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Ford Fiesta 1.25i Zetec

Driven July 2000

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The Ford Fiesta has been around for so long now that most of you will probably have driven one at some time. As such, you'll probably be expecting a small, thrill-free hatchback fit only for first-time drivers and midwives.

Well, if so, think again. This Fiesta 1.25i Zetec is a natty motor. It's let down a bit by its conservative exterior - yes, it has had a facelift, but it only hints at the millennial design found on other Fords. But drive the thing and you'll soon forget about the lack of pizazz on the outside.

The first thing you notice as you pull away from the kerb is the engine. The 1242cc, 16v, Zetec, electronic injection lump seems a step up from the average supermini's and pulls keenly, making town driving a more involving experience.

Soon, as you swing through your first corner, you lean into it to counteract the expected body roll from a mushy suspension, but there is none! The car remains composed, and it soon becomes a joy to hurl the thing round corners faster and tighter than you'd dare in other small hatches.

So it's fun around town, but can it earn its keep on the open road? Yes, pretty much. That Zetec engine can take you to 103mph and cruises quite happily on the motorway. My criticism here would be that the standard power steering, whilst light around town, is too light for fast cruising and demands attention to avoid drifting off line. The option of a light 'city' mode and a stiffer 'normal' mode (as in the Fiat Punto) would be a boon.

So, the exterior design is nothing special and, sadly, the same is true of the inside. Grey 'rhino-hide' plastics cover dash and doors giving an atmosphere as sexy as a hospital corridor, while seats are similarly dull (though the driver's offers manual height adjustment and basic lumbar support). On the bright side, the instrument panel is quite stylish. Space up front is adequate, but is ridiculously cramped in the rear.

But you get driver's airbag, engine immobiliser, sunroof, tinted glass, seven-spoke alloys, body-colour bumpers and more, all as standard. So, ideal for those of you who don't judge by appearances really.

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