We’ve waited a long time for it, but finally the new-generation Ford Fiesta ST is in showrooms. Has it been worth the wait? In a year in which a number of like-minded hot-hatch models will arrive — including Peugeot’s 208 GTI and the RenaultSport Clio RS 200 Turbo — it had better be good.
First things first. Ford has eschewed the 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine which appeared in the previous 2005 Fiesta ST.
Instead, the newcomer gets the 179bhp, 1.6-litre Ecoboost turbocharged unit, which sends drive to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
It’s no slouch: 62mph comes up from a standing start in 6.9secs and it accelerates on to a max of 139mph. At the pumps, Ford says it’ll return 47.9mpg — real life driving will probably see you struggle to hit 40mpg — and it emits 138g/km CO2.
In comparison, the 197bhp 208GTi’s figures are 6.8sec, 143mph, 47.9mpg and 139g/km, while the 197bhp RenaultSport is good for 6.7sec, 143mph, 44.8mpg and 144g/km. As you can see, there’s not really much in it.
Where the Ford definitely leaps ahead is in its price. The entry-level Fiesta ST costs £16,995, which is almost two grand cheaper than its French rival.
Ok, that’s enough of the techie stuff!For that you get a car which has a 15mm lower suspension, with a stiffened torsion-beam rear. The electrically-assisted steering also benefits from a new programme with a faster-ratio rack. And when it comes to stopping, the Fiesta ST gets all-round disc brakes — for the first time — which have been upgraded with larger-diameter rotors and caliper pistons. There’s also a new tandem master cylinder and pads, which have been designed to increase the feedback at the pedal.
Of course, like everything else in the world, there’s always something which is just that little better. In its wisdom, Ford has also launched a new Fiesta ST2.
For an extra thousand quid, you get heated and leather-upholstered Recaro seats, a Sony CD and DAB radio with Ford’s SYNC voice-controlled software interface, privacy glass, LED running lamps, and that all-important ‘Start’ button.
The interior certainly folds beautifully round the driver. Ok, some of the plastics aren’t of the highest quality, which is a tad disappointing, but generally it all works really well. So does the layout and and range of dials, though again quality is somewhat questionable.
Storage bins abound in the front, but bootspace, at 276-litres, is smaller than that in the rival Peugeot and Renault.
Somewhat annoyingly, though the rear setbacks fold, the seats are permanently fixed to the base of the car, and as a result it’s not quite as versatile as it could be.
But let’s face it: if you want to be lugging loads of kit and suitcases, a feisty hot-hatch really isn’t going to be on your shopping list.
Access to the rear seats in the three-door-only ST requires something akin to a couple of yoga moves, a feat made all the more difficult because of the excellent, heavily-bolstered Recaros in the front.
The driving position though is wonderful, with a real rally-feel to it.
“Yeh, yeh, yeh,” I hear you say. “But what’s it like to drive?”
It’s a bit of a split personality. While it’s infinitely superior to the previous model on the motorway, the new suspension will still have you bouncing about in the cabin as it crashes over imperfections — which a softer-sprung car would eliminate — on our motorway network.
There’e quite a bit of tyre noise, and the artificial exhaust note which Ford has fitted the ST with soon becomes too noisy and waring.
But all that’s to miss the point. Find your favourite A- or B-road, and the Fiesta ST comes alive. This is where it’s undoubtedly at its best.
With bucket loads of grip, and the ability to stop as though the road surface was covered in superglue, the ST just keeps on giving and delivering. It’s brilliant.
As for the steering: it’s as communicative as you could ever want, or imagine. It’s Ford engineers and development at their combined best. Be aware though, under overly-zealous acceleration, the front wheels will tug the steering as the massive torque winds through the system. And the big 17in tyres are prone to a bit of tramlining.
But what’s not to like about the Fiesta ST? Ford, simply, has done it again and produced a must-have hot-hatch.
Acceptably civilised when it needs to be, it can also morph seamlessly into the incredibly well-balanced supercar-rivalling flier on the twisty stuff.
It’s a steal, certainly at £16,995. And whisper it: the new Ford Fiesta ST has the potential to be a future classic. Yes, it’s that good.