► A fond farewell to our Ford Fiesta ST
► One of the best driver's cars on sale
► Apart from the seats, and the fuel economy
Month 8 running a Ford Fiesta ST: the conclusion of our long-term test
It’s time to be shoehorned out of the Fiesta as it goes back to Ford, and it is a case of mixed emotions, some based on the fact that it is a brilliant car, others based on my own shortcomings.
First, the good stuff. Old man Steptoe, Morrissey, Joseph Stalin, Martin Luther: some of history’s greatest miserablists would be beaming with delight if only they had had the opportunity for a blast along deserted roads in middle England in a Fiesta ST.
Its poise and balance is fabulous, the gearing perfectly spaced and accurate, the steering communicative and the exhaust note parpy like a mini racer. The result is it is not a car you feel you have to be on the limit with to really enjoy. Just the very effect of motion, at whatever speed, is enough to bring a smile to your face. After 30 minutes on the serpentine B664 I never feel like sending anyone to a gulag, or penning a new, joyless protestant theology of Christianity.
In fact, it is such a fabulous car to drive that it surely deserves to rank up there with anything Ford has produced in the past few decades. No wonder they sell by the bucketload: it’s a future classic, I reckon. Perhaps one of the only things stopping it from being a car that even more people lust after is that it’s not especially in-your-face: some half-hearted deeper bumpers, a twin exhaust, chunky alloys and a slightly bigger spoiler are pretty much all there is to distinguish from a typical granny-spec Fiesta. Personally, I like this approach, because I can live without the faux race-car nonsense some other manufacturers might have gone in for.
Some have found the ST too stiff for everyday use, but I’ve not found that to be the case. Yes, it is very firm, but damped well enough that the ride is not crashy, which is usually what makes such things unbearable. So while you feel every bump in the road, it’s not painful as such. Wearing after a while maybe, but I don’t drive along wincing, praying for a smooth surface ahead.
It’s not all gearchange sweetness and light oversteer though. For a start the seats are properly uncomfortable. I took some stick on CAR’s website for saying as much, as if anything made by Recaro can be such torture, but almost everybody who has driven the ST concurs, and not all of them are oversize galoots like me.
Then there’s the infotainment system, which like Stonehenge or The Loch Ness Monster, remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma, despite much effort on my part to fathom it. No wonder across the rest of the range Ford is busily ripping out dashes and installing new, less cluttered ones. It can’t come too soon for the Fiesta.
In terms of practicality, you might not be surprised to find that the ST isn’t a great family car. No real surprise there then, and I think it would be churlish to criticise it for failing in such a role, but even with the long doors it’s a right old faff getting kids in and out of the back. The Clio Renaultsport I had before was a considerably better all-rounder, proving more spacious, refined and comfortable. But as a hot supermini it loses hands-down to the Ford which is far more focused in doing its primary job of going fast and being fun to drive.
And while I’m on the more boring elements of its everyday performance, the fuel economy has been hopelessly below par. Even in my more doddery moments I can’t get anywhere near the official fuel economy. Not perhaps a major buying concern for the type of person who wants an ST, but nevertheless it would be nice to sometimes be able to chug along at more than 40mpg. The ST isn’t alone mind: I don’t think I’ve ever driven one of Ford’s much-vaunted turbo petrol Ecoboost engines that gets close to it claimed figure.
Still, I’ll take a few more quid in fuel for the unadulterated joy of winging about in this car, which is one of the best driver’s cars, at any price, on sale today. What a remarkable achievement for such a humble little thing.
By Steve Moody
Month 7 running a Ford Fiesta ST: the fuel economy question
I seem to have failed spectacularly badly in my quest to become young again by driving a Fiesta ST, because two 18-year-old Formula Ford racers drove one on an economy marathon and averaged 75mpg. I’ve – embarrassingly – barely got it over 33. Kids of today, eh? They’ve gone soft.
So, I thought perhaps I ought to try and do the ST justice, and spent the month driving as economically as possible.
In the main this meant nuzzling the throttle with the tip of my big toe to try and keep the turbo off boost and a slavish adherence to the gearchange indicator on the dashboard. And there was me thinking this little arrow graphic only popped up to goad you into going faster, but actually it tends to appear at just below 2000rpm on a light throttle.
I thought it would be easy to show those meddling kids a thing or two.
At the first fill-up I did some very rough maths and it didn’t look promising. However, my maths is truly rubbish, so I hoped it was that, rather than my also-rubbish driving.
After the second fill-up I worked it out properly with a calculator: 38.6mpg. Bloody hell.
By Steve Moody
Month 6 running a Ford Fiesta ST: residual values and depreciation
Now that the Fiesta ST has been on sale for a year, and wet weather has set in so there’s less messing about to be had, I thought I’d do something sensible and see how used values were.
