New Ford Fiesta ST

28 Feb, 2013 5:30pm Tom Phillips

We get behind the wheel of the new 180bhp Ford Fiesta ST, which will go head-to-head with the new Peugeot 208 GTi and Renaultsport Clio

Verdict

5
The Ford Fiesta ST isn’t the sharpest hot hatch to drive, but that’s not what it’s all about. An eager engine, brilliant handling and some excellent seats are there when you fancy a B-road blast, but the fact it’s still a Fiesta - albeit a firmer-riding one - means that you can live with it every day with minimum compromise. Add in the bargain purchase price, and the new Clio RS and Peugeot 208 GTi have their work cut out.

This year promises to be a vintage year for hot hatches. We’ve got the all-new Renaultsport Clio and Peugeot 208 GTi to look forward to, but the new Ford Fiesta ST has secured the first win by being the first to arrive in UK dealers.

Like the larger Ford Focus ST, the Fiesta ST is designed to be a slightly warmer hatch rather than a full-blooded hot hatch – that’s the job of an RS model. But that also means that it’s more reasonably priced, too.

Starting at £16,995 – around £2,000 less than its French rivals – the Fiesta comes with a decent spec, which includes Recaro sports seats, 17-inch alloys and Ford’s SYNC system. For an extra £1,000, the Fiesta ST-2 we drove adds part-leather, heated seats, keyless go and a better stereo.

All Fiesta STs look the same, though. They use the same three-door bodyshell as the latest Fiesta, but add a more aggressive front bumper with a large trapezoidal honeycomb grille flanked by a pair of blisters that flare out above low-mounted fog lights. Smart 17-inch alloys, a rear wing and a sporty looking rear bumper round out the visual tweaks, which don’t sound that comprehensive, but actually give the Fiesta a noticeably wider, more butch stance.

Step inside and you immediately feel at home in the Recaro sports seats. Unlike the previous Focus RS, you sit much lower in the car, and the seat's bolsters clamp you in nice and tight. There’s a new steering wheel with a thick rim that feels good to the touch, while the wheel is upright with lots of adjustment, ensuring a decent driving position.

We drove the Fiesta at Ford’s proving ground in Lommel, Belgium, around its undulating and twisty Track 7 handling course. Press the start button and the engine jumps into life quite quietly. The six-speed gearbox snicks into gear smoothly and the steering remains light at low speeds.

Out on the track the engine is a strong performer, revving eagerly and offering plenty of mid-range punch thanks to its decent 240Nm of torque. The engine isn’t the best sounding unit, but Ford has added a sound symposer, which is basically a pipe running from the engine’s air inlet into the dashboard. The symposer includes a membrane which works like a stereo speaker and adds a welcome bit of bass and burble to the engine noise at mid to high revs, but quietens down quite a bit when you’re driving at 70mph in sixth gear.

The Fiesta ST sits 15mm lower than the regular hatchback and uses the stiffer rear twist beam from the B-MAX to help give the car really lively and engaging handling. It’s not quite as sharp on turn-in as the outgoing Renaultsport Clio – few cars are – but the faster steering rack than the normal car still gives a direct response.

The ST also gets torque vectoring which uses the front brakes to reduce understeer and increase grip out of tight corners admirably well. But while that system can’t be disabled, there are three stages for the traction control – Normal, Sport or Off modes – which are nicely judged.

When on, the system gives quite a firm grab should you lift off mid corner, while Sport mode gives a decent amount of leeway even on a damp track meaning most will never need to fully disengage the system to get the best out of the car.

The overall effect comes together to provide a car that's a genuine pleasure to drive when the road allows. The fact that the car rides in a firm but supple way, and it still has all the space, equipment and decent economy of a normal Fiesta, means that the new ST will be hard to beat.

Disqus - noscript

just hope chavs dont pinch the bits off it like they did to my mates previous model st

Don't like that, grill looks awful. Colours nice though.

Is it just me, or is Ford going through an ugly-mug phase? Haven't seen anything since the pre-facelift Fiesta that I actually like. Shame.

I have previously made critical comments about the facelift Fiesta's front end/grille design. Funnily enough I think it works better on this ST version with its sculpted bumper, but its still not terribly attractive. Shame - the ST looks to be a very good car otherwise.

A very odd looking car. Why does Ford think the ugly wide mouth froggy look - started but now dropped by Peugeot - is the look to adopt for the once good looking Fiesta? Commercial Madness.

NICE CAR A QUALITY INTERIOR LIKE THE SEATS THEY LOOK REALLY COMFY EXTERIOR IS NICE TO APART FROM THE BIG MOUTH UGLY FRONT BUMPER THE FIRSR DESIGN WAS THE BEST, IF IT AINT BROKE, BUT CAR MAKERS HAVE TO KEEP CHANGING THERE CARS DESIGN EVERY FEW YEARS TO KEEP PEOPLE BUYING THE LATEST MODEL, I GUESS THEY RAN OUT OF IDEAS SO THEY MADE A DOG.

£16.995 For a Ford Fiesta is not Reasonable even if it is a Sporty Model ST XR2 Etc.

I reckon the new front works rather well, seen a few about and makes the old shape look dated. Definitely a grower....

'The Ford Fiesta ST isn’t the sharpest hot hatch to drive, but that’s not what it’s all about'
In every review I've read about the Fiesta the 'brilliant handling' seems to be promoted above all else and make the car untouchable. Even rivals to the Econetic version are criticised for being less fun to drive yet somehow with the fastest fiesta its brilliant handling isn't so brilliant and it doesn't seem to matter. This makes no sense whatsoever.

Ian, sharpest does not necessarily mean most fun to drive. Ride can be wearing in tandem for example. Clearly this ST has hit the nail on the head as being another well pitched all rounder from the Ford stable...

I understand that but which of the ST's competitors are criticised for a harsh ride - I am not aware of any where this is exposed as an issue.

True, none so far, but this isn't a competitor review and the car is being judged on its own merits. I know what you mean about autoexpress though, they are rarely consistent..

I thought exactly the same. Actually, AutoExpress, with a hot hatch, sharp handling is exactly what it is about. You buy Zetec S if you want a comfortable, zippy car.

Ford could have taken away the rear seats and still AutoExpress would've deemed it a reasonable and necessary sacrifice.

For the record - everyone knows (almost) that a hot hatch should have razor sharp handling, look good, be reasonably comfortable and practical, have reasonable running costs and reasonable OTR price.

Yeah, that's one of my concerns as well...

Ford has delivered a reasonably priced fast Fiesta. Now its over to Renault and Peugeot.

And topically, a manual transmission, lol..

Key specs

  • Price: £16,995
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbocharged
  • Power: 180bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 137mph
  • Economy: 47.9mpg
  • CO2: 138g/km
  • Equipment: 17-inch alloys, DAB radio, Recaro sports seats, air conditioning, My Key
  • On sale: Now
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