Monday, 14 August 2017

REVIEW – Ford Fiesta ST200

Many cars have been called the ‘king’ of hot hatches over the years, the most common of which is the Golf GTi. But I would argue that the king of the hot hatch in recent times the has been the Fiesta ST. Granted, I could be seen as biased – we own one – but it’s not just me who has spoken so highly of it. The Fiesta has kept the classic recipe: huge bucket seats, plenty of power, manual gearbox, but above all the ability to embarrass much more expensive cars on a country road. And it certainly works: there’s a fair few Fiesta ST’s on the road now. So what if you want to have the Fiesta ST, but still stand out from the crowd? Well, there is this: the ST200. I got hold of one to see if it could really stand head and shoulders above the standard car.

Looks – 9/10

The Fiesta ST is the quintessential hot hatch. And the ST200 has exclusive styling, to make sure people know this is the limited model. You get the snarling grille at the front, framed by LED daytime running lights. To the side, the 17-inch alloys are now a matte black and machined finish. At the back a unique ‘ST200’ badge sits pride of place, in addition to the prominent spoiler, twin exhaust pipes and updated taillights. The ST200 is available in one colour, and one colour only: ‘Storm Grey’. It is unique to this model and looks superb. If it had been an option when we bought ours, I’d have picked it. The complaint I have from the outside is the ST200 badge, which does look a bit too much like a fridge magnet for my liking. One thing you can be sure of is that the ST200 stands head and shoulders above the standard ST's in a crowd. Badge aside, it has serious kerb appeal, and will pass the shop window test with ease.

Inside there are yet more unique features on the ST200. The Recaro bucket seats are all black, and feature contrasting grey and red stitching. Even the seatbelts have a silver stripe down them. But oddly enough, the standard seats can be specified as black/grey, and these would have complimented the exterior nicely. There’s another fridge magnet – sorry, badge – on the centre console, in addition to the plain ‘ST’ badge on the bottom of the steering wheel. The cabin actually feels quite dark. Between the dark headlining, the black seats, black plastics and gloss-black finishers, the car could really use a bit of something to break it up, which the lighter grey or orange aspect of the seats in the standard car did nicely.


Handling/Performance – 10/10

The engine in the ST200 is the same 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol unit as the standard car. It has 200PS and 290Nm of torque, well on paper at least. The engine features a transient overboost function that provides an additional 15PS and 15Nm for bursts of up to 15 seconds. Realistically, it is impossible to accelerate for this length of time – even changing gear would reset the timer – so this is actually a 215PS engine. But then so is the Fiesta ST with a Mountune Performance MP215 kit on it; like ours. The ST200 has shorter gearing than standard, meaning the 0-62mph time is 0.2 quicker than standard, at 6.7 seconds, but top speed falls to 140mph. Shorter gearing means you are getting through the gears quicker, and helps to create a greater sense of acceleration. But in truth you’d struggle to tell this apart from the standard ST, and it may even be a little slower than one that has benefitted from the Mountune upgrade.

The ST200 handles as any hot hatch should. It is agile, darting from corner to corner with glee. You can throw it into a bend hard, loading those front wheels and even cocking one of the rears from time to time. Ford engineers designed a new rear suspension setup specifically for the ST200. And that’s good. But then the factory did not want to do two different setups on ST production, so from late 2016 all Fiesta ST’s have the re-designed suspension. Not that unique then. But once you hit your favourite B-road, the ST just comes alive. From the driving seat you just get lost in the euphoria of driving: hitting the apexes, catching every gear, and all the whileenjoying the sound symposer feeding the engine note into the cabin. Once you get familiar with both the ST and the road, I truly believe that few cars could keep up with you. And that’s why we love hot hatches.

Economy – 10/10

The other reason we love hot hatches, is that they don’t cost the earth to run. Case in point: the ST200 returns 46.3mpg on a combined cycle. Admittedly, if you give in to your temptation to take the B-road home, like a rally driver, then this figure may drop significantly. But for everyday use the little Fiesta will keep you away from the pumps for longer. CO2 emissions of 140g/km mean that the first year road tax rate is a fair £200, and then £140 thereafter. For the amount of performance on offer that’s rather good. Cruise control helps to go steady on the motorway, and I like that the Fiesta has never needed stop/start technology.

Practicality – 10/10

I will say, firstly, that a 3-door hatchback will always have limitations. This is not the car to buy if you regularly transport 4 adults and 2 dogs. Having said that, if you don’t need to do this, then there is nothing inherently impractical about the ST200. Despite the large Recaro seats there’s still decent leg room in the back, and the boot is more than adequate for the weekly shop. You even get ISOFIX points in the back. I did use them: it is possible to get a car seat in the back. But I only had the car a week. As your dear son or daughter got older (and heavier) then the rigmarole of getting the seat onto the base – something which requires a convalescent mix of leaning, bending and stretching – will inevitably dislodge your spine. The ST200 is suitably equipped, with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB radio all part of the SYNC media system. You can also specify rear parking sensors (£200) or a rear parking camera (£250), but in truth the Fiesta is easy enough to park without these.

Fun – 10/10

Arguably, this is the most important category when it comes to a hot hatch. Because it’s not all about the power, and definitely not about the economy or practicality at all. No, it’s about whether or not a car can put a smile on your face. The standard ST is incredible
fun, and I have to admit that the ST200 has a little bit more to it. It looks that little bit more special: especially with the Storm Grey paint job. There is no faulting the performance, and the shorter gears mean you feel more involved than ever. And most importantly of all, you want to drive the ST200 for no reason at all: driving for driving’s sake. There are few cars that would keep up with it on a country lane (although admittedly I could name a couple) and in many ways that makes you happy. This is one car that will never fail to put a smile on your face, and for that I love it.

Concluding Remarks

If you were about to buy a Fiesta ST for the first time, then the ST200 may well appeal to you. On paper, it is easily the model you’d choose. But not me. Granted, I like the exclusive colour scheme. But I don’t like it enough to justify the price of almost £23k before options. That makes it over £3,000 more expensive than the ‘standard’ ST-3, giving you more than enough to buy yourself a Mountune kit and have a decent amount of change. But consider this: the brand new Fiesta is now available, and we know there’s an ST in the pipeline. Apparently it’s got a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Under gentle driving, the third cylinder even shuts down to save fuel. Now I’m not doubting Ford’s engineers – I’m sure it will be great – but whether or not it has that true, authentic hot hatch feel is yet to be seen. So it could well be that the ST200 could in fact be a last hoorah of the hot hatch as we know it. And that could make it worth buying.

Total Score – 49/50


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