For ST-1 cars with 5000 to 9000 miles, prices are about £13,600 and upwards. Assume the transaction price was £17,000 and it’s lost around three and a half grand.
Equivalent Clio Renaultsports are fetching £2500-£3000 more (but were stickered £2000 more expensive new) which means the Clio is holding its value better. There’s nothing surprising in that because in terms of volume, the ST outsells the Clio by a factor of 10, and volume usually chomps residual values for breakfast. So for the ST to be just about hanging on to the low-selling Clio is impressive.
Obviously, within one year not a lot of that Fiesta volume will have come onto the used market, as drivers are no doubt still wondering if they can put up with the backache for the next couple of years (although the optional heated seats I went for are proving increasingly handy for my aches), so it is having a less detrimental effect on prices.
But most depreciation curves take their cue from first-year prices and don’t depart from the pattern anyway. Only outside economic influences and actions by manufacturers tend to knock them off the path. And I’d wager not much is going to change with the ST, but the Clio is unlikely to last its lifetime in its present form…
By Steve Moody
Month 5 running a Ford Fiesta ST: can a modern hot hatch still slide?
When I was slightly less bad at skiing than I am now, I had an instructor who would bleat on, all day every day: ‘You must accept ze slide, accept ze slide’. He meant that only once you had allowed yourself to go beyond the limit could you control yourself within the limit.
I’ve spent the last month in the ST with his nagging Gallic catchphrase echoing in my head, throwing myself and the car into corners, stability control off and frighteners on. Why? Because for a supermini to be a truly great hot supermini (Peugeot 205 GTi, Clio Renaultsport and few others), it should be able to perform balanced, controlled lift-off oversteer like Nureyev trotting out a Swan Lake in his lunch break. It’s a basic skill required for the job.
So I found a quiet corner of middle England and gave it a few goes: after a few attempts I found the way is to go in fast (too much grip to beat otherwise), turn hard at the verge pre-apex and get off the throttle pedal as though you’ve stepped on a drawing pin. The result is, if you get the counter-steer perfectly judged, the rear swivels, the nose continues at its angle of attack with the front tyres pointing at the exit and you dance through the corner before it all comes back to straight with little over-balance.
Accept ze slide, and this is one of the truly great hot superminis.
By Steve Moody
Month 4 running a Ford Fiesta ST: a rumble with our Audi S1
For the past four weeks I’ve swapped into Steve Moody’s Fiesta ST from CAR’s Audi S1. They’re chalk and cheese in the hot hatch world - but an interesting comparison nonetheless.
You sit higher in the ST than you do in the S1, but the Recaro seats hold your middle-aged spread tightly (much like some sort of man girdle) and as soon as you apply the power the engine growls encouragingly and the thin-rimmed steering wheel writhes in your hands as the tyres find traction.
It’s all tight and taut and sharp, with so much more finesse than its rather blunt Focus ST big brother. Quite simply, the Fiesta ST is exciting and entertaining and engaging to drive (all the things the S1 suddenly doesn’t feel in comparison) and that makes you forget about your humiliating inability to fathom the workings of the radio.
Which is why I reckon so many are being bought by older hot hatch purists – it’s a chance to own one of the best hot hatches ever, something that’ll one day be as iconic as the 205 GTi they pined for in their earlier teenage years.
Young ’uns can’t afford it, but he and his ilk can, which is why over 90% of the Fiesta STs sold have been the higher-spec ST-2 model like ours, and Ford recently introduced a £19,250 ST-3 with most of the options on our car bundled in as standard.
Who says growing old can’t be fun? I’m looking forward to 40 and going bald already.
By Ben Pulman
Month 3 running a Ford Fiesta ST: airport runs and the bane of DAB
I’ve spent a lot of time going to and from Heathrow this month, which means the Fiesta has been in lots of queues on the M25, and this has given me the chance to finally defeat the radio.
Why? I’m sure you will have seen a film where the hero has to cut one wire to stop the bomb, but not knowing which to sever, hovers, unable to make a decision and commit.
I know how they feel, having experienced the same acute panic and powerlessness trying to change the radio station in the Fiesta. Such is the fiendishly arcane infotainment system, that one wrong move, one ill-judged poke of the wrong button or dial, will send you spiralling into a netherworld of endless searching, where 6 Music will never be played again, instead trapped in the digital limbo of something called 12A.
So now when I want to change station (or even put in a destination on the sat-nav for that is evil too), it takes a few miles to psyche up for it. My finger quakes over that first move, and sometimes I think sod it, switch the infernal thing off and just enjoy driving this brilliant car instead.
By Steve Moody
Month 2 running a Ford Fiesta ST: an illicit encounter with an Audi S1
The Fiesta seems to be one of those special cars that make even the most dull journeys memorable. The other day I had to drive from home to Oxford in rush hour and torrential rain to have a go in the new Audi S1, and then back in the next rush hour, still in torrential rain.
