IT IS FAIR TO SAY THAT THE Ford Fiesta has been a success. It arrived in a
market looking to downsize, a cool-looking, great-driving diminutive knight in shining armour for all those who thought small cars could be neither stylish nor fun. It was, and is, both. No surprise then to learn it is also the bestselling car on the continent.
Even so, we have been waiting to see how Ford might add further spice to the package, and rumours persist of an ST version sporting around 180bhp appearing next year. In the meantime. Ford has prepared this S1600 model to tide us over.
Costing just £1500 more than the Zetec S upon which it is based, it could so easily have polluted the great looks of the original, a car which hardly seemed to cry out for the big spoiler, rear wing, chrome pipes, white wheels and stripey paintwork treatment. But it works and works well. Inside you’ll find leather everywhere, standard air conditioning and sparkly steel kickplates. Mechanically, an engine
remap boosts power output from 120 to 132bhp and cuts the 0-62mph dash from a sluggish 9.9 seconds to a very respectable 8.2sec.
Driving it is hardly a Toad to Damascus’ experience. But on the less famous but probably more fun road to Monmouth through the Wye Valley I enjoyed it hugely, far more than many other hatches with many times the power; not least a certain Audi you’ll find on the left of this page.
Ford knows what many other manufacturers either do not or choose to ignore: because these small cars are inherently light, they have an in-built advantage over bigger, heavier machinery. Of course you can overwhelm any potential differential in speed simply by adding more and more power, but what no amount of shove will replace is that feeling of delicacy and agility that accompanies all cars that are light and properly set up.
The Fiesta is already so well set up that its chassis has been left entirely alone, which would seem like corner-cuffing were it not so demonstrably up to the job. In short if you think the S1600 looks good, the car itself is even better.