door only car and the visual makeover is thorough. A new body kits adds sportier bumpers, side sills and a roof spoiler, while black 16-inch alloy wheels are also standard. More opinion-dividing, however, are the contrasting red bits, such as the front grilles and lower bumper, the roof (painted, not just a wrap) and door mirrors. I'm not the biggest fan of the look, but I wouldn't let it put me off the car. There's also a Red Edition based on red paint with black highlights.
Unsurprisingly, the same red and black theme extends to the cabin, where there's red stitching for the black leather steering wheel and gear shift gaiter, the black floor mats and grey sports seats. And in truth, most will be expecting that to be the end of the upgrades.
In fact, Ford has tweaked the chassis too, with new dampers and springs, a stiffer rear axle for reduced tendency to understeer and even revised power steering. And the latter item is immediately obvious with more resistance on turn-in. Some might find it a little too heavy at low speeds, actually, but probably not the kind of people that will be happy to be seen in a black and red hatchback. The suspension upgrades, despite their focus on road holding, don't seem to unduly affect the ride comfort of the Fiesta. It has an eerie knack of gliding along the road, moving with the bumps rather than thumping into them. Indeed, it's better on typical Irish roads than its big brother, the Fiesta ST, and almost as much fun in the corners with grin-inducing grip and adjustability.
Obviously it's nowhere near as quick as the ST model. We're not quite sure why Irish buyers have to make do with the 125hp version of Ford's 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine when a 140hp version is offered elsewhere in the world, and though it has plenty of power for most people, the chassis is so good it's just crying out for more. It continues to be a gem of a three-cylinder unit though, with impressive low-down grunt and smoothness throughout the rev range. We reckon it could do with a little more aural character in this Zetec-S version, though.
It's mated to Ford's super-slick five-speed manual gearbox, though it'll annoy those that spend a lot of time on the motorway as it's quite low-geared, yet there is also a noticeably big gap between second and third gears, oddly. In fairness, this is not a car to buy for lots of long distance driving. Saying that, it's surprisingly economical. We had nothing but fun in our week with the car, yet managed to average 6.6 litres/100km (42.8mpg), so the official 65.7mpg figure doesn't seem all that far-fetched.
While the Fiesta is a hoot on a twisty back road, it's most at home in town, and though its compact size means a cabin that's now one of the smallest in the class, it also means it's a cinch to park and perfect for exploiting gaps in busy city traffic. The low-rev performance from the engine suits such antics, too and while the Fiesta is no spring chicken, this Zetec-S version reminds us that there's plenty of life left in the old dog yet.
Now where did I leave my black and red onesie? Or should I wear the red and black one? Decisions, decisions...