I wasn’t looking forward to 250 miles in those evil seats. But dozens of A34 roundabouts, clogged by lumbering lorries and reps blathering through Bluetooth, were dismissed with snappy gearchanges and that wonderful honking exhaust note, while in the wet the chassis stayed lovely and neutral, allowing great lift-off fun to tighten lines when you needed to.
When I arrived, two hours of amazing flat-out driving and one stiff back later at the Audi event, I then went flat-out for a few hours in an S1, which is almost as much fun as the ST (but more comfy). High praise, but its talents have been developed very differently, with four-wheel drive, vast power, and lots more cost.
It’s a cracking car, and probably the most enjoyable ‘fast’ Audi after an R8, but as I went home, flat-out again in the ST, you have to marvel at how Ford has delivered even more of a thrill, but for £8000 and 50bhp less with a simpler recipe. I’m beginning to wonder: is this an all-time classic?
By Steve Moody
Ford Fiesta ST diary notes: the seat's mounted too high!
Drove our new Fiesta ST pocket rocket at the weekend and noticed how an old Ford bugbear has struck again: the driver's seat is mounted way too high. You end up feeling like you're on the car, not nestling in it. You do adapt, but other hot hatches give you a more hunkered down cockpit that should be part of the GTI experience.
Several fast Fords in the past decade have suffered this fate. By memory, it was one of the few grumbles I had about the original Ford Focus RS back in 2002. Especially on such a sporting Ford as the Fiesta ST, it's a bit of a disappointment.
This was my first go in CAR magazine's ST and it's as good as I remember it. Perhaps the ride is a little more nuggety at low speeds than I recall from the first launch cars, but elsewhere its talents shine bright: it's got an urgent rush from the 1.6 turbo, brilliant body control and accurate, well weighted steering for that chuckability hot hatch drivers crave.
It's still - for my money - the best small hot hatch money can buy.
Month 1 running a Ford Fiesta ST: the welcome
So, in the latest phase of CAR’s time travelling experiment, in which they are attempting to turn a balding, 40-year-old man into somebody who knows what a twerk is, spends their entire life peering at their friends arses on a smartphone and gives some sort of shit what One Direction are up to, I have been transported out of the Clio Renaultsport and crated up in a Ford Fiesta ST.
The Cliosport project didn’t work: at times in it I did manage to act like my 20-year-old self and hoon around the country lanes of Rutland but in what scientists might note as irrevocable reversion to type I ended up using it as a useful family runabout and sometime hamster taxi. Comfortable, practical and automatic.
Will the same fate befall the Fiesta? Obviously the generally consensus is that this is the better car of the two, with more lively steering, playful chassis and willing engine.
So far the only consensus I have formed is that is chuffing uncomfortable. In fact, ludicrously so. Ben Whitworth’s Caterham has better, plusher seats and softer, more pliant suspension.
I drove to Waitrose the other day (see, they haven’t turned me yet), and it’s about half a mile away. By the time I got there, my back was aching and my outer thighs had a dull throb redolent of the onset of sciatica. On my way back out, I thought I might lug my boneless wild Alaskan Keta salmon fillets home by foot and send the wife to pick the car up, thus avoiding torture by Recaro, who it appears is not a seatmaker but an ancient eastern mystic skilled in pressure point torture.
Thing is, it’s not as though this is some spartan, stripped out Friday night racer. I’ve ticked more boxes than a Westminster parking warden, to the point that Head of Our Cars Pulman raised a quizzical ‘are you really sure you should be ordering all those extras?’ eyebrow at me.
But if you are going to spend a year razzing round in a bright red tin can (I wanted Essex-spec white but wasn’t allowed) you might as well have a few of life’s little luxuries, such as sat nav with DAB n’ SYNC (£400 and not a hip hop pairing), climate control (£275), the convenience pack of keyless entry and powered door mirrors (£300), auto wipers (£150) and the ST Style Pack which brings with it 17 inch grey painted alloys, illuminated scuff plates and red brake calipers (£275).
All this took the total of the ST-2 from a tidy £18,250 that includes evil part-leather Recaros as standard to a slightly embarrassing £19,950, although it is to be noted that is still cheaper than the Clio.
On paper of course, performance looks down on the Renault. The 1.6 turbo only produces 178bhp and the 0-62 time is claimed to be 6.9 seconds, which these days of course isn’t much to write home about.
But things are noticeably different already. Thing is, I seem to be travelling quicker from place to place than a particularly virulent dose of the squirts round a cruise ship of old dears. I just can’t do anything other than drive flat out, everywhere.
On my last trip back from Waitrose I turned my Duchy Originals organic milk into butter by the time I got home, because the ST is utterly fabulous to drive. Mesmerising, compulsive, addictive - more of which over the coming months. But one thing is for absolutely certain: this isn’t going to end well. Time will be spent at the chiropractors, and probably the courts too…
By Steve Moody