Finally, an under $25k hatch that doesn't target just first car owners and retired couples. The Ford Fiesta Zetec boasts stylish looks for anyone wanting an economical hatch that doesn't compromise on performance. It's a step above from the likes of a Yaris or Swift, primarily for its features, which I'll go through with you.
There is a lot of great value that the Fiesta packs; I'll try my hardest not to sound like a used car salesman, but in the Zetec model, you get both USB and Bluetooth connectivity standard, voice recognition commands, sports suspension, and 16" alloy wheels. The Fiesta Zetec comes well equipped and I feel that it is still able to compete with newer entry model hatchbacks on the market today. The lack of automatic headlights and rain sensitive wipers is disappointing, and some may not like the screen positioned in the centre console. I would personally love to see a bigger, colour screen that offers satellite navigation.
It feels downright awkward to call a car 'sexy', but I can't think of another word to sum up the exterior. The Fiesta Zetec has a big rear spoiler; not fully sick, but not too subtle either, and it has a rally-inspired à la Ken Block rear bumper and front grille. There's also two chrome things near the fog lamps, and they effortlessly compliment the chrome trimmings around the windows.
Sports suspension on the top-of-the-range Zetec is a huge bonus, as the car allows for a true 'go-kart' driving experience. It's nippy and quick enough for city driving without the lag and strain that some other small car engines may experience. This model also has sports bucket seats standard, and I can honestly say that it feels like you're in for a big hug every time you sit in the driver or passenger's seat. Into the boring stuff, you're surrounded by seven airbags, with traction control and a five-star ANCAP safety rating that's standard across all models. I feel that the Zetec has a lot of potential to be even more fun than it already is, though unfortunately there's no option to turn off traction control (probably a good thing to some, but it's a party pooper for me).
What also makes the car a lot of fun to drive is its Powershift DSG six-speed gearbox. It behaves like a manual car, sans bunny-hopping. However, say 'Powershift' to some people and they'll likely get a little mad. Ford sent letters last year to affected owners of the dreaded "clutch-shuddering" cars, and they are willing to update the software on these gearboxes at no cost to the owner. Since this update, my car has performed better than ever. If you're in the market for a Ford with this gearbox, ensure that any necessary software updates have been performed. All WT Fiesta variants are eligible for Ford's 'capped price servicing' scheme, so every 12 months, you know what you're in for. And to top it off, Ford are promising free loan cars for all their customers at the moment; just be sure to request one prior to the service.
In terms of economy, which I guess is important for a car in this class, Ford claims 6.1L/100km (combined) for the Fiesta, and I think that's a load of crock unless you don't live in a major city and drive on flat surfaces all day everyday. I frequently commute on highways and in peak hour traffic, so you could say I have a combination of highway and urban going on, but a full tank will last me about 450km (or every fortnight in most cases). I'll pay $50-$60 a tank depending on fuel costs (I like to use 95 or 98). I'm currently averaging 8.2L/100km to put that into perspective.
In conclusion, the Ford Fiesta Zetec is a great car for anyone wanting a hot hatch to runabout in, with all the bells and whistles for today's day and age. It's not going to make you refinance your mortgage to keep up with its maintenance costs. It's got so much potential to be a true sports car, and it's not quite there simply because it's missing 'ST' or 'XR4' (now discontinued) on the rear of the car. P-platers, rejoice; but for me, I would love to see just a bit more grunt in the next generation without having to step up to the ST.