Ford Fiesta ST review
The new 180bhp Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch offers a sweet drive, good looks and is great value, too
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. Taking the already impressive standard car 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 and Peugeot 208 GTi by around £2,000 – is the icing on the cake.
Our choice: Fiesta ST-2
The arrival of the Fiesta ST coincides with the facelifted version of the regular Fiesta hatchback. However, the ST gets its own interpretation of the enlarged trapezoidal front grille, flanked by narrow projector headlights. The car also features a more aggressive-looking front bumper, which houses a pair of foglights. All models are three-door only (although a five-door version is sold in the US), which adds to the sporty look but comes at the expense of practicality. Both ST and ST-2 trim get smart 17-inch alloys as standard, plus a chunkier rear wing and chunkier bumper. Inside, all STs get supportive Recaro seats, piano black trim and a sports steering wheel, which combine to give the car a smart, subtly sporty look that gives it just enough differentiation from the rest of the Fiesta range. All versions get a DAB radio, Bluetooth and heated windscreen, while the ST-2 adds privacy glass, heated seats and keyless start.
Ford has two types of performance models – range-topping RS and warmer ST. As this car falls into the latter category, it's been designed with everyday useability in mind. Its steering is light, direct and offers plenty of feedback. For such a small unit, the engine sounds great, helped by a sound symposer that pipes bassier engine notes into the interior, while throttle response is instant and it shows a good turn of pace. An overboost function delivers 200bhp for 15 second bursts, while 240Nm of torque means there's strong in-gear flexibility. The suspension is 15mm lower than the regular car, and around 12 per cent stiffer, which ensures extremely engaging handling and excellent body control. Standard torque vectoring and a three-mode traction control system help, too. And while the Fiesta darts quickly into corners, it never feels nervous or edgy. Unfortunately, the trade-off for such incredible agility is a very firm low speed ride - although it's more comfortable on the motorway.
The Fiesta ST is part of Ford’s One Ford car philosophy. So while it’s a sporty model, it still uses proven tech from elsewhere in the range. The 1.6-litre engine is fitted to the Kuga and the rear suspension is borrowed from the B-MAX, while all cars get SYNC voice activation and Ford’s MyKey programmable key system, which allows the car’s owner to programme a key to limit the car’s speed, mute the stereo unless all seatbelts are on, and flash up more conservative warnings for low fuel. The Fiesta ST shares the regular car's five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and comes with a full complement of safety kit, including seven airbags and electronic stability control.
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. 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, while the ride is firm but nice and supple. 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, but this will soon plummet once you hit your favourite back road, or take the car on track. The Fiesta ST is the first Fiesta to feature disc brakes all round, 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, while Ford's dealers performed poorly in our 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.