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In-depth reviews

Ford Fiesta ST review – living with it

We ran a pre-facelift model back in 2018, this is how John Barker got on after six somewhat bouncy months

Evo rating
  • Exuberant and wildly entertaining chassis; powertrain; precision
  • Single high-spec model is pricey compared to when it all started

In the first few miles it was the incisiveness, the startling precision and the remarkable cohesiveness of the Fiesta that impressed me. Those qualities were still front and centre in Ford’s feisty little hot hatch getting on for 9000 miles and seven months later. In that time there had been a call-up to Car of the Year, a tricky twin-test and plenty of regular miles too, and while the ST wasn’t always the perfect car for the job, it was always entertaining. 

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Our long-termer arrived in late September and was a top-of-the-tree ST-3 fitted with just about every option. Personally, I could have managed without a few of them, the Silver Fox paint included, which cost £750 but looked to some unkind onlookers like grey primer. The essential option was the ST Performance Pack (£850) which brought with it the Quaife limited-slip differential that enhanced the ST’s naturally sharp handling. 

As standard the ST-3 (which today starts at £22,450) is well equipped, with keyless entry, a heated front screen, heated leather seats and steering wheel, satnav, and Apple CarPlay and Android Play. Our car’s upgraded B&O hi-fi (£350) was wonderful, the auto-dimming full LED headlamps (£600) less so, and if I’d been given the choice I would have gone for the five-door version because it would have made the school run easier; the eldest of my three boys is 6ft 2in and refused to cram himself past the front seat and into the rear. It didn’t help that the tilt and slide mechanism was rather sticky, which contributed to the release lever surround coming off in the hand of my middle boy on one occasion. Also, on the day the Fiesta returned to Ford, under the seats I found a couple of bits of mysterious plastic. 

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That said, we all loved the Fiesta. It’s a hatch with a confident stance, sharp on its 18-inch alloys, and it drives like it looks. It’s almost as if Ford decided that the ST didn’t have to please all of the people all of the time, that it could afford to be a strong character, a hatch with a keen sense of purpose. Its little 1.5-litre in-line three-cylinder motor pumped out a smooth 197bhp and made the ST plenty fast enough. There was always torque on hand to test the grip of the front tyres, but only in the wet did the combination of sharp turn-in and turbocharged torque skitter the front wide, though sometimes it would grip and encourage the tail to swing round... In the dry the grip of the Michelins and torque-biasing diff helped the Fiesta corner like it had its arm around a lamppost. Again, the rear could step out but you had to be really pushing on for it to do so.

The ST’s dynamic character was partly what made it special, that and the fact it felt crafted, with even control weights and responses, like all good driver’s cars do. What it didn’t do so well was bumpy roads, which seems rather ironic for a hot hatch. This didn’t stop it doing well against much more potent and expensive competition at eCoty, but it was a characteristic more starkly revealed a few months later in the twin-test with the similarly priced Hyundai i30 N (evo 260). Down the twiddly Elan Valley road the i30 N came into its own while the Fiesta unravelled, feeling lead-footed and clumsy. Yet everywhere else the ST felt sparky and up for it while the Hyundai was mute. 

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Over seven months the Fiesta managed 38mpg, which I thought was pretty good. Its economy never hit the heights suggested by the official figures but a gentle run would see it up into the mid-40s and it seemed reluctant to drop much below 35mpg. 

Other than the detached seat release surround, nothing went wrong, though I have to say that the brakes didn’t feel as good as they had after they’d been used hard on the twin-test, gaining a bit of a rumble and, worse, a bit of dead travel and a sharper bite, a combo that made smooth driving trickier. I never quite got on with the Recaro seats either, finding them very supportive but a touch narrow across the hips. There was a few millimetres of tread on the hard-worked front tyres left, a tiny and anonymously delivered car park ding on one rear wheelarch, but otherwise the Fiesta was in great nick. 

I know the new ST isn’t for everyone. It’s firm-riding and busy on some surfaces, and that’s the killer for some. I appreciate a car that rides well, but the infectious, every-day, every-drive brio of the Fiesta – the keenness of its steering, the sharpness of its handling – won me over. So did its thrummy little triple, which was relaxed in tone but gutsy in nature. The Fiesta is going to be much missed around here. 

Date acquiredSeptember 2018
Duration of test7 months
Total mileage8678
Overall mpg38.0
Costs£0
Purchase price£24,890 (2018)

The following was first published in evo 262. To subscribe, click here to go to our online shop

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