Too hot to handle: Ford’s mind-bogglingly good new Fiesta ST

The grin-inducing Fiesta ST feels like an old-school hot hatchback

 

The roads along the Col de Vence, north of Nice and Cannes, in France, proved the perfect test route for Ford’s latest hot hatch, providing an abundance of fast-flowing turns, hairpins and straights.

The Fiesta ST’s roadholding is phenomenal, the pace at which it can accelerate through a corner mind-boggling. The optional Quaife limited-slip differential, along with Ford’s patented “force vectoring” springs, which firm up the rear end, certainly contributes to its racing-car-like handling. Ford’s performance division has excelled itself with the Fiesta ST: it’s a long time since we have driven a car at launch that impresses so much, on so many fronts.

You might not win many hands at Top Trumps with the Fiesta ST’s seemingly diminutive 1.5l three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine. It’s the smallest engine ever to feature in a fast Fiesta – even the XR2’s were 1.6l. Fear not, though, as this gem of an engine produces the most power of any Fiesta: 200bhp and 290Nm of torque. Ford made the right decision in mating it to a six-speed manual transmission.

The combination of the power-to-weight ratio, handling and close-ratio manual gear changes creates a car that feels like an old-school hot hatchback, full of driver involvement and engaging to drive. This new Fiesta ST, whose big rear spoiler increases downforce, sits 50mm lower on newly designed 18in alloys. And there’s a pleasing soundtrack from the three-cylinder engine and twin exhaust: it sounds more like a five-cylinder engine and emits a grin-inducing pop on upshifts.

The interior feels more upmarket than its predecessor did. The infotainment system is excellent, with a crystal-clear screen. Front Recaro sports seats hold you firmly in place for some spirited driving. With a central position and steering that communicates what the wheels are doing, you really feel part of the car. This ST has the fastest steering rack and stiffest torsion beam yet to be fitted to a performance Ford.

It has three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track. Sport gives you a bit more noise, with a more reactive accelerator and steering response; Track has less intervention from the traction control, allowing you to induce some lift-off oversteer.

The only minor gripe I have is that the throttle pedal is too far from the brake pedal, making heel-and-toe downshifts awkward.

The new Fiesta ST arrives in Ireland in July, in two versions, ST 2 and ST 3, with three- and five-door body styles. Prices start at €28,120 and €30,270, respectively. Its competition will primarily come from the recently launched Volkswagen Polo GTI, Peugeot 208 GTI and Renaultsport Clio. From our initial test it will compete with the stiffest of competition.

Now we just need to find our own Col de Vence in Ireland to take the Fiesta ST for an much longer drive.

Fiesta ST: the lowdown

Engine 1.5l
Power 200hp
Torque 290Nm
0-100km/h 6.5sec
Top speed 232km/h
Consumption (combined) 6.0l/100km
Carbon-dioxide emissions 136g/km
Motor tax €280
Price From €28,120 (as tested €30,270)

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