You and your ST

The third generation Fiesta ST could have been a huge disappointment, since the last one was so good. It isn’t. It’s great.

I drove the new Fiesta ST around for three days and nobody noticed it. Nobody pointed at the car, nobody drew their phones to take a picture and there was no one leaning against it after I parked it and walked away.

Nobody really cared about the Fiesta ST. And I absolutely loved that. You see, the Fiesta ST is not a car you buy because you want to show off – quite the contrary actually. You buy a Fiesta ST because you like driving.

The latest fast Ford – a lineage that includes iconic models like the Escort Cosworth, the GT or the Focus RS – is the third generation Fiesta ST and, whereas the first one didn’t make a lot of waves, the second version, predecessor to this car, was a smashing hit. So, it was only natural that when the new Fiesta came out, we motor journos began our usual “please don’t ruin the ST, Ford, please, pretty please”.

Ford didn’t reassure us when they let us know the spec: a three-cylinder, 1.5 litre engine? Really? On a hot-hatchback that is supposed to be the best of its kind?

Well, the minute the first reviews started coming out, I knew I could relax. The British press, the Italian press, the German press, they were all saying the car was fantastic. And then came the guys I know that attended the press launch – they too declared it a triumph.

That meant that when my time came to drive the new Fiesta ST, the situation was one where the car could no longer surprise me, but it could still disappoint me if I could not see, feel or experience what most other so-called ‘experts’ did before me.

So, before I picked up the car at Ford’s HQ, I made sure I knew exactly what it was I was driving. I had driven a regular eighth generation Fiesta a few months earlier and loved it, so the basics were dealt with. Compared to the Mk7 Fiesta, the new one has a 71mm wider front track. However, Ford Performance widened it even further and the new ST is a whopping 48mm wider at the front than the old ST.

A big novelty is the introduction of a limited-slip differential, the first ever to be introduced on a Fiesta. Developed by Quaife, it works in tandem with the brake-actuated torque vectoring system in order to offer greater cornering potential and permanent traction, even in the harshest conditions.

Shock-absorbers are frequency-selective – although not adaptive – and can only change between soft and firm settings. That, as I will explain later, makes a world of a difference in the way the Fiesta deals with bumps.

As for the engine, it’s completely new. An all-aluminium, 1497cc three-cylinder turbo petrol marvel, producing 200 horse power and 290 Nm of torque. While not class-leading in terms of power, the new Ford’s unit is truly fantastic. Zingy, revvy and punchy like you wouldn’t believe.

So, engine doubts out of the way, I focused on the rest. And the rest was good. Very, very good. The six-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use and an instant reminder of why some cars are meant to have one and not a silly auto. The positioning of the pedals, the Recaro seats, the steering wheel, it all works beautifully together to create a driving environment that is spot on.

Like I mentioned before, the ride of the new ST is much better than the old car’s. In fact, the ride was the only caveat in an otherwise very entertaining machine. With that fixed, the Fiesta ST becomes one of the most enjoyable cars you can use everyday – and I don’t just mean in its price point. The fun factor is so high I can see this car sharing garage space with more powerful, exotic machinery and still getting picked over those lots of times.

Because it’s so small, and 200 horse power is a usable amount of grunt, this is a car you can do everything in and enjoy it to the max 80% of the time. Trust me, owning a Ferrari is spectacular, but you only use 50% of its performance 5% of the time you are in it. The rest is just an idea of what might be. In the Fiesta, that idea is constantly being put into practice and I love it for it.

Moreover, it won’t break your wallet. At just under €30,000, the ST is cheap(ish) to buy, run and insure. It also looks as good as it drives, has the practicality of a normal Fiesta, uses the right amount of fuel for the performance on offer (think 8-9 litres if you use all of the engine, 6-7 if you don’t) and, best of all, while you are having the time of your life, nobody else will care about it. It’s just you and your ST doing your thing. What a great little car.

By Guilherme Marques