First Drive: Ford Focus Zetec S

2011 Ford Focus Zetec SAs sure as night follows day a regular Ford will always be followed by a faster one. And so it is with this latest Focus, as the Blue Oval has developed a sporty-looking Zetec S variant to compliment its more sensible offerings.

The Zetec name is a popular one in the Ford universe. Promoted as the high value variant, it’s seen on cars boasting plenty of standard kit. There’s also the unspoken implication that it might be a bit sporty, and it’s not uncommon to see a bodykit bolted on for good measure. The regular Focus Zetec goes part way to delivering this experience, however this new Zetec S completes the circle.

In recent years Ford has exercised greater caution when adding bodykits to its cars, and the Focus Zetec S boasts a subtle treatment that delivers a good balance between teasing onlookers and not attracting the wrong sort of attention. The car’s sporty character is further enhanced with a tweaked suspension set-up thanks to stiffer springs and dampers. Rounding off the exterior changes are the standard fit 17-inch alloy wheels and LED tail lights.

2011 Ford Focus Zetec S In line with the car’s exterior, Ford’s designers have resisted the urge to go all Max Power on the interior. Aside from the aluminium-style pedals, there’s the option of a contrasting colour for the centre console but, thankfully, no crazy bucket seats or race car-like steering wheel. In truth, the Focus’ cabin is bold enough out of the box. The left-field fascia and chunky controls offer plenty of excitement in a world where most rivals have redefined the dictionary definition of conservative.

That’s not something you can accuse Ford of being when it comes to engine choice. There’s sporty and then there’s sporty, with a wallet-friendly 125 horsepower 1.6-litre petrol variant kick starting the Zetec S range and a 180 horsepower Ecoboost petrol lump as the flagship option. In between there’s the choice of 115 or 163 horsepower diesel units in 1.6 and 2.0-litre capacity respectively. There’s also a direct shift auto gearbox – Powershift in Ford parlance – for selected models.

Ford has historically been a popular choice for company car drivers and, in diesel guise at least, the Focus Zetec S could be viewed as an option at the higher end of the fleet list. With the prospect of affordable CO2 tax bands and equally modest fuel consumption figures, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be considered.

2011 Ford Focus Zetec S Certainly, real world performance from the higher output 163 horsepower model is sufficient for all eventualities. The 2.0-litre unit boasts plenty of low down torque for ambling along in traffic and never feels strained when accelerating hard. All the while its smooth character and hushed tone is a refreshing change from some of the more frenetic opposition.

You can double that sentiment when talking about Ford’s 1.6-litre Ecoboost powerhouse. It may ‘only’ be a 1.6-litre lump but this 180 horsepower turbo motor punches well above its weight. Smooth, refined, willing and rapid in equal measure, it’s as close as you’ll get to a hot hatch this side of a Focus ST. Furthermore, the suspension changes to the Zetec S variants do much to reduce control body roll and impart a genuine sporty feeling when barreling along your favourite back road. Thankfully not at the expense of comfort, as you can still sit on the motorway and grind your way through town without feeling shaken or stirred.

Pitched as a sporting alternative to the traditionally high value Titanium specification, the Zetec S newcomer boasts a comparable level of kit only packaged differently. For the record, DAB audio plus a heated windscreen, front fog lights, leather steering wheel, MP3 player connectivity and sports-style front seats are the signature Zetec goodies. Adding the ‘S’ sees the inclusion of the aforementioned bodykit, better wheels, sports suspension and a few detail changes to the cabin.

2011 Ford Focus Zetec STo ease the pain of choosing the myriad options, Ford has chosen to bundle popular items into packs – parking sensors, power folding mirrors are part of a City Pack bundle for example. Active brake assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and a blind spot alert are, unsurprisingly, part of the Driver Assistance Pack.

As the Focus range grows – there’s a Zetec S estate variant, hot ST, frugal three-cylinder and electric models to come – the five-door Zetec S brings a welcome extra dash of sparkle to the line-up. Looking quick even when parked, although it’s also genuinely quick if you pick the right engine, as an affordable alternative to a conventional hot hatch it’s hard not to be impressed by Ford’s efforts.

Model: Ford Focus Zetec S 2.0 TDCi 163, from £21,345 on the road.
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit developing 163bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 135mph, 0-62mph 8.6 seconds.
Economy: 56.5mpg.
CO2 Rating: 129g/km.

Iain Dooley

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