Thursday 19th June


140hp from 999cc. In a production car. Is this a junior ST?

Not so long ago, editor Dan was extolling the virtues of the Suzuki Swift Sport - the last stand for the naturally aspirated performance hatch. We will not see its like again.

Contemplating the alternatives, the obvious - and most up-to-the-minute - option was the Ford Fiesta Zetec S, with its 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo engine. But 125hp isn't quite a match for the cheaper Swift's 136, while the five-speed 'box and less focused chassis just don't offer the same intensity as Suzuki's six-speed and 1.6 that almost insists on a flogging.

Black with red or Red with black. Got it?
Black with red or Red with black. Got it?
Fine. But what if we told you Ford has now launched a 1.0-litre Fiesta with 140hp?

Numbers game
There are a few slightly bonkers things going on here. For starters, the car in question has been wheeled out at Ford's Lommel proving ground in Belgium, so time on board is limited to a couple of test laps - amusingly including a section of ride evaluation surfacing exactly modelled after Lower Dunton Road in Essex (thank Richard Parry Jones for that).

On top of which, Ford is only prepared to sell you this engine specification as part of a Red Edition or Black Edition package. Mirror images of each other, these three-door cars are - you guessed it - red and black, with contrasting details in the opposite colour. The Red is tolerable; the Black, well, you be the judge.

Well it should look complicated at 140hp/litre
Well it should look complicated at 140hp/litre
Then consider some of the numbers. 140hp from 999cc is a higher specific output than the Bugatti Veyron - yet the increase comes through recalibration alone. Ford has, however, fitted sports suspension and closer-ratio gears. Shame there's still only five of them, and that the 8.7-second Swift remains quicker to 62mph.

But if the 9.0-second sprint seems a little disheartening, compensation comes in the form of 104g/km CO2 meaning you'll pay just 20 quid a year in tax. 62.8mpg also sounds appealing, if not something you're ever likely to actually see - even with 155lb ft of torque to help move things along. There's just too much fun to be had wringing the tiny triple's entertainingly enthusiastic neck.

An ST in the making
The aim is to keep it on boost at all possible cost - which makes it a similar but different experience to the rev-hungry Swift because once you're dug into the torque you don't necessarily need to nail the limiter every time: you just want to. The thrummy three-cylinder vocals only encourage this degree of attack.

Fiesta's engaging handling unchanged
Fiesta's engaging handling unchanged
The steering is relatively meaty, and while there's enough body roll to suggest both friendly adjustability and a ride that isn't going to hammer you like the Fiesta ST, the Ecoboost 140 feels feisty, controlled and determined to tackle your chosen line. Like a more refined Renaultsport Twingo. Though there are no tricky ST front-end electronics, it changes direction with an eagerness that almost makes it seem flighty at first, but should quickly become a nimble route to rapid progress.

With an interior bedecked with more bespoke black and red detailing - thankfully applied with moderate taste - it appears every bit the gap-bridging junior ST. And the kind of car that basically defines why power really isn't everything.

Trouble is, at £15,995 it doesn't half make the £13,999 three-door Swift Sport look even more tempting.

999cc 3-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 140@N/Arpm
Torque (lb ft): 155@N/Arpm
0-62mph: 9.0sec
Top speed: 125mph
Weight: 1091kg (125hp 1.0 Ecoboost)
MPG: 62.8 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 104g/km
Price: £15,995

Author: cjhubbard
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