So because driving as if you are enjoying yourself (not necessarily linked to going really fast) is becoming taboo, it is perverse that cars are ever more adept at breaking the speed limit and going round corners like a racing car.
They are two contradictory trends that are inherently linked.
So what is the solution? Warm hatches of course. Nippy, but not fast, tidy handling but not gripping like a Formula One car. Drivers can enjoy themselves without attracting the attention of swarms of safety cameras or tutting passers-by.
So the new Fiesta Zetec S is a sort of motoring speakeasy for drivers wanting to have some fun without attracting attention. Its 1.6-litre Duratec 16-valve engine is certainly a well-proven beast, having cut its teeth already in the Streetka, Fusion, Fiesta, Focus and Focus C-MAX, so there should not be any worries about reliability.
The Zetec S doesn’t get the fancy new 1.6 Ti-VCT variable camshaft engine in the Focus that has more power (113bhp) but uses 5% less fuel. So why should the Zetec S be any different to the Ghias and Styles in the range that also use the engine? It comes down to not what you’ve got but how you use it.
The Zetec S utilises a revised gearbox where the gears have been shortened to make the most of the power band of the engine, while the length of the gear lever throw has been cut, to give the feel of a car set up and ready for fun driving.
It doesn’t mean the engine is revving itself to melting point though and it is still pretty refined at a motorway cruise, while the combined fuel economy figure of 41.5mpg suggests that the engineers haven’t turned it into a short-geared, high revving, fuel-guzzling hot hatch.
It is lower by 10mm than the standard Fiesta, with a stiffened and recalibrated suspension, while the front springs are 10% stiffer and the rears 7% firmer for a tauter suspension.
With the steering sharpened up as well, the Zetec S is one nippy little car, with snappy changes of direction and lots of grip through corners. That is down to the suspension and some large low-profile 16-inch wheels. In some ways it’s more fun than the ST, because the thrills come at a lower speed. It also looks the part. The deep front and rear bumpers and spoiler from the ST, with sports seats and a chunky steering wheel, give the Zetec S just enough menace without looking too over-the-top.
The seats grip tightly, the seating position is very good for a small car and there’s a decent amount of space inside.
For drivers wanting a hot hatch that rises above the more mundane fare of the sector, the Zetec S is a good fit.
Ford Fiesta 1.6 Zetec S 3dr
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £11,432
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £125
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 41.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £3,750/33%
Depreciation 12.33 pence per mile x 60,000: £7,398
Maintenance 2.33 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,398
Fuel 9.63 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,778
Wholelife cost 24.29 pence per mile x 60,000: £14,574
Typical contract hire rate: £253
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
FOR the price, the 1.8-litre Corsa delivers the biggest straight-line bang. With 125bhp, it does the 0-62mph dash nearly two seconds faster than the Fiesta. However, when it comes to corners, the MINI Cooper and Fiesta are the stars. The 206 is a good-looking cheap car, although its age might count against it. The MINI is the most expensive with the worst spec, but its residuals will offset its high front-end price.
THE £150 tlc service package for five years/50,000 miles ensures that the MINI wins on service, maintenance and repair costs. That’s no small boast in a contest with Ford, Peugeot and Vauxhall whose servicing costs are all low. The 206 and Corsa only need to visit the dealer every 20,000 miles, while the Fiesta and MINI do 12,500 and 10-15,000 miles. All are still cheap. The MINI would cost less than £1,100 for 60,000 miles, while the Corsa, the most expensive, is just under £1,400.
THANKS to its more powerful 1.8-litre engine, the Corsa is the most fuel-inefficient, with a combined figure of 36.7 – not great for a supermini, even a fairly hot one. As a result, it would cost £6,500 for fuel over 60,000 miles, which is £700 more than the best, the Fiesta and 206. However, a word of caution. Drivers will not choose these cars because they intend to try and eke out the most impressive fuel economy they can. If over the lifetime of the car on a fleet it gets within 10% of the combined figure, it will be a miracle.
AS is always the case, the MINI trounces the opposition when it comes to residual values. Its CAP RV of 46% is a 13-15 points higher than any of the others, and this translates into a huge saving at resale time. In pence-per-mile terms, it works that the MINI loses £6,300 over three years/60,000 miles while the next best, the Fiesta, loses £7,400. However, that gap may start to close over the next few months. Some industry experts believe MINI prices will begin to soften as lots of three-year-old cars start to hit the used market.
THANKS to its low servicing costs and excellent retained value, the MINI wins the wholelife costs comparison by a fair margin for cars at this price level. The pence-per-mile rate of 22.09 means it will cost £13,300 over 60,000 miles while the next best, the 206 and Fiesta, cost almost £14,600. The Corsa is last because it is behind the 206 and Fiesta in all areas.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE Corsa’s larger engine doesn’t help it when it comes to emissions, but that would be rather subjective in this market. If a driver is looking for outright power, then the Corsa is hard to beat and tax will be less of an issue. The cheapest is the Fiesta and its BIK tax bill for a 22% payer of £38 a month looks a steal for driving round in a fun car like this. The 206 is not far behind, while the MINI costs £44 a month. Its tax bill will rise by the time items like a CD player, that are not standard, are added to the P11D value.
THE Corsa is a little too expensive to run, although the cheaper 1.4-litre might be worth a look. The 206 does well on costs but is ageing and the Fiesta and MINI feel much better to drive. We like the Fiesta and with some generous discounts it might get close to the MINI on costs and would be a better option if you are looking for 100 vehicles. But these cars are often for individual user-choosers so appeal, running costs and handling make the MINI our winner.
WINNER: MINI Cooper 1.6 3dr
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