The new Fiesta ST three-door ‘hot hatch’ with its Welsh built 1.6-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has a healthy 180bhp power output and more importantly 177lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm and nearly 200bhp and 214lb ft of torque during the 15 second ‘overboost’ acceleration mode.
The Fiesta ST is available with two trim and equipment specifications with prices of £16,995 for the ST-1 and £17,995 for the ST-2. Ford say 90% of advance orders have been for the ST-2 level. The ST-2 level looks good value with the added spec including an uprated sound system, Recaro sports seats with partial leather trim, heated front seats, push-button start, privacy glass and LED lights. Standard on both versions are electric windows and mirrors plus air conditioning and on-board computer.
Ford expects to sell around 5,000 units of the Fiesta ST in the UK in a full year, which is more than half of the 9,000 total annual European production output for the ‘hot’ Fiesta with its Bridgend built heart in a Cologne built body. In the UK there have already been 1,000 orders for the new model.
The new ST has a top speed of 139mph whilst the zero to 62mph acceleration dash takes 6.9 seconds. With 20% more power and 20% fewer CO2 emissions it is also the most fuel efficient Fiesta ST. It delivers an official Combined Cycle figure of 47.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 139g/km so VED road tax is a compelling £125 a year. Company car drivers will get away with only 18% in Benefit-in-Kind tax as well.
In the US Ford can claim close to 200bhp from the same engine and 214lb ft of torque because they use the ‘overboost’ peak power rating figures not the ones which have to be applied in Europe with the constant power output, not just the 15 second ‘overboost’ peak.
Visually the Fiesta ST has a honeycomb design of large trapezoidal grille but it is based upon the new 2013 Fiesta Aston Martin style ‘open mouth’ concept. This is flanked by sleek sports style headlights incorporated LED daytime running lights and at the rear there is the under-bumper honeycomb diffuser similar in design to that used for the Focus ST. Of course there is ST detailed badging in and around the three door body, Recaro front sports seats and sports pedals. Ford’s SYNC communication and emergency assist and MYKEY personal settings with owner pre-set safety parameter functions are available on both specification levels.
With a need to ‘hear-the-speed’ Ford has also included their Sound Symposer system which feeds the engine note into the cabin to ensure the distinctive engine roar is an integral part of the go-faster driving experience.
The Fiesta ST is a product from Ford’s Team RS European arm of their Global Vehicle Group. The RS Team has tuned the powertrain, suspension, steering and braking systems. Ford says they have added performance specification normally only found on larger and more powerful sports models. These include Ford’s Torque Vectoring Control which reduces torque steer, the latest generation three-mode electronic stability control, a six-speed close ratio manual transmission and added rear disc brakes to ‘up’ the stopping performance and reduces brake-fade.
The suspension has been lowered by 15mm to reduce the centre of gravity and the Fiesta ST has unique front and rear spring and damper settings and for good measure the rear twist-beam axle has increased roll-stiffness.
On paper it’s a thorough performance enhancement and very good value version of the UK’s best-selling ‘supermini’. The most obvious competitor is the very new Peugeot 208 GTi, also with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This three-door hot hatch has a 200bhp power output, it’s a little faster but officially it returns the same Combined Cycle fuel economy, the same CO2 figure but costs almost £1k or £2K more depending on the level of Fiesta ST spec chosen. Although the 208 GTi is a little less agile than the Fiesta ST it offers a better level of ride comfort. Another ‘hot hatch option is the 1.4-litre GTi VW Polo 3-Door 178bhp which costs £19,430 or sticking with Fiesta, buyers could choose the three-door 1.0-litre 123bhp EcoBoost Titanium X variant at £16,445 which makes the new 179bhp ST look really good value for money. The MINI Cooper S and Vauxhall Corsa 1.6 VXR are also competitor models and a yet to arrive new RenaultSport Clio will join the ‘hot hatch’ segment.
Having seen the Bridgend home of the Fiesta ST’s 1.6-litre engine, the UK motoring media put the new model through its paces on main roads and winding country lanes in South Wales and the compact Llandow racing circuit. Once behind the wheel and with test driving under the very first impression is just how firm the suspension is, really too firm and uncompromising for many I fear. We know the Fiesta is the best handling ‘supermini’ on the market combing sharp responses with an untiring level of ride comfort. Yes I expect sports models to give a firmer ride, but not to the very stiff and uncompromising level of the Fiesta ST on our poor UK road surfaces. I suspect young ‘thrusters’ will initially enjoy the surefootedness the newcomer offers but after a while it loses its appeal as rippled road surfaces and broken tarmac give an unsettled and plainly harsh level of ride comfort. Ford really needs to look at the customer profile of those buying hot-hatchbacks these days. Due to the economic climate it isn’t, in the main, the previous youthful generation buying these fun cars, it’s slightly older users with more money to spend and in some cases currently downsizing from larger sports models.
Another issue for me is the decision for Europe of only offering the Fiesta ST as a three door hatchback. Two thirds of ‘supermini’ hatchbacks sold in UK/Europe these days are five door models. They fit today’s motoring requirements better and the ST is no different. Today’s ‘hot hatch’ has to be a family car as well, it’s a better combination with room for the family/friends when needed with better access to the rear seats but still remains capable of ‘hard-core’ performance at other times. Traditionally hot hatches have been three door cars; today’s market requirements have changed and in the US Ford offer the new Fiesta ST in five door configuration so why not here? We hear about the ‘One Ford’ latest global model policy on almost every occasion at Ford’s media events so why doesn’t this apply to the Fiesta ST?
In terms of traction, agility and steering sharpness the Fiesta ST is ahead of the field. The clever electronic three-mode electronic stability control, the torque vectoring control and slightly quicker steering ratio really combine to flatter the driver. They are brilliant ‘on-track’ even in the damp weather and impressive on the highway apart the tiresome reaction from the overly firm suspension on poor road surfaces.
MILESTONES. Ford Fiesta ST-2, 1.6 EcoBoost, 6-speed manual, 3-door. Price: £17,995. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 180bhp, 177lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm (‘overboost' mode’ 199bhp/214lb ft), 6-speed close ratio manual gearbox, torque vectoring and 3-mode electronic stability controls. Performance: 139mph, 0-62mph 6.9 seconds, 47.9mpg Combined Cycle (38.9mpg on test), CO2 138g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 18%. Insurance group: 30E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Very competitive pricing, strong and responsive engine, good fuel economy potential, fast, terrific performance from the electronically controlled grip and handling systems, well equipped, good looks. Against: Extremely harsh ride, a five door model would make for even more sales. By Miles Better News Agency