by Jay Traugott
Based on the acclaimed Ford Fiesta, which has been with us since 2011, the sporty Fiesta ST remains a popular choice for fans of the hot-hatch segment, and those who like the added street-cred that comes with owning a pimped-up Ford. Sadly, the US market hasn't received the updated version of this brilliant little machine, and the 2018 model remains unchanged. Still, it is equipped with a host of onboard features, distinctive appearance enhancements and athletic benefits that make the single-model ST the darling of the subcompact segment. With rivals such as the Mini Cooper S and the Fiat 500 Abarth, the Fiesta ST provides a fun-to-drive experience and places turbocharged hot hatches within reach of even the average Joe. Sadly, it seems to be on the tail-end of the small-car contingency, as Ford in the US will be phasing out production due to a market shift towards crossover vehicles. This is a pity, as the Fiesta ST remains one of the best performance-directed small cars ever produced, despite having below average space in the rear, and slightly fewer driver aids than others in the segment.
While no ST-specific changes have been made for 2018, the Fiesta range as a whole now has a rearview camera equipped as standard. The remainder of the features carry over as is, at least in the US. While a full redesign has been issued for the rest of the world, we see out what is effectively a last-generation model.
1.6-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Literally racing in on 17-inch Rado Gray aluminum wheels, the Fiesta ST hatchback has a streamlined body profile, kitted out with a modified front fascia with a black center airfoil and side rocker moldings. The high-gloss, black-painted upper grille is quite distinctive and the halogen fog lamps it is equipped with are embellished with carbon black surrounds. At the rear, the Fiesta ST boasts cheeky, dual chrome exhaust tips, a high-mounted liftgate spoiler, and a rear diffuser. The sporty styling of the ST is further emphasized by body-color mirrors and the obligatory ST badging. Optional cosmetic upgrades include Ebony Black 17-inch wheels with red-painted calipers for those who really want to go all out on sporty styling.
Generally sharing dimensions with the Fiesta hatchback, the ST differs in its 160.1-inch length and slightly shorter height, which - at 57.2-inches - is an inch shorter than both its sedan and hatch counterparts. With its side mirrors extended, the ST has a width of 77.8-inches, and cruises around on a 98-inch wheelbase, which is standard across the Fiesta range. At 2,742 lbs, the Fiesta ST weighs substantially less than its bigger Focus ST sibling and is 43 lbs lighter than the Mini Cooper S. The two-door Fiat 500 is naturally lighter, weighing in at 2,512 lbs.
Two exterior colors are available at no cost for the Fiesta ST, Shadow Black and Magnetic Metallic, while the more striking White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat and the signature Orange Spice Metallic Tri-Coat will set you back an additional $595. Although limited to only four exterior paint options, the ST badging and appearance enhancements already make the ST stand out in the crowd, with colors such as Orange Spice and Shadow Black underscoring it's cheeky, vibrant nature.
Under the hood of the Fiesta ST rests a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged gas engine which is paired to a six-speed manual transmission. Doing what it does best, the engine produces a robust 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque, and sends power exclusively to the front wheels. Although the Fiesta ST is not all-wheel drive enabled, no other vehicles in this segment are, and the Fiesta ST makes the most of its front-drive chassis. With a powertrain capable of dishing out this much grunt at its heart, the Fiesta ST can sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds, and reach a top speed of 130 mph. The Mini Cooper S, with a slightly more powerful engine, takes 0.1 seconds longer to get there. For the lightweight Abarth, the 60 mph sprint needs close on seven seconds to complete, leaving us rather impressed with the ST's capabilities.
The feisty 1.6-liter direct-injection EcoBoost engine which the ST is equipped with produces 197 hp and 202 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to surge forward at the slightest urging. The high-output powertrain also has an overboost feature that extends peak torque for up to 16 seconds, really sealing the deal on the performance hatchback persona. Feeding power to the front wheels, the ST is available with only a six-speed manual, which undoubtedly has true driving enthusiasts smiling broadly. The manual gearbox offers quick and easy upshifts and fluidity when shifting back down, which makes for effortless passing maneuvers and joyous rowing through the ratios when the road gets twisty. Acceleration is punchy and feels more than ample from traffic lights, and even when already at speed, there's punch in reserve. A sound-symposer amplifies the vocalization of the engine to remind you that you have a hot hatch at your beck and call.
The ST features sport suspension and 17-inch summer-compound tires; this, together with a balanced chassis make it an agile hatchback that actually likes being thrown into corners. It offers superior levels of grip and has enough power available to really exploit its hot hatch status on the open road. The suspension is quite firm, and yet cabin comfort isn't really disadvantaged by it - most road textures are absorbed without a fuss. With responsive steering that is direct and precise, the Fiesta ST provides a really exciting drive; there is ample feedback, resulting in the ST feeling much like an extension of the driver. The confidence that it imbues the driver with is carried through to light, yet responsive, braking. When it comes right down to it, the ST offers driving that is so user-friendly that even amateur drivers will be able to feel like pros - and will allow the more experienced pilots to show off a bit, despite the Fiesta range being a little dated in comparison to more modernized rivals. It's simply one of the most cohesive driving experiences around.
