What defines the 'ideal' hot hatch?
While it’s impossible to answer such a subjective question – attempt to find a concrete one among the omniscient Internet car community and, well, it's impossible – I’d argue most enthusiasts will agree on a select number of core traits.
Three pedals and a H-pattern shifter would certainly top the Internet’s list, with low weight, a keen chassis and potent power likely to follow close behind, the latter trio not necessarily in any particular order.
That brings me to what (in my highly subjective opinion) I’d argue is the modern interpretation of that three-pedal, ‘perky’ power, sharp chassis and lightweight formula, the latest-generation Ford Fiesta ST – and this one’s mine.
Unlike colleague and senior journalist Justin Narayan’s Toyota GR Yaris, there’s no heartwarming delivery experience to report here – instead, a straightforward(-ish, as you'll see), hassle-free process with no issues along the way.
After being told early on placing a new factory order would result in delivery in March or April, the focus turned to finding a car in the dealer network on local shores – a surprisingly frustrating task, given the apparent rarity of my desired Ford Performance Blue and no sunroof combination (hey, not everyone wants black or white!).
I tracked down a suitable car a few hours south of Sydney, and took delivery of the example you see here a few days before Christmas.
It’s worth noting the Fiesta wasn’t the only car on my shortlist, with other contenders including everything from true sports cars like the Mazda MX-5, Abarth 124 Spider and Subaru BRZ to warm- and hot-hatches like the Hyundai i30 N Line and Suzuki Swift Sport.
Despite positive reviews and recommendations from friends and colleagues, all were crossed off due to either high price (given the equipment on offer), below-par safety suites or, in the case of the Mazda and Abarth twins, poor ergonomics for my taller frame.
Closest to emptying my wallet was a three-pedal, yellow Hyundai Veloster Turbo – heavily discounted, mind you – though the Fiesta’s smarter, (marginally) plusher cabin and greater driver’s appeal eventually won out.
Since taking delivery, I’ve covered a touch over 2000km in the ST – the first 500 over a mix of urban and extra-urban roads, and the following 1500 over a weekend road-trip across freeways and intricate B-roads through northern New South Wales.
While this isn’t a full, scored review, it’d be remiss not to mention what I’ve grown to love about the car: in fairness, nearly all of it.
In the city, the manual gearbox is beautifully weighted (with a light clutch), and there’s plenty of safety and convenience technology on offer given the car’s list price.
Get it out onto a tight and twisty country road (rather than a fast sweeper) and the Euro-tuned chassis, turbo three-cylinder, limited-slip front differential and sticky Michelin tyres all find their happy places.
Complaints are largely limited to the Recaro seats – which while perfect for spirited driving, could do with a little less support around the upper thighs for longer motorway journeys – and perhaps the physical positioning of first and second gears to third and fourth (thanks to reverse being on the far left), which are a little too close for my liking.
An automatic rev-matching system for back-road blasts would be handy for manual-transmission novices like yours truly, though a glass half-full reader might argue the intuitive placement of the pedals provides a great opportunity to learn.
What’s next? Frankly, not a great deal.
I’m a fan of the standard wheel and tyre package, there’s more than enough punch under the bonnet for my tastes, and I personally can’t see too much room for improvement in the visual department, without going over-the-top with aftermarket add-ons and spoiling the factory look.
Perhaps ‘project car’ isn’t an apt descriptor...
Current Status – Building up that odometer reading, enjoying every kilometre
Odometer – 2042km
Next up – Err... good question