Sunday, 1 June 2014

REVIEW - Ford Fiesta ST

After writing just the other week about the reinvention of the hot hatch in the Peugeot 208 GTi, it seemed only fitting that one of the next cars to arrive on my driveway was the Ford Fiesta ST. With the Fiesta being one of the most popular cars on sale today, Ford seem to have a good idea of how to please the people. And with their history of producing performance hatchbacks it was reasonable to assume they would make a good job of that as well. I’ve read great things about the Fiesta ST, and couldn’t wait to experience one for myself. But would it live up to my high expectations, or fall foul to excess hype? Time to find out…

Looks – 10/10

I absolutely love how the Fiesta ST looks. Whilst I’m not overly keen on the large mouth on a plain model, filled with a honeycomb grille it suits the aggressive front end on the ST. Coupled to some angular bumpers and daytime running lights, this really is an imposing car which looks best barrelling up into someone’s rear view mirror. With the style pack you add grey alloy wheels and tinted windows, which are nice touches on the outside. I like the design of the wheels too; they suit the Fiesta. At the back there’s a large spoiler, painted bumper trim- which looks really effective- and a twin exhaust. The only bit I’m not 100% struck on is the colour. This ‘Molten Orange’ paint looks great in the sun, but it’s also not to everyone’s taste. I’d take Spirit Blue any day of the week.

The inside is quintessential hot hatch, and the best feature- the first thing you see when you open the door in fact- are the two large Recaro seats. I’ve always said that a sporty car should have a sporty interior, and these deep-dished buckets go a long way in generating that feel. They’re half leather, with various colour options available for the material part of it. The ST logo is stitched onto them, and is also nicely featured on the bottom of the steering wheel; which is chunky and allows you a firm grip. The trim features brushed aluminium and piano black, which works in harmony to create that sporty feel. The dials are bright blue too, and I like the push-button start which has the word ‘Power’ written on it. And then there’s the aluminium pedals which are another must in a sports car. There’s an armrest between the two front seats, but it doesn’t adjust, and you can’t really reach it around the side bolsters of those snug Recaros. But it never bothered me at all.

Handling/Performance – 10/10

Power for the Fiesta ST comes from a 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol unit. It may boast lower power figures than the 208GTi with 182PS (to the Peugeot’s 200) but it offers up more torque with 290Nm on tap (the Pug has 275). Performance figures are nigh-on identical, and the Fiesta gets from 0-62mph in a brisk 6.9 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 139mph. That’s certainly enough to call it a hot hatch, and to drive it’s even better than the figures suggest. The ST gets a 6-speed box which has good ratios, making it easy to stay on the power. That being said, the torque is such that there’s plenty of power available in any gear. By far the best feature of the Ford is the ‘symposer’ system which feeds engine noise into the cabin when you give it some welly. The accompanying noise is absolute bliss- and rather addictive- giving the ST a perfect package when it comes to performance.

Then we move on to handling, a vital part of any hot hatch. And the Fiesta ST is simply breathtakingly good to drive, you have to see it to believe it. The balance is spot on and the steering perfectly weighted with pin-sharp turn in. Put simply this car can corner at speeds you wouldn’t think possible. You could be forgiven for thinking it had a limited-slip differential with how the front end hugs the apex. Even in damp conditions understeer is manageable, and lift-off oversteer will result of some more eager driving; again easy to control. I found this car really easy to set up in the corners, and balancing the brake and throttle gives perfect results. The suspension is firm enough to cope with hooning around, but not so firm that the car is uncomfortable. That being said the seats go a long way to making the ST a comfortable cruiser. I would have liked cruise control, but you don’t need that for an A-road blast anyway.

Economy – 10/10

Thanks to the 1.6-litre engine and long 6th gear the Fiests ST is rather economical indeed. Combined fuel consumption is a very reasonable 47.9mpg and the CO2 emissions are 138g/km. That puts the ST in VED band E, with road tax costing just £125. That will be the same in the first year too, and considering all the performance this car offers I consider that a rather good deal indeed. There’s no fancy start/stop technology, because that’s not what the Fiesta ST is about at all. Just a small economical engine that does 80mph at 3,000rpm so on the motorway you can claw back a bit of the fuel you spent on the fun A-road that morning.

Practicality – 10/10

Following the same rule as the 208GTi, the Fiesta ST is a 3-door only (in the UK at least) model which is key to being a hot hatch. Considering the Recaros up front are big and hefty they tilt and slide with ease allowing people to access the rear seats, which are perfectly spacious and comfortable. I had no issues sitting in the back at all, although I did miss the lateral support offered by the buckets up front. The boot is a very generous size- as is the case with most modern hatchbacks- and visibility is good. Driving this car is very easy indeed, and that’s just the beauty of a hot hatch. They’re everyday cars that have a hidden side to them. So when you’re driving to the shops with the wife and kids it’s refined, comfortable, and easy to park. There’s Bluetooth, optional satellite navigation and- on the upcoming ST-3 model- keyless entry too.

Fun – 10/10

No car I have ever driven gave me as much joy as the Fiesta ST. I always found myself grinning from ear to ear every time I drove it. Not even a sudden downpour could dampen my spirits. I drove several hundred miles in the Fiesta over a single weekend, for absolutely no reason at all. I have reviewed several cars recently that- despite being good cars- never make you want to grab the keys. Well the Fiesta ST made me do something I’ve not done for a while. Go out for a drive lasting several hours, for absolutely no reason. It was brilliant. I’m fortunate enough to live near some absolute gems of roads, and what better car to enjoy them in. Once you’re behind the wheel and in the zone, nothing else matters, and that’s why we all love driving in the first

Concluding Remarks

Well there you have it; the Fiesta ST. Only the third car to grace this site and drive away with a clean sweep of 50/50. But if the truth be told I could have scored it more. Cars like this will be under-appreciated by everyone except those who drive them. To most this will appear to be another hot hatch, but I assure you it’s more than that. It had me smitten in an instant, and everyone else who drove it. In fact, the soon-to-be Mrs Woods- who has a Fiesta Zetec S 120PS at the minute- will accept nothing else as her next car. So I guess I shall have to butter up the guys over at Ford, to see if they can do anything on the £18,995 price tag my car came with. That being said it still comes in cheaper than its rivals, and the fact that you can get a car like this under £20k represents fantastic value for money. The Fiesta ST then; perfection. There’s no other word for it.

Total Score - 50/50

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