Ford’s sleek all-new people carrier gets new looks, more luxury and revised engines
Ford Fiesta ST review (2013 onwards)
What: Ford Fiesta ST (2013 onwards)
Where: Nice, France
Date: March 2013
Available: March/April 2013
Key rivals: MINI Cooper S, Peugeot 208 GTi, Renault Clio Renaultsport, SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Skoda Fabia vRS, Vauxhall Corsa VXR, Volkswagen Polo GTI
Powered by a 1.6-litre turbo EcoBoost engine, the new Ford Fiesta ST combines flexible performance with plenty of driver appeal – is this the best new hot hatch on sale?
We like: remarkable chassis tuning, thoroughly satisfying engine, great seats, manual gearbox, brilliant day-to-day proposition
We don’t like: almost too well rounded to be completely involving
Ford Fiesta ST: First impressions
A moody-looking little sucker, this new Ford Fiesta ST. Based on the recently facelifted version of the UK’s best-selling car, a sporty makeover gives the new Aston Martin-esque front end design a kind of pouting, pursed lip appearance – as if it was the automotive equivalent of Mick Jagger. Or something.
But like 'old snake hips' himself, the new Fiesta ST isn’t just about looking distinctive; it sure knows how to give a performance as well. Powered by a 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine, it produces 182hp and accelerates from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds, making this the fastest Fiesta ever.
Throw in a bit of that famous Ford chassis magic, a standard set of Recaro seats and one of the most artfully judged electronic assistance systems we’ve ever experienced, and you’ve got what could quite easily be the next supermini-sized hot hatch champ – even with a new Renaultsport Clio very much on the horizon.
it’ll thrill you with the kind of tyre fizzing conviction
Not to mention the new 208 GTi, which is promising to rise, phoenix-like, out of the ashes of Peugeot’s much maligned hot hatch reputation. Has the Fiesta got the chops to see off these and the established rivals? The £16,995 starting price certainly won’t hurt, but it’ll need more than value to hold this ground…
Ford Fiesta ST: Performance
Gladly, the Ford Fiesta ST is very far from being reduced to the bargain option – though we already know it undercuts the Peugeot by nearly £2,000. And while 182hp doesn’t look that impressive next to the 200hp Clio Renaultsport, you won’t find us complaining it isn’t enough. Especially given the overboost function.
Ditch the 0-62mph posturing, and this is a properly fast little car. The beauty of modern turbo petrol engines is that in addition to all that power they also produce bags of torque – and in the Fiesta’s case this means 177lb ft from 1,600 to 5,000rpm, with 213lb ft on overboost. Which makes the ST delightfully flexible.
Really nail the loud pedal and it’ll thrill you with the kind of tyre fizzing conviction that makes it fun to chase the redline – something the soft limiter and fluttering chirrup of revs as you hit it only encourages all the more. And since the Fiesta comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, it’s down to you to get this right.
Addictive stuff. Yet dial it back a touch and use that mid-range torque instead, and you’ve got the kind of deceptively quick performance that makes short work of challenging roads regardless of whether your mother-in-law is on board. This is an incredibly easy car to drive fast.
Ford Fiesta ST: Ride and handling
Too easy? Well, that is potentially an issue for us, actually. If the Fiesta didn’t have that extra element of involvement dictated by the manual gearbox, the chassis and its associated electronics are so adept it might just be too little of a challenge for the truly enthusiastic driver.
The ST is able to generate a truly staggering amount of grip. Partly this is down to the suspension changes – which go beyond mere spring and damper upgrades – but Ford has also fitted enhanced Torque Vectoring Control (eTVC), which does a simply awesome job of distributing torque between the driven front wheels.
This helps keep the car pointing where you intended it to go, regardless of whether you’ve got the stability control on, in Sport mode or entirely off. And has been so perfectly judged that its intervention never seems to feel weird or unwelcome. Huge cornering speeds are possible as a result.
But most remarkable of all is the way the balance between agility and stability Ford has conjured up here achieves an almost preternatural connection with the driver. You swiftly learn that you can adjust the cornering attitude on the throttle at whim, and with little fear. Again, making driving it fast just amazingly easy.
That’s not to say you’ll be generating massive moments of lift-off oversteer at every roundabout – rather, that the Fiesta offers an immediacy and playfulness that flatters and reassures in equal measure. It encourages you to take liberties, to have a bit of fun, but keeps you safely shielded within its limits as well.
For a hot hatch it is stunningly compliant
The ride quality helps with this. For a hot hatch it is stunningly compliant, absorbing bumps and shrugging off camber changes – which bodes brilliantly for the UK. Ford’s even fitted a bigger electric motor for the steering to give it a bit of extra heft, although we do wonder if it’s hiding as much as it reveals.
Ford Fiesta ST: Interior
The hot Fiesta comes in two specifications: ST and ST2. Even the base car gets 17-inch alloy wheels, Recaro seats, DAB digital radio, Ford SYNC connectivity and a QuickClear front windscreen; ST2 adds part leather and heating to the seats, keyless start and a Sony stereo upgrade, plus LED daytime running lights.
Opting for ST2 costs an extra £1,000 – reasonable enough that Ford reckons about 80% will choose this spec. Pay another £275 for the ST Style Pack, and you also get a Rado Grey alloy wheel finish, red brake calipers and illuminated scuff plates.
Compared to the standard Fiesta, the ST includes a bespoke steering wheel and gearknob, and the interior trim choices certainly aren’t shy. Of all the cosmetic enhancements, the seats are the best: comfortable and supportive, they hold you properly secure during more spirited driving without proving a pain in the bum.
Ford Fiesta ST: Economy and safety
Modern turbocharging is a wonder. Not content with enabling that tremendously flexible performance, according to the official figures it’s also possible to coax the ST up to 47.9mpg, with CO2 rated at 138g/km. Drive it to its full potential, however, and you’ll be lucky to crack 20. It’s that kind of car.
For the money, it’s a steal
As for safety, well, it’s just like a regular Fiesta. Only with even better dynamics and grip, smarter stability control and bigger brakes – including discs on the rear for the first time.
Ford Fiesta ST: verdict
The new Ford Fiesta ST is a deeply impressive hot hatch. Vigorously agile yet friendly with it, this is a car that’s not only easy to drive fast but one that should also prove extremely easy to live with, with ride quality and refinement that shames some rivals’ standard superminis.
For the money, it’s a steal. And even if the Clio Renaultsport proves more decisive to drive, it’s hard to imagine how the Fiesta ST could possibly be bettered as an everyday proposition. But then, we’re driving the Renault at the end of the week – and now we have the Ford as a benchmark, we can’t wait.
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