With an engine designed for performance, EPA estimates for the ST are surprisingly good and only mildly less efficient than it's lesser Fiesta stablemates. Averaging 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined, the Fiesta ST's 12.4-gallon fuel tank will be able to speed you at least 360 miles away to the next gas station. By comparison, the Mini Cooper S is quite a bit less efficient, with EPA estimates of 23/32/26 mpg. The smaller Fiat 500 Abarth offers better fuel economy, although the advantage is negligible - to within a mile or two for city and combined driving styles.
The Fiesta ST, like the rest of the Fiesta range, seats five - although realistically, four would be more comfortable. With three interior trims available, either in sport cloth or optional black leather, the cabin is decked out with more of the same ST-styled highlights that identify the vehicle from the exterior. This includes door-sill scuff plates with ST badging, ambient lighting, aluminum sport pedals, and an eight-speaker Sony sound system - not to mention an exclusive sound symposer for the prerequisite ST soundtrack. Optional packages are available to supplement the standard infotainment system with voice-activated navigation or to install a power moonroof.
While the Fiesta hatch range as a whole is marketed to seat five, piling three adults into the rear wouldn't be the best idea, unless you were zipping less than a mile down the road for a decent cup of coffee. Three kids in the back would be fine, but with 37.2-inches of headroom and only 31.2-inches of legroom in the rear seat, space is clearly not one of the ST's strong points. The front is much more comfortable, with 39.1-inches of headroom and 43.6-inches of legroom - a fraction more than what the Mini Cooper S has to offer. Standard seating is not the most comfortable in the class, with sparsely bolstered and frugally-padded seats from the Fiesta range. Adding the optional ST Recaro Package equips partial leather-trimmed bucket seats that are also heated, offering a more comfortable experience for long hours behind the wheel or spirited jaunts around your nearest kart track.
Interior upholstery in Charcoal Black sport cloth with signature silver stitching and ST embossing is standard, although Charcoal Black leather with cloth accents in either Smoke Storm or Molten Orange can be optioned, albeit only with three of the available exterior colors. While the ST is not exactly at the forefront of cabin comfort for luxury materials usage, it's well dampened and is actually one of the quietest in the class. Some hard-touch plastics are bound to catch your eye, but it's not unpleasant as designers have put in some effort to make this model stand out: the shifter is leather-wrapped and features metallic inserts, while the steering wheel is given the perforated-leather treatment and an ST badge.
A meager 10.1 cubic feet of cargo space is what you are given to work with in the Fiesta ST, which isn't much at all - but then again, no-one buys an ST for hauling stuff around. Neither the Mini Cooper S or the Fiat 500 have anything better to offer though, with both providing substantially less. Folding the rear seats of the Fiesta down opens up quite a bit more space, making a total of 25.4 cubic feet available. While you won't be able to fit your kids, and their vacation luggage into the ST at the same time, it does fine on shopping trips and for touring adventures away from home with your significant other.
The ST has a moderate list of standard features included, such as electronic temperature control, a rearview camera, keyless entry, electronic stability control, and the Ford Personal Safety System which offers a mix of airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, and crash severity sensors. Most notably, the ST offers three-mode AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, including Standard, Sport, and Off for more daring drivers. Ambient lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, and intelligent access with push-button start round out the ST standard feature list. A nifty addition, however, is the MyKey technology suite that allows parents to encourage responsible driving in their youngsters; the ST is lacking in some of the more advanced driver aids though, cutting costs for the sake of fun on a budget.
A slightly upgraded infotainment system is given to the ST from the Fiesta range, this includes a Sony audio setup with eight speakers and HD Radio, as well as SiriusXM with a six-month subscription. Centered on a 6.5-inch touchscreen installed with the Sync 3 system, the display offers clear graphics and intuitive management, which is easy to use. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Siri Eyes Free are compatible with the standard infotainment system. The ST also has access to the optional voice-activated Navigation package that features pinch-to-zoom capabilities and integrated SiriusXM Traffic.
No recalls have been issued for the 2018 model and the Ford Fiesta hatchback shares the same ratings with the 2018 Fiesta sedan. No driver complaints particularly directed to the ST have been logged, and the overall consensus finds the ST incredibly pleasing to own and drive. J.D. Power rated the 2018 Fiesta range as a whole at three-and-a-half out of five, putting it above average for the segment.
Backed by a three-year/36,000 mile full warranty, a five year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, and a five year/60,000 mile roadside assistance plan, the Fiesta ST is comprehensively covered.
The IIHS put the Fiesta hatchback range through its paces in crash tests, and scored it at the highest possible level of Good for all areas, except for a small front overlap on the driver's side, which was scored as Moderate. LATCH car seats are poorly rated for being difficult to install in the cramped rear area. Additionally, the NHTSA scored the Fiesta hatch at four stars out of five in all evaluations, with a full five stars awarded for front driver tests. A concern was noted for side barrier protection in the rear seats on this range, however.
