When talk turns to the hot hatch genre – which, when you’ve got a bunch of petrolheads together, is often – the focus is usually on the C-segment of bigger machines, such as the Golf GTI and Astra OPC. This is understandable. After all, they’re the ultimate of their breed. But for the man in the street they’ve arguably moved so far up the price ladder, that they’re threatening to become totally out of reach “dream cars”. Don’t fret, however, because the hot hatch offerings in the far more affordable B-segment are arguably even more entertaining…
That’s certainly the case with this little firecracker, the Ford Fiesta ST. It sticks very closely to the original hot hatch formula – one which calls for big power in a little body, and with significantly upgraded suspension. At the price, the Ford Fiesta ST looks like unbelievable bang for the buck. Is it too good to be true?
Big power, small dimensions for Ford Fiesta STUsing the compact three-door Fiesta bodyshell as a start, Ford’s “Sport Technology” division then added the 2,0-litre Duratec petrol engine, driving the front wheels through an upgraded five-speed manual transmission. It’s somehow strange to find “only” a five-speed ‘box in such a sporty car, but it works well. The shifts are not only slick and fast, but the transmission feels strong overall and should stand up well to regular “enthusiastic” use. The engine delivers a meaty 110 kW at 6 000 rpm, and 190 Nm of torque is on tap at 4 500. Consequently, you have to rev the engine to get the best out of it, but this is no hardship, as the accompanying performance is electric. Ford claims a 0-100 km/h time of only 8,3 seconds, fast enough to scare a few of the bigger hot hatches out there. Top speed is a claimed 208 km/h.
Entertaining dynamicsThankfully Ford has also upgraded the underpinnings to make optimal use of the extra power. It features stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars in addition to an overall ride that has been stiffened up considerably, too. Somehow, however, this has not destroyed the Fiesta’s ride quality. Sure, it is a bit firmer, especially at low speed over rippled surfaces, but it retains its trademark composure at higher speeds. The steering, too, is similarly sharp and direct, perfectly aligned with the overall package. This is an immensely entertaining little car, with fantastically sharp turn-in, good body control, and then that raspy engine to power out of the curves. Those 17-inch wheels, shod with 205/40 profile rubber, provide superb grip, making the Ford Fiesta ST a car with rather lofty limits. Even experienced and skilled drivers will enjoy it. The brakes are good too – discs are fitted all-round and are backed by ABS with EBD. There is no traction control, so take care in slippery conditions!
In the cabinFord has tried hard to lift the standard Fiesta’s interior into the sports class, and has mostly succeeded. The nicely bolstered front seats in partial leather look the business and provide excellent lateral support. The steering wheel gains a little silver accent with a ST logo and there are also aluminium pedals in the footwell. The standard equipment list is comprehensive enough – you get a neatly integrated sound system and air-conditioning, as well as electric windows. What the Ford Fiesta ST lacks, however, is a trip computer – there’s no distance-to-empty reading, for example. And while the driver’s seat features height adjustment, it does not go down low enough, so it’s never quite possible to attain that typically hunkered-down driving position so loved by enthusiastic drivers. And while we’re nit-picking, perhaps a smaller diameter steering wheel would have fitted the vehicle’s character better.
Ford Fiesta - VerdictSomehow, what we have here is a little hot hatch that is even better than the sum of its parts would suggest. The thrilling handling has not come at the expense of everyday comfort. The engine delivers a superb balance of power and economy. The cabin is solid and well-equipped, yet sporty in appearance. The Ford Fiesta ST is a very polished product and one which should, even years from now, still hold significant appeal… and value.
- Thrilling handling
- Zippy performance
- Value for money
- No-nonsense character
- No traction control
- High seating position
- No trip computer
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 110 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 190 N.m @ 4 500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 17-inch alloy
Top speed: 208 km/h
0-100 km/h: 8,3 seconds
Fuel economy: 7,8 litres/100 km
- Peugeot 206 GTI: Not as powerful as the Ford Fiesta ST and also not as overtly sporty. Nevertheless, the little Peugeot is fun, and arguably the more comfortable daily driver. Can’t match the Fiesta for solidity, however.
- Fiat Punto 1,8 HGT: With a 96 kW 1,8-litre engine, the Punto seems a contestant, but the rest of the package is a let-down having seemingly not been upgraded to sports hatch “status”. The handling can’t match the Peugeot or Ford, and the steering and gearshift are not up to scratch, either.
- Peugeot 206 GTI 180 & Renault Clio Sport: To really match the fun on offer by the Ford Fiesta ST, you have to dig deeper in your wallet and go for either of these two French hot hatches, both of which are the real deal.