Ford Fiesta ST review – refreshed and ready to take on the Hyundai i20 N
A class stalwart, maybe, but the Fiesta ST drives with real enthusiasm, engagement and sophistication
The new seventh-gen Ford Fiesta ST was launched back in 2017 to a difficult debut. It needed to live up to its (still) brilliant predecessor, with its key rival at the time, Peugeot’s 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, at full strength and a new three-cylinder engine that had yet to be proven as part of a high-performance powertrain.
Yet Ford’s belief in the ST was vindicated quickly because it delivered big time, taking the ST package to a higher plane than ever before – in outright capability as much as driver enjoyment. The year 2022, though, is a very different place, as while the Peugeot is long gone, its rivals have become a lot more serious, and this time they’re from Japan and Korea.
To compete in this reformed supermini class, Ford’s gentle restructure of the ST line-up in the UK has seen a condensing of the range to a single, high-spec model. With few options, and a standard Performance Pack, the ST is now a serious little package, but one underpinned by its evergreen chassis.
Ford Fiesta ST in detail
- Engine, transmission and technical details – Responsive and tractable powertrain has its limits, but is fundamentally sound
- Performance and 0-60 time – Performance in the meat of the engine’s rev band is super-impressive, helped by the lithe kerb weight
- Ride and handling – Drives with an old-school enthusiasm not generally found in most new rivals
- MPG and running costs – Stands as one of the most affordable performance car experiences, both in fuel costs and consumables
- Interior and tech – Interior’s simple but effective. New seats are excellent
- Design – A facelift has brought about a gentle evolution in design
Prices, specs and rivals
It’s worth remembering how much the car market has changed in the five long years since this generation of Fiesta ST was announced in 2017 and its arrival in 2018, so you’ll have to prepare yourself for how much even this sort of entry-level hot hatchback can cost. There’s now only one high-specification five-door model available, still called the ST-3, with the Performance Pack included.
This makes the Fiesta ST £26,645 on the road. The new ST’s Mean Green colour you see here is an extra £775, making our car £27,420. The ST is stacked with kit, however, with all the important performance features, including the limited-slip differential and 18-inch wheels, coming as standard. The previous model’s Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres have been replaced with a marginally less sticky Pilot Sport 4, but the point is that high-end Michelin rubber is still part of the package.
Ford’s also ditched the Recaro seats and replaced them with a new bucket seat of its own design. While some might lament this change, the new seats are superbly comfortable and slightly more adjustable, too, with a variable length to the seat base. It’s trimmed in an Alcantara-like material on its inner surfaces, and the outer parts are finished in an imitation leather with white and red stitching.
Most of the ST’s European rivals have retreated (for now), with Peugeot and Renault/Alpine ruminating on all-electric hot hatchbacks that are still in development. In the here and now, the Fiesta’s rivals come from Japan and Korea.
First is Hyundai’s very impressive i20 N, a model that matches the larger i30 N’s focus and capability, but miniaturises the package to create something even more exuberant. At £25,250, the single-specification i20 is priced a bit less than the Fiesta and comes with no obvious deficit in specification. The only issue is trying to get hold of one.
Higher up the spectrum is the Toyota GR Yaris at £32,110. While there is a hefty jump in price, it feels worth every extra penny thanks to the GR’s bespoke engine, chassis, body and all-wheel-drive system. The result is profound, and along a slicked British B-road we can’t think of many modern performance cars of any price that could keep up with one.
First is Hyundai’s very impressive new i20 N, a model that matches the larger i30 N’s focus and capability, but miniaturises the package to create something even more exuberant. At £24,995, the single-specification i20 is priced more than the equivalent ST (just) but comes with far more kit.
Higher up the spectrum is the Toyota GR Yaris at £30,020. While that’s a big jump in price, it feels worth every extra penny thanks to the GR’s bespoke engine, chassis, body and all-wheel-drive system. The result is profound, and along a slicked British B-road we can’t think of many modern performance cars of any price or performance level that could keep up with one.
The £27,805 VW Polo GTI is a long way off the Fiesta in terms of fun and capability. It has just been given an update, and while it may well have a bigger 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine borrowed from its big brother Golf GTI, it’s just not that fun to drive.
You could go smaller, of course, with the Up GTI coming in at £18,055, or Suzuki’s updated mild-hybrid Swift Sport starting at £22,570. The Up is excellent value for such a desirable car and it’s amusing to drive, too, but lacks the outright ability of the Ford. The Suzuki’s new mild-hybrid powertrain also undoes whatever interest the original Swift Sport held.
Used and nearly new Ford Fiesta ST Mk8 models
The seventh generation of Fiesta ST took over the mantle from its predecessor of being one of the most entertaining supermini hot hatches, and despite losing a cylinder and 99cc it’s still a hugely rewarding machine to drive, turning even mundane journeys into an event. Performance is strong – 0-62mph takes just 6.5sec and it’ll power on to 144mph – yet it has relatively palatable running costs.
So far reliability seems to be good, but the bad news for the used buyer is that it’s a car in demand that depreciates relatively slowly, meaning that bargains are few and far between. The ST-1 is rare and has less equipment than the ST-2 and ST-3 and the latter model represents the best value for money with its additional kit fitted as standard. Look for models with the Performance Pack which have a Quaife limited-slip differential.
Ford Fiesta ST Mk8 history
The seventh-generation ST was revealed in 2017 before going on sale in the UK in 2018. The range featured three models, ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3, with the ‘1’ being the base model and the ‘3’ being packed with options. There have been two special editions which were produced in limited numbers – the Performance Edition in 2019 and the Edition in 2020. Both had unique trim, colours and adjustable coilover suspension set-ups. A minor facelift occurred in 2021 but power and torque remained the same as for the launch models.
Used Ford Fiesta ST (Mk6, 2013-2017, Mk5 2004-2008)
The Mk6 Fiesta ST launched in 2013 with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that was good for 197bhp and 214lb ft of torque, and its performance was spot on, with an eager power delivery that positively egged you on to explore the chassis’s prowess. It was a hoot to drive quickly and soon became a favourite among hot hatch aficionados who could forgive it its slightly dated interior and perhaps less than class-leading build quality.
The first generation of ST was based on the Mk5 Fiesta and was introduced in 2004. It featured a 2-litre Duratec four-cylinder engine that was good for 148bhp and 140lb ft of torque, giving a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.9sec and a 129mph top speed. It faced stiff competition from the likes of the Mini Cooper S and Renault Sport Clio 182 Cup, and while it was competitively priced it wasn’t quite as much of a blast to drive as its competitors.