Ford Fiesta ST review
The 180bhp Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch offers a sweet drive, good looks and good value
The UK has had a long love affair with fast Fords and that looks set to continue with the arrival of the new Ford Fiesta ST - it's so good, we think the Ford Fiesta ST is the very best hot hatch in the business.
Taking the already impressive standard Ford Fiesta as a base, Ford has added sporty styling tweaks inside and out that only enhance the regular Fiesta’s looks, while power comes from a 180bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. Add in stiffer suspension, a sports exhaust and a pair of very supportive Recaro seats, and the Fiesta ST is a thrilling package.
The fact that it undercuts its rivals – the Renaultsport Clio, Peugeot 208 GTi, MINI Cooper S and Audi S1 by a significant margin – is the icing on the cake. If you want even more power then Ford's accredited tuners, Mountune, offer an upgrade to 217bhp. Nothing else is touched and the Ford warranty even stays intact. It'll cost you just over £600 and in our eyes it's definitely worth doing.
Our choice: Fiesta ST-2
The standard Fiesta is one of the most stylish superminis, so Ford hasn’t had to work too hard to transform it into a muscular pocket rocket.
The design changes really stand out, though. At the front, there’s a larger mesh grille with a deeper front bumper, while the standard car’s sleek, swept-back headlamps give the ST a more aggressive look. LED daytime running lights add a final flourish, while at the rear, a subtle yellow Mountune badge hints at the car’s enhanced performance potential.
Buyers wanting to make an even bigger impression can add the £275 ST Style pack, which includes the dark-grey 17-inch alloys fitted to our test car. While the standard silver rims fill the bulging wheelarches perfectly well, the darker wheels increase the Fiesta’s visual presence and give it a more aggressive stance.
Red brake calipers (also part of the ST Style pack, along with illuminated ST sill plates), a large boot spoiler, a deeper rear bumper and twin exhaust tailpipes complete the racy makeover.
Inside, the changes are less obvious, with metal pedals, bright red flashings for the part-leather Recaro seats and revised dials the only highlights. The bespoke instruments are much easier to read than in the regular car, which is welcome.
There’s lots of kit on offer, too. The top-spec ST-3 model comes with with cruise control, heated seats, keyless go and sat-nav all as standard. However, the interior is let down by its fussy layout and the small infotainment screen that’s set too far back in the dash. And while the cabin is robustly built, it’s not as upmarket as rivals like the MINI Cooper S and VW Polo GTI.
From the moment you lower yourself into the Ford’s figure-hugging Recaro seats, grip its chunky three-spoke steering wheel and place your feet on its perfectly spaced pedals, you know this is a car that puts the driver at the centre of the action.
At the heart of the ST’s appeal is its sublime chassis. Retuned suspension dampers and faster steering mean its limits are raised dramatically over the standard car’s, but despite its hardcore approach, the Ford always feels accessible. Turn-in is sharp, and the ST locks on to a cornering line, but it’s so balanced that quick direction changes are incredibly stable, aided by a neat torque vectoring system that subtly brakes individual front wheels to eliminate understeer.
On the track, this means the Fiesta can carry more speed through corners than either of its rivals here, and this translates on to the road, where the precision and grip give you the confidence to drive harder. It also benefits from well weighted controls which provide just the right amount of feedback.
It has the great-sounding engine, with a delicious rasp that makes you rev it harder. It’s paired with a brilliant six-speed manual gearbox, which features a precise, short-throw shift action.
Settle down to a gentler pace, though, and the Ford takes on a more subdued role. The suspension is firm, but the smooth, controlled damping means long-distance journeys are more comfortable than in the jarring Vauxhall Corsa VXR, although the car’s low-profile tyres do give some intrusive road roar at higher speeds.
The Fiesta is the UK’s best-selling car and has been in production for six years, so niggles should be few and far between. This is backed up by our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, in which the popular Ford finished a respectable 52nd out of 200.
Less impressive are the brand’s dealers, which placed a lowly 27th out of 32 in our 2014 poll. On the plus side, if your Fiesta does go wrong in any way, you won’t have to travel far to get it fixed as Ford has 781 garages across the country.
Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes seven airbags and Ford’s intelligent MyKey set-up, which allows parents of younger drivers to limit the car’s top speed and radio volume, plus make sure that any electronic safety systems cannot be overridden. However, unlike other models in the Fiesta line-up, the ST isn’t available with the option of autonomous emergency braking.
If the Mountune upgraded Ford Fiesta ST is your thing, but the idea of aftermarket upgrades make you nervous, you needn’t worry, as the power upgrade is covered under the Ford warranty. Thanks to its long-running relationship with Mountune, Ford officially approves the modifications, which is a strong indication that reliability shouldn’t be affected. You can get the upgrades fitted to your ST at one of 150 approved dealers, and in the first five months over 500 owners bought the Mountune pack.
Although it’s a performance model, underneath the ST is just a three-door Fiesta, which means that it still retains a useful 290-litre boot and rear-seat space isn’t too compromised by the chunky Recaro front seats. Their bulky nature, however, means climbing in and out makes life slightly difficult.
And as with the standard Fiesta, there's plenty of useful storage of odds and ends, including a large glovebox, deep door bins and numerous cupholders. The front seats are set nice and low and are very comfortable, but the firm ride does take the edge off comfort slightly, though.
With a 290-litre boot, the ST has a practical load space, and while the rear seats don’t lie fully flat, when they’re folded you get 974 litres. Opt for a space-saver spare wheel and boot space with the seats up decreases to 276 litres. There’s plenty of storage options around the cabin, too.
Engine noise is well suppressed at 70mph, too, making it a comfortable car to drive longer distances. However, the addition of a larger engine and six-speed gearbox has increased the Ford's turning circle, so it can be hard work in crowded car parks.
Like any performance car, the harder you drive, the greater your motoring expenses will be. Ford claims 47.9mpg for the Fiesta ST, but this will soon plummet once you hit your favourite back road, or take the car on track.
Ford offers the Fiesta in three different trim levels. The range kicks off with the standard ST (£17,250) with the ST2 (£18,250) adding creature comforts such as air conditioning, part-leather Recaro seats and DAB radio.
Ford added a range-topping ST3 trim to the range due to customer demand, which adds kit such as sat nav, keyless go, cruise control, climate control and auto lights and wipers as standard. It costs a further £1,000 over the ST2 but the Fiesta still remains better value than the Renault Clio RS and Peugeot 208 GTi.
The Fiesta ST is affordable fun thanks to most consumables being the same as the standard supermini, but remember to budget for extra wear on pads, discs and tyres if you plan to do track days – and given how fun the Fiesta is to drive, it’d be a shame not to.
Given its impressive performance potential, the Ford emits just 138g/km of CO2, which makes it a surprisingly cost effective choice for company car users. However, unlike many of its competitors, the Fiesta isn't available with a fixed priced servicing package.