Good: terrific engine, quality chassis, great noise.
Not so good: harsh ride, tight fitting seats, uninspiring cabin.
To begin, the bad news about the Ford Fiesta ST:
- It is down nigh on 20hp down on its main competitors - the Renault Clio RS200 and Peugeot 208 GTi.
- The Recaro branded bucket seats, while wider than those fitted in the Focus ST, are still a bit snug for the more ‘rotund’ gentleman.
- The interior, despite some ST badging, is still a bit uninspiring.
- As suspected, the ride is too stiff for Irish roads, finding undulations where none exist.
The good news is that all of this is forgotten the moment you prod the starter button and the turbocharged 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine barks into life. For, despite the Fiesta ST’s failings, it is still one of the best hot hatches that money can buy.
The ST faces serious competition in the market from both the hot Clio - long time the benchmark for fast superminis - and the GTi Pug - a car that many critics reckon is the best hot Peugeot since the iconic 205. While we are yet to sample the Clio on Irish roads we know from the international launch that the driving experience is dominated by the new dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which saps a lot of the engagement between driver and car. The Peugeot, while likely more accomplished and useable every day, is that little less focused and missing the aural onslaught that defines the Fiesta. The latter is a little hardcore and not likely to appeal to all buyers, but that is part of the reason we love it.
The chassis adjustments made by Ford of Europe’s Team RS include an Enhanced Torque Vectoring Control (eTVC) system that will brake the inside wheel while cornering (allowing you to power through) a change in the power steering ratio that allows for quicker inputs, new front suspension that optimises camber, and uprated brakes that, for the first time, feature discs out back. Impressive as these are it is the sense of drama that truly excites.
Push the accelerator to the floor and there is a veritable kick on the kidneys as the small hatch launches itself down the road, traction control working furiously to contain the 182hp; all the while the cabin is filled with a most exquisite noise from the 'Sound Symposer' that amplifies and funnels the throaty noises present at the intake manifold into the cabin. It is technically cheating but it’s the type of cheating we can get behind.
As we discovered at the launch, the ST officially has a power output of 182hp, but an overboost function does allow it to deploy 200hp for limited periods. It still is slower to 100km/h than the Peugeot and Renault, but because of the drama introduced by the noise it does not feel it. In fact, even without trying, it ‘feels’ quick and when the right road presents itself it is indecently fast. The changes made to the chassis mean it devours corners like nothing this side of the Renault Mégane RS - and that car is much more expensive. The stiff ride does mean you are liable to be bounced off line should you hit a bump, but the mid-corner adjustability should mean you can avoid such circumstances.
Ford quotes a fuel consumption figure 5.9 litres/100km, but this will soon plummet if the ST is driven in the manner for which it was designed. Thankfully with emissions of just 138g/km (equating to an annual road tax of €280) it is usefully cheaper to tax than its predecessor.
I guess the true mark of a car of this type is how often you want to drive it, just for the hell of it. I picked up the car on Friday afternoon with a full tank and dropped it back on Monday morning running on fumes. Over the weekend I brought friends, neighbours and random strangers for a spin just so I could experience the car over and over. I’ll take mine in Spirit Blue please!