Ford Fiesta ST
FAST FIESTA EARNS ITS STRIPES
Ford Have An Illustrious History When It Comes To Hot Hatchbacks And We’ve Undertaken A Long Term Test To Decide If Today’s Fiesta ST Comes Up To Scratch. Steve Walker Reports…
The boss was away from the office on the day that Ford called to enquire as to the engine and specification we’d like on our long term Fiesta test vehicle. After exhaustive attempts to contact him failed, it became clear that an executive decision would have to be made. The office put its heads together and a few months later, a fully-loaded delivery mileage Fiesta ST appeared in the company car park, resplendent in its Diamond White paintwork with blue body stripes.
Had a more senior member of staff been in attendance on that fateful day, you might now be reading the tale of a dull but worthy 1.4-litre Fiesta - the kind of car that most supermini buyers end up with. Had the individuals who were present adopted a more responsible outlook, perhaps I’d be recounting details of the remarkable fuel economy we’d achieved over a few months at the wheel of a highly sensible TDCi diesel model. But no, faced with carte blanche and a lustrous options list, the team succumbed fully and wholeheartedly to temptation, excitedly specifying the most fanciful of Fiestas. You’d do the same, wouldn’t you?
The look of the ST divided opinion form the word go. There seems little doubt that white cars are coming back in a big way with trendsetting brands (notably Saab and Porsche) increasingly choosing to display their showpiece concept cars in this blank canvas colour. The problem, as far as our model was concerned, wasn't the snowy hue of the bodywork, it was more the blacked-out windows, the spoilers, the side skirts, the 17" wheels and, yes, those stripes. It was instantly apparent that the Fiesta ST was going to be a real attention grabber and that the attention it grabbed was going to be a mix of the appreciative and the scornful.
Ultimately though, the target market for the ST is younger people looking for a vehicle that’s fast, affordable and flamboyant. Our ST ticks those key boxes and the people who turn up their noses probably aren’t of the sort who are going to buy a Fiesta ST anyway. ST buyers who prefer a more subdued look can choose to leave the gaudier styling features on the options list.
"The single best thing about the Fiesta ST is the way everything feels so solid"
Despite the strong hint of aftermarket about our model’s jazzed-up exterior, the Fiesta ST’s interior is fairly standard. The waist-hugging ST-branded seats stand out, as does the branded steering wheel but aside from that, you could almost be in a far more normal Fiesta. This is no bad thing, however, because the Fiesta’s interior has a simple, quality feel about it these days. Strong plastics are used and the controls are easy to get to grips with while the two-tone dash with its bulging air-vents is a nice touch.
Storage space isn’t particularly generous and you soon find items cluttering-up the passenger seat and footwell but the pots below the dash are fine for your wallet, keys and mobile. The in-dash six-CD autochanger that’s standard in the ST is a really nice piece of kit that’s refreshingly easy to use.
The chunky front seats don’t compromise rear legroom too seriously and it’s quite possible to get a pair of adults in the back. The boot measures in at 268-litres and that’s amongst the best in class. I can also confirm that the bag of golf clubs (now apparently a standard unit for measuring vehicle carrying capacity) will fit – just about.
The single best thing about the Fiesta ST is the way everything feels so solid. In common with lesser models in Ford’s supermini range, you start to get this impression from the moment you set off. The fat handle and button on the handbrake, the short punching action of the gearbox, the weightiness of the steering, it’s all in keeping with the car’s character. The damping is first rate, the engineers having achieved a fine balance between ironing out the bumps and letting you know they’re there. The cabin is remarkably free from rattles and squeaks with the Fiesta thudding over speed humps and potholes with none of the shudder and shake you get from some rivals.
The ST is a great car to hustle along a twisting B-road. The throttle response is sharp and the brakes have a reassuring, progressive feel. The best of the performance is accessed above 4,000rpm which means that the ST doesn’t come across as being all that quick under normal driving conditions. It certainly feels more sluggish than many turbocharged petrol and diesel rivals but hold each gear to the redline and the performance from the 2.0-litre engine should be enough for most. There’s a satisfyingly gruff engine note to accompany it all as well, but this and the engine’s desire to be revved don’t help the ST’s cruising credentials.
Doing 70mph on the motorway in fifth, the car tops 3,000rpm and a speed of 80mph is achieved at 4,000rpm. The engine is working fairly hard and it sounds like it with a lot of noise finding its way into the cabin, you find yourself reaching down for a sixth gear but there isn’t one. Another penalty for the engine’s rev-happy persona is the fuel economy. From our experience, you can expect to achieve something just over 35mpg on motorway trips and less than 28mpg in stop-start urban traffic.
The economy issue isn’t helped by the fact that the ST is a car that rewards a little overuse of the right boot so generously. It’s brilliantly composed in corners, has impressive levels of grip and always delivers that important fun factor. The fact that the refinement when cruising, the absence of a space to rest your clutch foot and a slightly high driving position are the only real criticisms says a lot for the ST driving experience.
The ‘white with blue stripes’ colour scheme might not be to everyone’s taste but hot hatches should be a little gregarious and our nuggety little Fiesta ST is a cracking drive. If you want outright pace, there are quicker hot hatch offerings but our period at the wheel of Ford’s fastest Fiesta has revealed it to be a thoroughly enjoyable driver’s car with a feeling of build integrity that you don’t necessarily expect in this sector.