After only three weeks of ownership and 400kms I am pondering a significant question. Is this all the performance car you need in the real world?
With 134KW ( 147Kw on overboost), this 1.6L turbo makes more power than the old man's v6 commodore, drinks almost half the fuel (6.2L/ 100km) and will go around corners without spearing into a ditch, all while costing less. While ridiculous as it seems to compare a contemporary 3 door hatch to a 1990's sedan, it does highlight the progress designers and engineers have made in recent decades in terms of performance, economy and handling. Better still prices since over the past 20 years are virtually unchanged, meaning relative to inflation, cars are getting cheaper. I'll take two! Houses, however require the sale of body organs to fund, city streets are more and more congested, so families and their cars have shrunk. The compact SUV may head the sales charts but the hot hatch market is surging ahead.
The ST is the slightly angry brother of the range and is the only Fiesta available as a three - door, being built in Germany as opposed to Thailand. The car sits lower than standard, but in lopping off the rear doors it does appear a little skinny and disproportionate. The 17 inch smoked grey wheels look great, but really need to be pumped out into the arches to give a more muscular stance. The red ST badging contrasts nicely against the Panther black paintwork, but the nice details like the low rear splitter are lost in this colour.
The critical point about choosing a car as a fun daily driver is that it must deliver the thrills and form an instant bond with its driver. The ST brings you a tennis ball, drops it at your feet and wags its tail, such is the canine devotion on display. Inside is similar to other fiestas but importantly, the selection of wonderfully supportive Recaro seats provide a necessary role in establishing the hot-hatch credentials. There is a lovely gear lever with a short, snappy action, well weighted clutch, and push button starter (curiously not in bright red) that continue the theme. Ford has a terrific pedigree when it comes to making front wheel drive cars handle, and any concerns that electric assisted steering as neutered these gains is quickly forgotten.
The 1.6L turbocharged engine is quiet off idle and has enough torque from below 2000rpm to allowing you to cruise around suburban streets without fuss. If you squeeze the throttle just a wee bit more the induction noise deepens and the torque above 4000rpm tugs at the wheel. It is a nice reminder that not all needs to be sanitised in the world of front drivers. The most apparent thing is the wonderful elasticity of the engine, and how 3rd gear is properly fast, once on full boost. Accelerating out of sweeping corners is genuinely exciting and the well weighted steering transmits detailed information of wonderful chassis grip and poise. Initial turn in is rapid and darty, thanks to a shorter rack ratio which encourages you to chuck the car form curve to curve. It even entices you to make snappy lane changes on the daily commute to get a taste of the feedback and instantaneous response.
There are few cars available that match this level of connection, and even fewer that can do so for so little money. The on-limits handling are yet to be explored, but Ken Block style drifting are but a track day, flat brim hat and heart busting energy drink away.
The list of features includes climate control air, proximity key, reversing sensors, auto headlights and an 8 speaker stereo with and already outdated dash. No touch screens are to be found which may cost Ford sales to the technophiles, as may the lack of an automatic or dual clutch transmission option.
All said and done, the Fiesta ST provides a compelling option for those willing to check their egos in terms what a performance car should look like. Speed, comfort and long service intervals (15000kms / 12 months) are all to be had for a tiny entry fee, and there is also the lure of a what will surely be a myriad of great value aftermarket tuning options. The small capacity turbo world is upon us and this is a good as it gets.