The Ford Fiesta ST has always been a car for those who value handling finesse over Top Trumps power figures. Jonathan Crouch has an early look at the latest generation model in top ST3 form.
Ten Second Review
Ford's Fiesta ST has long been the thinking person's fast hatchback. This latest one is no exception. With 182PS on tap, it keeps things real and the pricing looks great as well. Ford has certainly put down a serious marker here. The plushest ST3 version adds the sat nav, keyless entry, cruise control, auto headlamps and wipers, power folding mirrors and electronic climate control that many owners will want.
So-called 'warm hatches' have often been a tricky sell. Why? Because there's usually a faster version that's more desirable and which hogs all the column inches. Warm hatches are usually bought by younger drivers who want the faster car but can't afford the insurance bills. Making do for the time being, in other words. There is an exception. Ford's Fiesta would appear to be the perfect candidate for a searing hot hatch, but in recent years, instead of a fire-breathing RS model, the pinnacle of Fiesta sporting ambition has been the ST line. But the 'Sports Technologies' variant has usually been a great car in its own right.
Now we've got another Fiesta ST to compare with earlier standard setters. Instead of the 150PS it had in previous generation form, it gets a heftier 182PS. Does this lift it into a more serious price category? Not a bit of it. Ford has kept the pricing keen, so much so that we suspect that some manufacturers of this Fiesta's opposition are starting to feel more than a little worried. The top ST3 version we're going to look at here costs an extra £1,000, but still manages to look good value against many obvious rivals.
As much fun as the old Fiesta ST was, its downfall was easy to pinpoint. It had 150PS and sold for not much less than £14,000. For only £200 more than its asking price, you could buy a Renault Clio 182 Cup. Game over. Ford's determined not to fall into that trap this time round and has gone about equipping the latest Fiesta ST with the firepower it needs to succeed in its price bracket. The engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged 182PS Ecoboost four-cylinder unit that's good for 177lb/ft of torque. That translates into a sprint to 62mph of just 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 137mph. That's an old school nought to sixty in just a fraction over six and a half seconds - which isn't hanging around by any means. Vehicles from the next division up would have a tough time shaking off this Fiesta in a straight line, never mind in give and take roads.
Ford has developed new chassis and suspension components to improve the ride quality and refinement of the car and further enhanced the Ford Electronic Power Assisted Steering system. Unique suspension and steering tuning and better Torque Vectoring Control (eTVC) combines with a 15mm lower ride height to deliver the requisite dynamic improvements over what is already a very good chassis.
Design and Build
Ford produce the Fiesta ST in both three and five door guises, but there are no plans to import the five-door car to the UK. But when the three-door model looks this good, I doubt too many tears will be shed. The big front grille (which can look a bit ostentatious on an ordinary poverty-spec Fiesta supermini) works well with the ST's more extrovert body styling. That runs to an imposing black honeycomb trapezoidal front grille, plus a large rear spoiler with twin air vents and twin exhaust. Colour choices including Molten Orange and Spirit Blue and an optional style pack adds red brake calipers and grey alloy wheels to pump up the aggression a bit.
The rising beltline of the Fiesta in profile doesn't seem to bode well for the rear seat passengers in this three-door car but the Fiesta surprises with decent legroom and headroom that's manageable even for a six-footer. The windows are small and set high up, so light isn't abundant in the back but the shopping bags, coats and road atlases that owners will store there most of the time won't be overly worried.
Market and Model
Ford has landed a serious haymaker on its key rivals with the pricing of the ST. Most expected it to open at around £18,000 but with the entry-level car priced at around £17,000, it even manages to undercut cars like the Skoda Fabia vRs, with which it shares a 180PS power output, let alone vehicles like the Peugeot 208 GTI and the Renaultsport Clio 200, cars which carry a price tag of around £19,000 and a 20PS power advantage but which are not appreciably quicker in a straight line.
If you were thinking of spending around £19,000 on either the Peugeot or the Renault, the same kind of budget will get you the top ST3 version of the Fiesta ST that we're featuring here. This car really does get the options list thrown at it, with features like sat nav, keyless entry, cruise control, auto headlamps and wipers, power folding mirrors and electronic climate control all included.
Standard spec for all Fiesta STs runs to 17in alloy wheels, a body styling kit with a chromed dual exhaust pipe, a Quickclear heated windscreen, front fog lights, a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, a leather-trimmed ST steering wheel and gearshift knob with red stitching plus a decent quality stereo system incorporating a DAB digital radio. There's also Ford's clever Bluetooth/USB SYNC connectivity and the 'My Key' system via which you can tailor the systems of the car to your own settings communicated to it via the ignition key.
Cost of Ownership
The whole point of sporty Fiestas has been to offer a generous slice of fun coupled with modest running costs. It was always thus with the old XR2 and it continues with this generation ST. Even with 182PS on tap, you'll still see 47.9mpg on the combined cycle with emissions pegged at a very reasonable 138g/km. That compares well with cars like the 208 GTI, which manages 139g/km and the Fabia vRS at 148g/km.
Much of this is due to the inherent efficiency of the EcoBoost 1.6-litre engine and the focus on reducing the Fiesta's weight, despite it increasing in size. Fiesta residual values are on the up, which might seem odd given a step up in sales volumes, but it seems both new and used markets are responding well to the increase in quality of the latest generation car.
It's hard to see how Ford could have done a lot better with the Fiesta ST. Warm hatches are usually a difficult thing to position as there will always be that nagging feeling that if you just saved a little more, you could be in something more exciting, but the ST has long stood up very well as a model in its own right. With 182PS on tap translating into a sprint to 62mph of just 6.9 seconds, this Fiesta is quicker than many of the proper hot hatches of not so very long ago. It'll most certainly out-handle some fairly illustrious names as well.
An integral part of bringing a warm hatch to market is managing costs and it's here that the Ford really plays its trump card. It gets 47.9mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle and emissions are rated at just 138g/km - but the biggest draw is certain to be the price tag. At just £17,000, the base model is very tempting and even in the £19,000 ST3 guise we've looked at here, it still strongly pays the value card. What's not to like?