New Ford Fiesta ST-Line 2017 review
The new Ford Fiesta ST-Line brings racier styling to the standard Fiesta range. We try it out on UK roads for the first time
The Fiesta ST-Line's racier looks should prove popular with buyers, and the driving experience is perfectly judged to whet our appetites for the forthcoming ST hot hatch. It’s sharper, yet doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of comfort, while also representing a good balance between equipment and price. However, this punchy but unexciting top-spec diesel doesn’t really suit the package. The cheaper EcoBoost petrols are more characterful and fun to drive.
Aside from a small blip earlier in the summer, the Ford Fiesta has reigned supreme at the top of the UK sales charts for more than three years. And that winning streak looks set to continue, with Ford claiming to have registered as many as 20,000 all-new Fiestas since July – despite the full range not being available yet.
The next few variants are now trickling into dealers, including the posh Fiesta Vignale and the racier Fiesta ST-Line you see here. We’re driving the sporty-looking hatchback on UK roads for the first time, to see if it’s all style and no substance.
We’re driving the entry ST-Line model, with a more generously equipped ST-Line X model available for an extra £1,350. While that gets niceties such as sat-nav, climate control and part-leather, our car still comes with Ford’s SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment, keyless start and LED running lights. All versions come with figure-hugging sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, too.
But it’s the external revisions that many buyers will be drawn to, with a subtle bodykit, unique grille, 17-inch alloys and a rear spoiler giving the Fiesta a distinctly different personality to more comfort-oriented versions.
While ST-Line is expected to be a very popular trim, diesels are predicted to make less than five per cent of UK sales. We previously tested the new Fiesta with Ford’s entry-level diesel engine, and found it to be a unit that punches above its weight. Yet with 118bhp (compared to that car’s 84bhp), this uprated unit promises a significant performance advantage – and its 0-62mph time of nine seconds matches the most powerful 138bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol.
Ford has elected to give this diesel Fiesta quite long gearing in order to boost economy. However, that means it can bog down when changing up into second or third as it drops out of the torque range, particularly when going uphill. Drive around that and it’s a gutsy powertrain, with effortless mid-range punch that makes overtaking a breeze. You’ll be working the six-speed gearbox hard to keep it within its narrow power band, but that’s no hardship as the shift action is brilliantly light and precise.
Refinement is very strong, too, with barely any more vibration through the controls than the petrols models. There’s a commendable lack of clatter in normal driving, too, which is unusual for a diesel supermini. Extend the unit beyond 3,000rpm and it starts to get vocal, however. That’s fine for those who would prefer to maximise the diesel’s 80mpg potential, but the more rev-happy and entertaining turbo petrols would better suit the sporty character of this ST-Line spec.
In the previous generation Fiesta, the ST-Line models were softer than the full-fat ST, which made the car more useable day-to-day. While we haven’t yet driven the range-topper, that looks to be the case again here.
Despite the firmer suspension and 17-inch alloys, the ST-Line’s ride is composed and comfortable over all but the harshest surfaces and deepest potholes. And while road noise is more noticeable than on Fiestas with smaller wheels, it’s hardly intrusive. It’s still superbly controlled, agile and fun in the bends, too, with less body movement than lesser Fiestas and sharp, accurate steering.
Practicality is unchanged over the standard car, and all ST-Line models are available with a choice of three or five doors. Cabin quality has moved on significantly from the outgoing car, too, and it now challenges the class best for materials, tech and fit-and-finish.