The Fiesta range comes equipped with a Personal Safety System which includes dual-stage front airbags, safety-belt pretensioners, driver's seat position sensors and a crash severity sensor. Additional airbags include a driver knee airbag, front-side airbags, and side curtain airbags. The vehicle is also equipped with AdvanceTrac electronic stability control. A rearview camera, remote keyless entry and SOS post-crash alert systems are also standard. For the ST model, not many additional driver assists are included, but cruise control and automatic on/off headlamps with wiper activation are at least standard. Rear parking sensors are available, but not much more.
The Fiesta ST remains a popular choice for the amateur sleeper-car driver who loves the idea of having a powerful engine on tap, without having to drive a gaudy-looking vehicle that screams for attention. It might be getting on in years, but the Fiesta ST does what it was designed to do really well, which is kick out sufficient power and allow the driver to get thoroughly immersed in the experience of hurtling it down the road. With the unfortunate disadvantages of average safety scores and the lack of advanced driver-assists, the ST could probably be a little better equipped for family-carrying, but as a fun, engaging and vivacious hatch, you would be hard-pressed to find better. Its Mini counterpart may supply a more refined cabin and updated styling, but it doesn't even come close to the ride quality and sporty handling dynamics of the ST. The Fiesta ST is fantastic to drive and leaves many fans mourning the loss of the newer models which the rest of the world will have access to, but the US won't.
The one-model ST has a starting price of $21,285, excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Ford's delivery, processing, and handling fee of $875. Coming in at quite a bit cheaper than the $25,900 Mini Cooper S, the ST is only $540 odd more expensive than the quirky Fiat 500 Abarth.
The Fiesta ST is the standalone performance model in the Fiesta hatchback range; it is available in only one derivative.
Sporting an energetic 1.6-liter inline-four, the ST produces 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque, which is exclusively fed through to the front wheels. A smooth six-speed manual transmission is the only option, which allows for spirited driving and proper driver engagement.
Equipped with 17-inch Rado Gray aluminum wheels, the ST has tell-tale dual chrome exhaust tips, carbon black surrounds on its fog lamps, and a high-gloss black-painted upper grille. Inside the cabin, a 12V powerpoint and a premium eight-speaker Sony sound system is equipped, and ambient lighting adds to the sense of excitement. Sporty touches, such as aluminum sport pedal covers, door-sill scuff plates, a leather-wrapped shifter, and perforated-leather steering wheel, are found throughout, with the ST logo making its way onto various surfaces.
For the ST, a small number of packages are available to enhance the relatively well-specified hatch, including the ST Protection package, which supplies all-weather front and rear floor mats that feature the ST logo, a cargo protector, and a full vehicle cover for the princely sum of $475.
Probably the most useful package given the ST's disadvantageous seating situation is the ST Recaro bundle at $1,995, which upgrades the front seats to Recaro partial-leather, with six-way power adjustment and heating. This package also adds heated exterior mirrors.
Voice-activated Navigation can be equipped as a standalone option too, installing pinch-to-zoom functionality as well onto the 6.5-inch touchscreen. SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link are included with this option.
To get the most out of the sporty-vibe, a power moonroof can also be added at a cost of $795. Finally, 17-inch Ebony black wheels with stand-out red brake calipers can be optioned as well for a price of $375.
With only one ST model available, the more relevant question is how quickly to get your hands on an ST before production ends. It remains one of the most fun, engaging and charismatic small cars to drive, and with a punchy engine and superb feedback to the driver, there is nothing about the vehicle that dims our enthusiasm sufficiently to warrant not rushing out and buying one. With its comparatively low price point and the approach of the end of its life-cycle, keeping an eye out for cheaper deals is advisable. We are confident that few to none of the ST owners regret having invested in one. Most options can be easily overlooked, but the Recaro seat option is recommended for the performance enthusiast.
The two-door Mini Cooper S is fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine, which - although offering greater displacement - cranks out 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. With a recent mid-life facelift, the Mini boasts contemporary looks and the choice between a six-speed manual gearbox and an optional seven-speed dual-clutch auto. While the Mini's engine offers strong and competent power and the chassis is similarly go-kart-like, it feels a little sterile and too premium in nature, robbing it of the fun-factor of a junior hot-hatch. Neither of the available transmissions offers anything exciting, and with a firm, rather tense ride, the Mini just doesn't have the character which the ST has in spades. The ST's engine does a better job of directing power outputs, and the thrill of driving it is nigh unbeatable in this segment. Although the ST's interior does seem common in comparison, with fewer driver aids available, the fun-to-drive factor is in no way discredited by its minor failings in the cabin.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is a cheeky competitor with the advantage of naturally distinctive styling and loads of personality. Offered in a two-door body style, the Abarth variant is much smaller and lighter than the ST and is also fitted with a slightly less impressive engine. A 1.4-liter four-pot is nestled under the hood and manages to make 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque - still, this little firecracker is impressive in its own right, with good acceleration, a surprisingly comfortable ride, and above-average handling abilities. Classified as a supermini hot hatch, the
Abarth is obviously not big on interior space and has poor rearward visibility to boot. Disappointing fuel economy adds to the list of negatives and seals the deal for the ST, which simply soars out amongst rivals in the segment for pure, spicy performance.