For any enthusiast that has extensively cross-shopped performance cars below $40k, the Fiesta ST needs no introduction. The lovechild between Ford RS in Europe and North America's Ford SVT represents the modern interpretation of the compact hot hatch. If its string of international podium victories from various head-to-head comparisons doesn't convince you, then perhaps this review may prompt you to get behind the wheel.
I have always been a purist rear-wheel drive kind of guy that appreciates neutral handling with the ability to adjust corner trajectory via combinations of steering wheel angle, weight transfer and throttle application. So why have I decided to spend my own cash ($25,990 RRP) and buy a performance ‘wrong-wheel drive' car? The problem with the majority of front-wheel drive cars is that they're arguably one-dimensional in the way they perform when driven spiritedly. They generally plough into terminal understeer as the ‘enthusiastic' driver approaches the car's limits, thus dictating a rather monotonous ‘slow-in, fast-out' driving style. However, repeat the same exercise with the ST and it simply takes it like a champ; no fuss, minimal body roll, very neutral execution.
So naturally, the ST's neutrality invites its driver to explore more of its chassis. This is the part where petrolheads activate ‘sport mode', brake later into corners and follow through with a little more panache. Ladies and gentlemen, this is where the magic happens. As the driver decelerates for a corner and initiates steering inputs, the ST's torque vectoring system seamlessly engages, collaborating with the sport mode ESC to safely and subtly brake the inside wheels to instigate a sharper turn-in response. This is further augmented by the car's short wheelbase and sub 1200kg kerb weight, which ultimately explains why the ST feels so neutral and resists understeer. The fact that it slices through corners effortlessly on modest 205/40/17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 rubber further highlights the chassis' capabilities.
The heart of the Fiesta ST beats a turbocharged 1.6L 4 cylinder engine. 147kw and 290nm of overboosted power and torque are the fruits of the little Ecoboost turbo spooling at a maximum of 21psi, enabling the ST to takedown the national speed limit in 6.9 seconds. Though these figures are unlikely to satisfy a boost junkie's addiction, the powertrain generates adequate low-midrange torque to facilitate overtaking manoeuvres. Mild turbo lag exists south of 2300rpm, but pulls admirably to redline. Wide open throttle sprints are greeted with a nice, rorty induction noise which compliments the car's pocket rocket character.
But what is the Fiesta ST like to live with in the real world, when you're not dissecting corners or heel-toe downshifting? Well, to put it bluntly, the ST exhibits traits of the proverbial ‘double-edged sword'. A firm, jiggly ride quality can be attributed to its re-enforced chassis, torsion beam rear suspension and short wheelbase. Furthermore, noticeable amounts of NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) will be constantly competing with the car's mediocre Sony sound system. Whilst we're on the subject of comfort, the Recaro seats do an excellent job of securing your body from lateral motions and offer adequate support for both lumbar and thoracic regions.
Despite the cabin's lack of ambience, Ford has not neglected the ‘basics'. Steering feel and weighting is well calibrated, rivalling the electric units from the 86/BRZ twins. The ST's 6-speed manual gearbox is a delight to row, offering a slick, mechanical interface. Brakes are difficult to fault, demonstrating direct pedal feel and consistent stopping distances. Flat-foot tendencies aside, it's still possible to achieve 7.7L/100km on a combined cycle. Servicing costs remain realistically affordable with capped price servicing starting from approximately $250. Whilst the Fiesta ST can legally seat 5 passengers, full capacity should only be attempted on desperate occasions. Boot space remains acceptable for its class, as long as you aren't a VIP member at Bunnings.
The Ford Fiesta ST represents the modern interpretation of the compact hot hatch. The neutrality of its chassis and rorty Ecoboost engine dominates the experience. However, it's worth emphasising the ST's limitations in relation to comfort, passenger accommodation and practicality. Ironically, it is these very limitations that have persuaded me to part ways with my Fiesta ST after 10 months of ownership. How's that for a twist? Sorry Fiesta ST, it's not you, it's me…