Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review

By Ben Barry 28 February 2013

By Ben Barry

28 February 2013

This is the Ford Fiesta ST, baby brother to the Focus ST and follow-up to the 2005-2008 ST. It costs from £16,995, putting it head-to-head with Renault’s new sub-£20k Clio RS and Peugeot’s new £18,895 208 GTI.

What’s the tech spec?

At the ST’s heart lies a 1.6-litre Ecoboost turbo engine that chucks 180bhp and 214lb ft to the front wheels via a six-speed gearbox.

Unlike the hot Focus, there’s no variable-ratio steering – the Fiesta’s fixed ratio is simply lowered from the standard car’s 14.6:1 to a swifter 13.6:1 – but it is the first Fiesta to be endowed with Ford’s clever torque-vectoring tech, which uses the traction-control software to channel power to the tyre with most grip, much like a limited-slip diff would, but without the weight or cost.

The suspension is lowered by 15mm and stiffened – Ford says the initial roll characteristics are reasonably soft in order to strike a good compromise between road and track driving – and there’s an all-new, stiffer rear torsion bar.

The ST also debuts rear disc brakes on a Fiesta for the first time. Cutting edge or what?

Can I get a five-door Fiesta ST?

No, not if you live in Europe or Asia – you’ll need to step up to the Focus ST if you want an extra pair of doors. Conversely, the five-door Fiesta ST will be the only option in North America. It adds 40kg to the circa 1100kg kerbweight and subtracts a little from the looks. All things considered, we’ve got the better deal.

How does the Fiesta ST drive?

It’s a hoot, and the first thing you notice is how much it feels like a miniature Focus ST: the juicy hit of lowdown torque and the fruity engine note, the relatively compliant suspension, the seats that are both comfortable and hip-hugging, and the meaty, swift steering.

Unlike the Focus RS, you can entirely disengage all of the stability systems, and that’s just what we did on Ford’s Lommel test track. Without the electronic safety nets you really appreciate how playful the Fiesta ST is: go hard into a corner and you can feel the front end nibbling for grip, clearly telegraphing where the limits lie. Overstep those limits and you’ll feel the beginnings of understeer and, chances are, you’ll back off the accelerator, causing the rear end to slip wide and point the nose back at the apex.

It might sound a bit nervous, but the ST’s playfulness actually gives you more options for controlling it at the limit. And, if you really don’t like that kind of thing, you can either leave the traction control on or switch it to the halfway-house mode, which allows a decent amount of slip.

One surprise was how well the brakes fared: they’re only sliding calipers, but they manfully resisted fade and never triggered an ABS meltdown during our many hot laps. Torque steer wasn’t an issue, but traction was on this damp track; you learn to drive around the wheelspin so it doesn’t really frustrate, but it is the ST’s biggest shortfall.

Verdict

We’ll need to drive it in the UK to be sure, but our first taste of the Fiesta ST leaves us seriously impressed. At £17k it’s great value, plus it’s stylish, frugal and practical too. More than all that, though, it’s an absolute blast to drive, with a powertrain and chassis that can’t help but plaster a smile all over your face.

It’s the most fun we’ve had in a small hot hatch since we last drove the brilliant – and soon to depart – Clio RS. Question is, then, can the new Fiesta ST beat the forthcoming Clio RS? Bring it on!

Statistics

How much? £16,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1597cc 16v four-cylinder turbo, 180bhp @ 5750rpm, 214lb ft @ 1500-5000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.9sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 47.9mpg, 138g/km
How heavy / made of? 1100kg (est)/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 3969/1764/1468

Ratings

Handling 5 out of 5
Performance 4 out of 5
Usability 4 out of 5
Feelgood factor 5 out of 5
CAR's Rating 5 out of 5

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  • Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review
  • Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review
  • Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review
  • Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review
  • Ford Fiesta ST (2013) review
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