Ford is bringing some serious spice to the hot hatch market with their new Fiesta ST, with up to 200bhp, 6.7 seconds to 60mph and 137mph at top whack; for under £17k. Motor-Vision has just returned from wrapping one of the most exciting fast Fords ever around the hairpins of the French Alps at warp speed. Hot hatch fans must read on…
The big-selling Ford Fiesta has just had a facelift for the 2013 model year, and most notable of the facial tweakage has been the addition of a large trapezoidal front grille, a pair of remodelled and modernised headlights, and an interior refresh, too. The facelift also bought along the 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine with its miserly attitude towards fuel. However, Ford didn’t mess much with the Fiesta’s chassis and driver-loading because, well, if it ain’t broke…
Now, more important to lovers of fast-fun is the a new engine and ST trim to cuddle up with the refreshed car; a 180bhp – 200bhp on overboost – 1.6-litre, variable valve timing, low inertia turbo’d little packet of fruity fun. Mixed up with the sweet chassis that the pre-facelift Fiesta was always famous for and we’ve got a delicious-sounding performance recipe.
King of the mountains
The international press – hey, that’s me! – are based in Nice on the south coast of France for this Fiesta ST launch, and all around the launch hotel are miles of mega mountains that could tickle God on the chin. Running around these mountains are the sort of sinuous roads that’d have a chap who loves his hot hatches going weak at the knees. That guy is me and as I walk towards the Spirit Blue Fiesta ST2 (£17,995), hot-lit in the sunshine, I’ve got a gait on me like John Wayne after a week in the saddle.
For me, this Spirit Blue, that harks back to the days of the deep-blue Ford Focus RS MK1, is the colour of choice, but there is a gold metalflake Molten Orange that looks good in the sun – do we get sun in the UK?! – and there was word of the white Fiesta ST too, but none were on the launch for me to ogle.
Of course, most normal cars look good in their fastest incarnations, and the new ST gets an ST-only bodykit of side skirts, big roof-tip spoiler, a rear diffuser-style lower bumper, and a sharpened front bumper. This Spirit Blue over this bodykit – with that big new grille now deathly black with a laser-red ‘ST’ badge – and the ST is definitely the fittest Fiesta in town. A lowering by 15mm – over grey 17-inch alloys – of a now stiffer suspension set up also helps; indeed springs, dampers and front anti-roll bar are full ST spec, and that means lower, stiffer, and yes, corner-roll-free.
Recaro bucket seats
Tug the 3-door-only driver’s door and a pair of Recaro buckets familiar from the Focus ST fill the eyes – cloth for ST; half-leather for ST2 – and these are a welcome sight for hot hatchers. We always demand fresh butt-holders! The rest of the interior is new Fiesta spec – with some ST badges and a leather-wrapped ST steering wheel for good measure. But, the best thing about this Fiesta and the one before it is the highly adjustable seating position, which, for long leggers like me, is deep and low in the chassis, making me feel hooked up with the car. My Recaro hugs my shoulders reassuringly as I set off to go hunting in the hills.
Weekend warrior, workday ready
ST’s engine note is best described as a burble, that builds to a big burble when the righthand pedal is mashed. There’s a sound-tuned tube that carries intake noise into the cabin – allowing the engineers to choose what ST drivers hear – and it’s about right for a hot hatch weekend warrior that’ll serve you well in Monday to Friday traffic, too.
Familiar friends from the Fiesta before are a snicky-feeling 6-speed manual gearbox and the Fiesta’s usual appetite for apexes, but for ST that quick-thinking chassis gets the engine it deserves, more powerful brakes – discs all round for the first time – and quicker steering. Oh, and you want grip? You got it. 205mm wide Bridgestones bite hard and Ford’s electronic Torque Vectoring Control system – that brakes the inner wheel to pull the front end through the bends, as seen in Focus ST– works a treat.
The 180bhp EcoBoost engine gets wads of low-down torque and pulls hard ‘n’ fast all the way to its near-7k redline, and I’ll tell ya; it feels quicker than 6.7 seconds to 60mph.
Sprinting between these French hairpin bends reveals a great chassis made better and a lusty engine hauled up by powerful and progressive brakes. And, find me a quicker steering – with great weight and feel – current hot hatch and I’ll jump at the chance to drive it.
Fiesta ST fans have waited a long time for this car and I’ll eat a tramp’s hat if they’re disappointed. It’s fast, fun and looks like a streetfighter. It’s on sale now and if you’re in this kind of new car market, then a heartier test drive recommendation cannot be given.
By Dan Anslow