Many many words have been written by car journalists about the Fiesta ST. I thought however, that this would be a good opportunity to give a longer, long-term impression of the car.
My ST was purchased in January 2014 and I have since put about 72,000kms on it. I owned an XR4 at the time, and test driving an ST revealed that it was better in almost every conceivable way.
The early ST’s are now available second hand from about $15,000 with reasonable kilometres. I should also note that I have fitted a rear engine mount and a short shift arm from Mountune.
What’s good about it?
The little Fiesta has serious character. It makes a pretty convincing argument that 197hp (on overboost) is all you really need in life.
The engine is strong and flexible, with plenty of torque. It revs out with enthusiasm towards the red line. It even makes a reasonable noise. Some might not like the Sound Symposer in the cabin (which is a little pipe from the induction into the cabin to amplify the engine noise), but I think the fact you can enjoy the noise without everybody else noticing is a bonus. The engine did take a little time to bed, and I do think it felt stronger after a few thousand kilometres. The engine is matched to a lovely, short, direct shifter. The clutch is well-positioned and there are no surprises in how it operates. Both the gearbox and shifter have held up well over 70,000 kilometres and show no sign of slack or vagueness.
The car feels up on its toes. The steering is quite direct, with very little slack. The helm itself feels quite meaty without ever being heavy. The nose tends to move quickly into a bend, and from the driver’s seat it gives you a wonderful sensation of the car pivoting from the seat of your pants. These sensations do not require lots of speed either and are satisfying in small suburban roundabouts as well as on flowing, open roads. The rear of the car is also quite mobile. Pitch into a roundabout too quickly and gently lift off the power and the rear will trail around behind the car, pointing the nose into the corner. Make a sharp lift off the accelerator, and the rear rotates more quickly. The process feels so very natural and this car is fantastic for learning about car balance and weight transfer. All of these traits are also great fun regardless of whether you are driving at nine-tenths or four-tenths, because all of the controls give you a level of control which can be enjoyed at any speed.
At the end of the day it is also a Fiesta, so it seats four or five in acceptable comfort (for a small 3-door), will fit plenty of gear in the boot and is generally very easy to use as your only car. I have driven long distances in it, driven down the freeway and out in the country, and in plenty of shopping centre carparks. A big element of the appeal is that it is useable all the time, which means that you can enjoy the traits which make it exciting all the time.
What isn’t so good about it?
After 5 years there are some points about this car which I have gotten used to, and some which can still be grating.
The downside to the ever-engaging handling is that the ride is quite firm. The initial spring rate feels quite firm, so speed bumps and bad road surfaces will transmit sharp bumps into the cabin. The ride is busy at low speed, and some would probably say uncomfortable. I have to say that my feeling about the ride has changed over 5 years. I initially came out of a Fiesta XR4 which the previous owner had lowered on Eibach springs, and for the first year I thought the ST’s ride was luxury. More recently, however I have had a chance to drive cars with more sophisticated suspension (e.g. VW Golf R) which make the Fiesta seem unnecessarily firm. Drive one to see how you feel, but it is nowhere near as bad as the bigger Focus RS. If you are commuting a lot however, the ride may be a deal breaker.
The other downsides are more niggly. The first is the seating position. The steering wheel adjustment is excellent, but I would love the seat to go slightly lower. The gear ratios are also generally very good and close, but the distance between second and third is not quite right for Australian suburban driving. Second seems slightly too tall, which means when shifting down you either get quite a lot of engine braking or have to apply an aggressive throttle blip.
Quite a few people have complained about the interior fit and finish. However for the entry price of $27,000 I thought it was reasonable at the time and it has held up really well. Importantly, the Bluetooth for my phone audio still works perfectly. I think the 5-door would probably have broadened the appeal in Australia as well, but it looks a bit awkward.
Long term things to know:
The running costs are excellent. It consistently uses about 7 litres per 100km even in mostly urban driving, dropping into the sixes on longer journeys. Servicing is affordable and Ford always supplies a loan car. It needed a new set of tyres after about 55,000 kms, which I thought, given the blend of performance and day-to-day driving, was quite good. There aren’t many cheap options for tyres however, so budget $700 – $1000 for a new set.
The only faults I have had were a couple of clips on the skirting which came loose and caused a rattle. The “change track” controls on the steering wheel sometimes don’t work, and the Bluetooth went through a “phase” after one of the iPhone updates, but that has since been resolved.
If you are looking for a car that is great fun, all the time, for not very much money, I still struggle to see how you could do better than a Fiesta ST. If it wasn’t for a new model looming on the horizon, I would still recommend a new one.
Second hand, in the $15,000 to $20,000 bracket however, I cannot think of another car which would give the same sense of fun and character but still be just as easy to live with all the time.
NOTE: With no image supplied, we have used a CarAdvice photo for this story.