What is it?
The all-new Fiesta ST – the car Ford said it wasn’t going to make. But deep down we never believed it wouldn’t when the time was right. Available only as a three-door manual and priced from £16,995, it’s cheaper than its key rivals from Renault and Peugeot.
Its turbocharged 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol engine combines 179bhp and 214lb ft outputs with 47.9mpg and 138g/km economy figures. The former figure is 19bhp off the pace of its Clio 200 and 208 GTI foes, but the little Ford is still good for a 6.9sec 0-62mph dash – making it the quickest Fiesta yet.
Torque vectoring uses the stability control to apply some braking to a spinning inside wheel, acting in place of a proper mechanical limited-slip differential. Chassis mods fall just this side of hardcore, too. There’s a 15mm ride height drop and a slightly beefier rear torsion beam to complement mildly uprated springs and dampers, while nicely filling the arches are 17in alloys shod with 205/40 Bridgestone Potenza rubber.
The electrically assisted steering uses a more direct rack with 2.4 turns between locks and the ST is the first Fiesta with rear disc brakes.
What’s it like to drive?
Even in its feeblest form, the Fiesta is a very good car, and the nagging notion that there was a huge amount of performance potential to be unlocked (possibly subliminally massaged by Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos) is substantially resolved by the ST.
As a blindfolded passenger, you could be in a Ford Focus ST, so similar are the dynamic personalities. The way the Fiesta responds to the throttle is very similar, too: minimal turbo lag and masses of torque from modest revs, sustained through the mid-range and past 5000rpm before tapering off to the 6750rpm red line. It gives the ST effortless, big-boned performance ideally suited to real-world roads. It seems barely credible from 1.6-litres.
The stability control has three settings – Off, On and Sport, which allows some slip. On is super-safe but masks the chassis’ talent, while Sport is more playful and would be a good bet for brisk road work. But since we’re on a mostly damp closed circuit, it’s all off – and this is where the ST shows the true depth of its Team RS roots. It’s impressively tenacious but beautifully progressive when it starts to let go at the front, and so well balanced that the understeer can be accurately trimmed or transformed into an easily held drift with small throttle modulations. There’s nothing harsh about any of this and you don’t have to be a touring car ace to exploit it.
How does it compare?
Two cars immediately spring to mind, and we’ve touched on them already. The £18,895 Peugeot 208 GTI packs a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and comes only as a three-door. The £18,995 Renault Clio 200 Turbo also has a 197bhp 1.6 turbo, but with the sole option of a six-speed twin-clutch two-pedal transmission and a five-door body. First impressions of Renaultsport’s latest should have the Fiesta worried, though. Read our Clio first drive here.
Anything else I need to know?
Our first drive of the new Fiesta ST is at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium; hardly an impartial location, but one which provides tricky turns and road surfaces, at least. Final judgement is reserved for when the Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo and Peugeot 208 GTI are available at the same time on UK roads. The group test of the season awaits.