Hot hatches are enjoying a revival and the new Fiesta ST shows just how far they have come on.
Built on the basic Fiesta platform, ST's exterior features the usual performance features to make it look the part. Europe gets a sporty three-door only bodyshell while the US gets just a five-door version. There is a large rear spoiler and diffuser, unique 17-inch alloys on low profile rubber, twin exhaust pipes and a sporty front grille. But thankfully ST is more than a styling exercise and the comprehensive suspension changes that Team RS (Ford’s performance division) has delivered make ST a very sure-footed hot hatchback.
Inside the cabin, the standard and very pleasant Fiesta switchgear and layout is present with some sporty touches. Two trim levels called ST1 & ST2 are available, with roughly a two grand price walk. Standard specification is good but the higher spec ST2gets among other things, hip and backside hugging Recaro sports seats. They do a great job of holding you firmly in place, especially the larger driver!
Fiesta and high performance are words seldom used in the same sentence, but they can now. Power is delivered to the front wheels by the 1.6-litre turbocharged 'Ecoboost' petrol engine. The ST’s engine combines direct injection and ford’s ‘Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing’ (TIVCT) technology.
The petrol four-cylinder engine produces a healthy 180bhp or up to 200bhp with the 'over-boost' function and 240nm (290nm on overboost) of torque. Under hard acceleration the engine will produce more bhp and torque than normal (over-boost) for up to 20 seconds at a time. You can trick the ECU into delivering extra power continuously when driving hard by 'lifting off' the throttle slightly before the 20 seconds of over-boost are up and reapplying your right foot immediately - making the over-boost clock start again. In the US Ford is allowed advertise the car as a 200bhp machine (because of this) but not in Europe.
On the road Fiesta ST delivers its power smoothly and under acceleration the car sounds great. There is a meaty exhaust note and under the bonnet the ‘Sound Symposer’ ensures the occupants enjoy a meaty induction note by channeling a racy sound into the cabin. ST features full-electric power steering that has a reasonably weighty feel and is geared well for quick changes of direction. On twisty mountain roads in the south of France ST was very well behaved. The tail end’s suspension (as part of a torsion beam set up) kept the ST planted and it took a fare bit of provocation to make it break lose.
A nimble chassis combined with clever electronic driving aids like the 3-mode ESC and ‘eTVC’ (enhanced torque vectoring control) helps deliver a little gem. For €25K you get a very entertaining, yet practical, supermini. The only thing going against Fiesta ST is that it is a Fiesta! There are cooler hot supermini hatches like MINI Cooper S or FIAT 500 Abarth ‘Esseesse’ that have more street cred, but ST is right up there for performance.
Ford is highly respected in Motorsport and its performance versions of mainstream cars always get a loyal following. The Fiesta ST won't sell in big numbers but the few lucky owners will really enjoy the experience.