by Roger Biermann
We live in a day and age where hot hatchbacks are now serious machines, rivaling sports sedans down the ¼ mile and on track. It’s been a long time since the era of the Mk1 Golf GTI – but the ethos can still be found in some hatches living on today. The Ford Fiesta ST is one such car – placing driver enjoyment and involvement above the need for refinement and race track prowess. It may be the littlest of the Ford Performance brigade, due for 3-cylinder replacement soon, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
Despite the Ford Fiesta boasting one of the lowest rent cabins in its class, Ford have tried to make the Fiesta feel something special. Hard plastics adorn just about every surface, but in ST trim, there’s an ST-specific steering wheel and a milled aluminum gear shifter. Standard sports seats are fitted to the front, but it’s the optional Recaro bucket items that you’ll really want for their extra support, striking looks, ST-embroidery, and heated functionality when the chill hits. Though boasting 5 doors, and 5 seats, the rear of the cabin is fairly cramped and not really suitable for long trips, especially when the Recaro seats are in place.
Front and centre, Ford has also implemented the latest SYNC 3 infotainment system as an optional extra – with touch screen and voice control functionality and an array of Smartphone connectivity options. It’s well worth the extra money as the standard system is overly cluttered with cheap looking and feeling buttons.
Compact dimensions make for compromised engineering – or so we’re told. Turns out Ford didn’t get the memo, and their torsion beam rear suspension has been tuned for maximum fun. Despite being front-wheel drive, the stiff rear suspension and brake-based torque vectoring makes the Fiesta ST lively and playful, and believe it or not, ready to oversteer at a moment’s notice. Trail-braking into corners yields rotation about the front axle that can be deftly adjusted and trimmed by the throttle – making the Fiesta ST perhaps one of the most enjoyable, and adjustable enthusiast’s cars around.
There’s a real tenacity to its handling, a playful aggression like a puppy playing tug of war – fierce, but just having a good time. The electronically power-assisted steering is heavy, but pin-point accurate and against the odds, incredibly communicative. It doesn’t drip with feedback, but it weights up naturally and allows you to exploit the phenomenal front end grip confidently.
Just one engine option is on offer, with one gearbox, and one set of driven wheels. The 1.6-liter turbo inline-4 punches out 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque to the soundtrack of a throaty induction noise. It’s got a DIY, row-your-own-gear 6-speed manual gearbox with a short throw and a rifle-bolt shift action. The driven wheels are the front ones only, but as has already been established that doesn’t ruin the fun. Performance isn’t without spunk, the Fiesta ST clearing the 0-60mph sprint in just 6.9 seconds. EPA consumption is claimed at 26/33 MPG for city and highway respectively.
Optional heated Recaro bucket seats and SYNC 3 infotainment are the only major options to be specified on the Fiesta ST, with all other kit pretty much standard. Heated side mirrors and a power moonroof can also be optioned, but are unnecessary. The NHTSA scored the Fiesta 4-stars in crash testing, with safety equipment including ABS braking with EBD, and stability control, in addition to full airbags. No advanced assistance features are available to help prevent accidents – other manufacturers vastly outshine Ford in this regard.
The Fiesta ST is a back to basics hot-hatch. A peppy engine is matched to a proper manual gearbox and an incredibly playful chassis to create a package that makes you find reasons to go for a drive. This sort of fun never gets old.