As a PhD student, thinking is something I try to avoid when possible, but the Fiesta ST is a car that I find myself constantly thinking about. I've owned it for nearly 1.5 years now. With the release of the new model imminent, I figured it was time I gathered my thoughts into coherent words.
One of the first things I worried over was depreciation. I purchased this car when it was just over one year old with 12,000km for $18,500. Assuming a list price of approximately $28,000, that's nearly 40 per cent depreciation in one year alone. High-kilometre examples can now be had around the mid-$14,000 mark. Which leaves another question to think about: why don't people want them?
I've hardly seen any of them in the time I've owned mine, which is actually a nice change coming from owning one of the 10 billion red Golf GTIs seen pottering around Sydney's suburbs. So why don't people want them? Well, actually, I can think of a few reasons.
Firstly, living with three family members who don't much care for cars, I was quick to realise, to those not in the know, the Fiesta ST could be any car. It lacks the sense of identity and visual polish of the GTI.
This theme carries over to the interior. While there is nothing wrong with its functionality, the car feels built to a price, and it's not a high one. There are hard plastics in abundance, flat and uncontoured rear seats, mismatched fonts on various buttons and signs throughout the cabin, and a tiny speedometer complete with ’90s home-printed graphics.
Storage is good, however, with a reasonable boot for the class, a large glovebox and central cubby. While room is sufficient for four adults of reasonable height, five is definitely pushing it, and entry and egress are held back by the three-door-only configuration. This problem is made worse by the weight and size of the doors, which has the added effect of placing the seatbelt nearly out of reach of the front passenger.
Although the Sony sound system packs a bassy punch, it feels completely outdated to use. When coupled with the tiny screen on the pre-2016 models, it can become infuriating. However, keyless entry and go, LED ambient lighting, chunky leather steering wheel, metal pedals and Recaro front seats do go some way to help.
I personally found the Recaro's side and shoulder bolstering good, but lacking in lumbar support, which lead to multiple back aches on long journeys. Additionally I found the seating position subpar. The seat is high, with the base tilled up, which makes an awkward angle with the pedals and leads to cramps and knee pains. This problem is made worse since the actual pedal area is cramped, with minimal room to stretch. Although, I could just be an enormous sook...
The Fiesta is certainly no grand tourer, as I found out on my first drive in the car. It manages to drum up significant road noise over coarse surfaces. When combined with wind-whistle from the A-pillars at motorway speeds and boom from the engine (most likely created by the 'sound symposer' in the intake), headaches often ensue. The car also feels over-sprung, tending to bobble over slight undulations in the road surface. At low speeds, while the front has some degree of damping, the rear feels as though it was mounted with granite. Rear passengers have commented on how they "get air" passing over speed bumps in car parks.
We should also talk about fuel economy. On the combined cycle, I am averaging 7.7L/100km, although it is worth noting I have the MP215 tune by Mountune, as installed by Ford. I personally think this is okay, but it's some way off the official figure.
So it's quite clear why someone might not want to own a Fiesta ST. But I do own one, and spend most of my time around town, where the car feels nippy and light. The turbo engine provides bundles of torque and emits cheeky sounds. The MP215 pack fitted to my car adds to this, with whooshes on throttle lift-off and suction noises on throttle application. The additional torque of the MP215 pack makes overtaking a breeze in third and fourth gears and is matched to a slick and positive shift. I must admit, however, the clutch lacks feel and is too light for my liking.
Although the brakes feel extremely progressive, they lack the ultimate stopping power I think more aggressive drivers may desire. Additionally, the handbrake fails to lock the wheels for autocross-style shenanigans. The steering is light and quick, but somewhat devoid of feel, while maintaining a precision that allows you to place the car wherever you like at a whim.
Without a doubt, the best part of the car is the chassis. That stiff rear coupled with the soft front works to promote lift-off oversteer. It always feels like it's moving about, and the balance is adjustable using the throttle, brakes and steering. There is a sense of roll about the car, but in a good way. It's not excessive. The car always feels alive and mischievous.
In conclusion, I understand why people would choose other cars instead of the Fiesta ST, because they make more sense. This car is far from perfect. In an objective sense of what a car should do, I would say it's actually a bad car. It rides badly, isn't that practical for a small hatch, is noisy, sent me to the physiotherapist after commuting in it, gets okay fuel economy, looks like an egg and is built cheaply.
The next generation of Fiestas aims to fix this, and should improve sales of the ST here. But owning a car isn't a rational decision for most people. We do it because it makes us happy. And the Fiesta ST makes me happy. It's more than the sum of its parts. It makes me smile when I drive it. And, in fact, everyone else who has driven it has smiled too. And in an increasingly sad world, that's an attribute worth the price of purchase itself.