Ford Fiesta

26 Mar, 2008 2:37am Sam Hardy

The fastest production Ford supermini ever breaks cover... and we have the details

Calling all fast Ford fans – get ready for the ultimate Fiesta. Following our sensational pictures of the ST in Issue 994, Auto Express can now give you the best look yet at an even hotter version – the RS.

Taking Fiesta performance to new heights, the exciting model will be a stripped-out, lightweight pocket rocket. It’s effectively a hardcore version of the ST, promising few creature comforts but amazing handling and even more driver appeal.

The newcomer is set to rival forthcoming high-performance superminis such as MINI’s John Cooper Works, along with existing extreme hot hatches including Vaux­hall’s Corsa VXR. But the Fiesta RS will actually be closest in spirit to the Renaultsport Clio 197 Cup – another car that takes a minimalistic route.

As you can see from our exclusive images, the aggressive bodykit adds bulging wheel­arches, lowered side sills and a rear spoiler to the Fiesta’s already sporty lines.

News that a hot Fiesta is on the way will be music to the ears of buyers who had been looking forward to the previous-generation Fiesta RS, previewed at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show as a concept (pictured below right).

That project was canned when Ford bosses couldn’t make it economically viable across Europe. RS sales are always biggest in the UK, whereas take-up in France, Germany and Spain is much smaller. These days, conditions are, if anything, even tougher with high steel prices and a strong Euro making it very difficult to make money on a small car – particularly if it’s a flagship performance hatchback.

However, thanks to Ford’s increased profitability in Europe, hot models are back on the agenda. The Focus RS has already been given the green light for production (see Issue 992) and the Fiesta version is the next step.

Available in limited numbers, the hot Fiesta will have a special-edition feel with a stripped-out cabin featuring racing-style seats, lightweight materials throughout and lots of RS detailing. To keep the weight down, kit will be basic – and that’s great news for performance.

It’s likely to use a slightly uprated version of the ST’s potential 1.6-litre turbocharged engine – inspired by the hi-tech range of small cap-acity direct-injection EcoBoost turbo units revealed by Ford at the Detroit Motor Show earlier this year. With that on board, the RS would develop about 200bhp and sprint from 0-60mph in only six seconds, on its way to a 140mph top speed. With its light weight, CO2 emissions and economy should be kept down.

It’s unlikely, however, that the Fiesta will follow the forthcoming Focus RS’s lead by having a clever front differential. But it could use Ford’s six-speed twin-clutch semi-auto gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle­shifters, giving the RS the feel of a Junior World Rally Car. Add wider tracks, stiffened springs, uprated dampers and thicker anti-roll bars plus fat, sticky tyres, and the RS promises to handle brilliantly.

While the new Fiesta will reach dealerships in October and the ST is due in 2009, the RS isn’t likely to arrive until 2010, with a potential price tag of around £17,000.

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