► More power, shorter ratios, 6.7sec 0-62mph
► Subtle chassis enhancements, still great to drive
► Exclusive paint, exclusive seats, exclusive price
What we’re dealing with here is a timely reminder from Ford that the Fiesta ST is still the car to beat in the supermini hot hatch sector – no matter what kind of fancy paint job and limited-slip differential might be available from rivals. Though come to think of it, making the Fiesta ST200 exclusively available in a kind of gloss primer grey might just be a joke at the attention-seeking Peugeot 208 GTi’s expense.
The colour is officially called Storm Grey and contrasts nicely with the machine-finished 17-inch black alloys that the ST200 also comes with as standard. But the visual appeal here is most definitely secondary to performance upgrades, which include a revised chassis, shorter gearing and a nominal output of 197bhp.
Why does the phrase ‘nominal output’ make me suspicious?
Like the regular Fiesta ST, which puts the figure 179bhp down on its insurance form, the 197bhp Fiesta ST200 has an overboost function. Which means if you go the full Hulk smash on the accelerator pedal you’ll get an additional hit of 15bhp for up to 20 seconds, bringing the total to 212bhp. Ditto the torque, which rises from an already engorged 214lb ft (20% up on standard) to 236lb ft for the same maximum time period.
This brings the ST200’s actual potency up to the same level as the Fiesta ST Mountune tuning kit.
That too sounds somewhat fishy…
Indeed. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Ford and Mountune worked very closely together when developing the original Mountune kit – to such an extent in fact that, according to the ST200’s programme chief, the intellectual property rights remained with Ford. This allowed it to easily implement a similar strategy of intake mods and software jiggery-pokery in this instance.
Mountune remains Ford’s officially endorsed partner, however, so don’t think there’s been a falling out.
Come on then – what’s the Fiesta ST200 like to drive?
Mega. In order to really make the most of the engine’s extra muscle, Ford has changed the final drive ratio from 3.82 to 4.06 – which has the effect of shortening each of the gears in the six-speed manual transmission, significantly improving in-gear acceleration. Third is now a mighty, mighty thing, and overtaking has become even easier.
But as ever with the Fiesta ST, it’s the chassis that really does the damage. With Ford’s voodoo-like torque vectoring electronics managing traction, your ability to get hard back on the power almost as soon as you’ve finished braking for a corner makes short work of even the most technical switchbacks, while the chassis revisions have only enhanced the ST’s uncanny ability to help you get out of almost any unexpected situation.
It seems there was some concern that the back of the ST was too ‘aggressive’. So Ford has stiffened the rear torsion beam by 27%, fitted a thicker front anti-roll bar (21mm instead of 19mm), and recalibrated the steering to match.
These alterations then allowed the engineers to reduce the spring and damper rate, making the ST softer, and better able to deal with sudden bumps and camber changes. Yet you can still use the throttle to adjust your cornering line, and the ST still grips like a limpet in a bucket of superglue. Just when you think it’s going to understeer, it doesn’t – the resulting corner-exit velocity (admittedly on French tarmac, in the dry) scarcely seems believable from the driver’s seat.
It can’t all be good, surely?
Well, there is a bit of body roll – but once you’ve got beyond wondering how fast an ST could corner on smooth tarmac if the set-up was stiffer, you really begin to appreciate not only its ability to soak up lumpy surfaces but the amount of extra information about grip levels the lean angle is giving. For the steering, while certainly precise, doesn’t present you with a great deal of feedback on its own.
Fortunately, the ST200 is a car best flown by the seat of your pants, the ankles of which are presumably on fire. To this end, it is also slightly frustrating that the gear-change mechanism feels rather rubbery, and that the narrow, widely spaced pedals aren’t entirely conducive to lazy heal and toeing. This last might be a kind of commentary on you braking too early, however, since the spacing makes more sense when you go hard and late. The ST200 really does like to be flogged like a posthumous pony.
Anything else special about the Fiesta ST200?
In addition to the engine and gearing changes, standard kit includes unique ‘Charcoal’ Recaro seats and illuminated ST200 sill plates. 0-62mph in 6.7sec is 0.2sec faster than the standard ST – though still 0.3sec slower than the Mountune.
Then there’s the price…
How much is the Fiesta ST200?
£5k more than an entry-level Fiesta ST, and exactly the same price as an entry-level Focus ST. Which has 247bhp. The Mountune kit for the regular Fiesta ST costs £599 plus approximately an hour’s labour for fitting. Just FYI.
All that chassis stuff must be unique to the ST200, then?
Er, no. As it turns out, Ford couldn’t justify the expense of sending two different chassis setups down the production line, so it actually snuck the suspension changes onto the standard ST last year. Without telling anyone.
Apparently it didn’t want to ruin the ST200 surprise. The shorter final drive is unique to the ST200, though.
Tough one, this. On the one hand, the Fiesta ST200 is great fun to drive and has that air of exclusivity such special editions tend to bring. On the other, it costs £22,745, every ST gets the same chassis, and production isn’t limited, so it won’t be particularly exclusive after all.
In the end, the punters will decide – and on that score, Ford has nearly 3000 orders already…
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