The Zetec S is my third Fiesta and without a doubt the best so far!
It's a great looking car and surprisingly rare compared to the 'rivals': 206 GTi/XSi/106 GTi, Saxo, Clio etc.
Ford could have gone a bit wilder (bigger spoiler, sportier interior - it's very similar in many ways to lesser models such as the Freestyle), but credit to them for making a relatively cheap and insurable supermini without sacrificing the best bits.
For example, I was shocked to learn that the Saxo VTS is an Insurance Group 15 compared to the Fiesta's Group 8 (a big factor when choosing).
The rival superminis such as the Saxo VTS and Peugeot 206 XSi may have a slightly larger bhp and top speed, but for the times that these are actually used, its not such a big deal. And anyway, the Zetec S is still surprisingly quick when you do choose to push it: The Audi TT that eventually overtook me at 100mph was probably a little surprised at the Fiestas oomph - not that I encourage this kind of thing...
To comment on the cost, my 2002 model was £13,000 so credit was the only option. Over 5 years the interest applied is frightening, but I think it is well worth it. Perhaps I should have shopped around different dealers before I jumped in, but I was in love with the Zetec S.
The dealership (Benfield Ford, Kirkstall Road in Leeds) was very good, but could have taken a little more time explaining the details of the finance agreement. This lack of attention ended up with me realising a month down the line that I only had the lowest form of credit protection when I specifically asked for the top whack. Partly their fault, maybe partly mine for not checking it properly. Anyhow it is now sorted after numerous phone calls to the lenders.
It also took near a month just to get some carpets! Carpets! Why!!
Apart from these small niggles, the car arrived absolutely immaculate and gave me a smile that didn't fade until long after. In fact I think I'm still beaming after 3 months - yes I am!
Really, to summarise, this is a supermini that has rightly had heaps of praise from the critics, performs brilliantly, looks superb and most importantly, is affordable (to buy and insure).
Although I haven't driven any other superminis I would strongly suggest that you at least take a test drive in the Zetec S before choosing a too-common rival.