Overall rating: 4.5/5
The latest generation Fiesta ST is claimed to have moved its game on quite a bit from its predecessor. It uses a clever suspension setup to best exploit the power from its rapid yet surprisingly economical EcoBoost engine. Is it even more fun than a Focus ST?
In the Metal:
Like most modern hot hatches, the new Ford Fiesta ST was designed to have looks to match its performance without appearing to be too wild. This time we reckon Ford has nailed it thanks to tasty 17-inch alloy wheels and the sportier stance from sitting 15mm lower than the regular car.
The interior is well put together and feels spacious in front, but aside from an ST-branded steering wheel lacks much to make it feel that little bit special. That said the Recaro seats are great, the quality of the materials used are good and overall it feels well put together.
The first thing you notice when you press the 'power' button is the hum from the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine. One would expect a unit claimed to be as frugal as this to be almost devoid of any sporting sound, but thanks to Ford's 'Sound Symposer' system induction noise is fed through to the cabin. The result is a more natural engine sound compared to other speaker-based systems employed by some manufacturers.
Power is available from right down in the rev range and feeds through in a very linear fashion right the way up to the 6,000rpm red line. There is surprisingly little in the way of torque steer and understeer at the limit is greatly reduced thanks to Ford's Enhanced Torque Vectoring Control (eTVC) system, which applies a small degree of braking to the inside wheel to improve drive through a corner. The six-speed manual transmission is well geared and the relatively short throws between ratios add to the sporty nature.
The electronic power steering features a 13.6:1 ratio (changed from 14.6:1) to help the nose react quicker to input. This, combined with new front suspension that optimises camber, results in a car that you can really push through a series of flowing bends with a real feeling of confidence in what it's doing. On the brakes the Fiesta remains surefooted and predictable thanks to its upgraded system, which features larger ventilated discs and callipers and - in what is a first for the Fiesta range - rear disc brakes too.
But away from all the performance end of things, the Fiesta is a manageable and easy car to negotiate in both town traffic and motorway driving. Wind noise is acceptable and at 50mph in sixth gear it still pulls well without the need to drop a cog. That beefy engine note is omnipresent though it's not so offensive as to irritate on longer trips.
What you get for your Money:
At €25,760 the Fiesta ST1 will feature 17-inch alloys, Recaro sports front seats, a leather-trimmed ST steering wheel, disc brakes all-round, the SYNC system, MyKey, ESP and seven airbags.
ST2 models add LED daytime running lamps, part-leather trim for the Recaro seats, na upgraded Sony stereo, air conditioning, privacy glass and push button start.
Ford has worked hard to make this more than just a small hot hatch with a powerful engine. The EcoBoost engine puts out an impressive 182hp yet can achieve a quoted 47.9mpg on the combined cycle, while its emissions put it in tax band B (€225) meaning you can now own impressive enough performance without it breaking the bank.
Ford's new Fiesta ST certainly sets a high benchmark for its class, although it remains to be seen as to whether it can retain its position for long. With new offerings coming from Renault and Peugeot in the form of the Clio RS and 208 GTi respectively, the hot hatch market is certainly heating up. For now though, the Fiesta is so good we'd even consider it over its bigger brother, the Focus ST.