Letters define a brand’s models, and Ford added two more in the late nineties. Phil Curry checks out the newest offering from Ford’s ST line…
In the 1980’s, Ford’s sportier models were defined by two letters, the XR, or the RS. Through the 90’s, the XR faded by the wayside, while the RS branding became mired in numbers, the 1800 or 2000. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the RS brand came back to its best with the Focus RS. But this was pure performance, Ford always lacked that ‘hot hatch’ element. Now it’s back, with another two letters – the ST.
Firstly, it was again mired with numbers, the ST24, 170, 200 and so on. Now, we just have the Focus ST, and finally, the new Fiesta gets its own version. But is it worthy of the hot-hatch market?
Ford’s new large-grill design was first seen on the new Mondeo, which is out later next year. To prepare the public, the Fiesta’s facelift in late 2012 was the first to implement the design on the road. Despite looking good, the ST really pulls the look off, using its own version of the grill – which many have likened to the Aston Martin – adding to its sporty look, especially with a well-placed ST badge. The projector lights well placed in the bumper break up the front well enough. In fact, the bigger bumper on the car helps with the wider stance-look of the ST, and if it’s wider, it looks meaner.
Ford will only provide the ST in a three-door variant, so while getting in and out of the front seats will be easy, rear passengers will have to make do with folding seats. What this does mean is the car offers a sleek roofline with a small but respectable rear spoiler. In addition, there is a chunky rear bumper, featuring its own version of the front grill above the diffuser, adding to the sporty look.
The ST comes with 17-inch alloys as standard, and is 15mm lower than standard models. It certainly looks good on the road, while not looking out of place on the track either. But the twin exhausts on one side, while looking nice, would be better with one pipe either side of the car, keeping the symmetry.
With Recaro half-leather heated seats (ST-2) offering a firm hold, the interior of the ST is a comfortable place to be. You sit lower in it than other models in the Fiesta range, and that gives you a feel for the performance of the car. Add to that a sports steering wheel, which is chunky, and very nice to grip, and you have the making of a decent, sporty feeling hot-hatch.
However, for rear passengers, the leg room is a big tight – especially if those sitting in the front are tall. Still, without people in the rear, the interior is a welcome place to be, with plenty of light let in, and all the controls right where you need them. The centre console is a tunnel, connecting to the dashboard and therefore lets the driver feel ‘cocooned’ in their section of the car. Silver pedals add to the look while not doing anything specific.
The variant tested was the ST-2 spec, which features a Sony DAB radio, and keyless starting, as well as electronic temperature control. The rear passengers are also shielded with privacy glass, although heavily shaded windows are most likely more for keeping sunlight out, than stopping people looking in.
You can tell the Fiesta has been lowered, even by a small amount, as it takes corners particually well. But it does have a firm ride. Corner roll is eliminated, and it features three traction control settings to give drivers the response they need. Understeer is reduced thanks to a ‘torque vectoring’ system, and on a test track, it certainly felt planted through each corner, with no worry about over-reaching the limit.
The steering itself is very responsive. With a nice chunky steering wheel to hold, the ST feeds its power nicely through the pumps to limit any delay, meaning as soon as the wheel is even slightly turned, the car is going in the direction you want. The power is supplied through the front wheels, but torque steer is minimal.
The ST hides a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine under its bonnet. The all aluminium block, with its low-inertia turbo, produces 182PS, with a 0-60 time of 6.9-seconds. What is more incredible though, is the combined MPG figure provided by Ford, of 47.9 miles-per-gallon. Speed and performance with an engine that won’t hurt your wallet is something to take note of. As a comparison, a 1998 Mondeo ST24, with its 2.5-litre DuraTec 24v V6, runs at 27mpg, and the Fiesta ST is faster.
Ford didn’t produce a Fiesta ST for the older version of this shape, and left many waiting for another true small hot-hatch. Thankfully, the wait is over, and those who wanted will not be disappointed. With an on-the-road price of £17,995, a fantastic MPG figure, an engine that lets you know it is capable of powering you around a track, and suspension that is just as good on the road, the Fiesta ST is certainly worthy of its place in the hot-hatch market. Ford has once again found two letters to announce a vehicle’s pedigree to the world. ST is here to stay.