Ford Fiesta ST hatchback review
Our Rating

4/5

Ford Fiesta ST hatchback review

The latest Ford Fiesta ST is a truly great hot hatch, with pinpoint handling, a fantastic engine and as much practicality as the regular best-seller.

Launched in 2013, the ST is the first front-running Fiesta hot hatch Ford has built since the RS1800 of the early 1990s. There are three trim levels called ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3, but all are mechanically identical, with a 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol nominally developing up to 180bhp and driving the front wheels. All versions have three doors and six-speed manual transmission.

The ST is in a very competitive market, and faces strong opposition from the Peugeot 208 GTi, Clio Renaultsport 200, Vauxhall Corsa VXR and Volkswagen Polo GTi, as well as the more expensive MINI Cooper John Cooper Works, but it has a loyal following among hot hatch fans who would not consider buying a car without a Ford badge.

Performance

The apparent power output is complicated by the fact that the ST has an overboost system which makes it much more competitive against rivals than the official engine specification would suggest. 0-62mph takes a very competitive 6.9 seconds, while the top speed is not far off the best in class at 139mph.

Tuning upgrades, which include a new ECU map and replacement of the restrictive standard air intake system, are available from outside companies. Of these, the one produced by Mountune is by no means the most extreme (maximum power is raised to 212bhp), but it's the only one which does not affect Ford's warranty.

The manual gearchange is remarkably sweet, and reliably allows for very quick shifts from one ratio to the next during hard acceleration.

Ride and Handling

Turn-in is particularly sharp, though not to the point where the car starts to feel uncontrollable

Now that Renault has softened up its fastest Clio, the ST takes the award for the harshest ride among supermini-based hot hatches. The front end in particular is never at rest on public roads, finding a reason to jar over every bump it encounters. Yet the front suspension is also underdamped. When the ST is pushed hard through slower corners, the nose rises up, leading to understeer and, if the traction control is switched off, wheelspin. A limited slip differential, fitted as an option to the Corsa VXR, would help, but Ford doesn't offer one. On a track, the car has a balance problem unless you can enter a corner so quickly that the tail kicks out, or you make major adjustments to the tyre pressures to push the grip forward. It's also possible to reduce understeer without too much drama on faster bends by easing off the throttle as you feel the front tyres letting go. All this is less of an issue on the road, where the ST feels more precise. Turn-in is particularly sharp, though not to the point where the car starts to feel uncontrollable.

Interior and Equipment

This is the most powerful production Fiesta ever by a substantial margin. The previous highest output was 148bhp for the 2008 ST.

The interior is only slightly more special than that of slower Fiestas, but that's a high standard to start with. The best feature is the pair of Recaro seats mounted up front - they are very supportive, though taller drivers might find themselves wishing they had a little more downward adjustment. The basic ST-1 have 17-inch alloy wheels, an ST-specific bodykit, DAB digital radio, manual air-conditioning, a heated windscreen and, if you've paired your smartphone to the car, Emergency Assistance. The ST-2 has LED daytime running lights, heated front seats with part-leather trim, rear privacy glass and a starter button. In addition to what you get with the ST-2, the range-topping ST-3 comes with satellite navigation, cruise control, Electronic Automatic Temperature Control, automatic headlights and wipers, a self-dimming interior mirror and powered folding mirrors with puddle lights. The luggage capacity is the same as in all other Fiestas, at 290 litres with the rear seats up and 974 litres with them down.

Cost

It's possible to have a Fiesta with well over 200bhp for less than £20,000

Prices start at £17,545 for the ST-1 and rise to £19,545 for the ST-3, with the ST-2 sitting exactly in the middle. With one of the aftermarket performance kits it's therefore possible to have a Fiesta with well over 200bhp for less than £20,000. Combined fuel economy (which most owners are very unlikely to get close to) is 47.9mpg, the CO2 rating is 138g/km and Vehicle Excise Duty will cost you £130 per year. These figures are competitive against the Clio and manual-transmission Polo (the semi-automatic Polo DSG produces better results) and way ahead of the Corsa.

Our Verdict

With a better ride, a less wayward front end and a limited slip differential the Fiesta ST would be our favourite small hot hatch by a long way, assuming rival manufacturers didn't also make improvements to their models. The ultimate small hot hatch doesn't seem to exist yet, but as things stand the Ford is a very strong contender, and while some fans could be more open-minded on the subject we can't argue with their loyalty to the car.

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