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Ford Fiesta ST video review

Sam Hall samples the car which stands to redefine the meaning of a performance vehicle.

PT4M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2st2h 620 349

Our rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Pros

  • Rorty performance
  • Great sound
  • Pin-sharp handling
  • Strong value

Cons

  • Firm ride
  • Cabin isn’t particularly lush
  • No five-door or auto options

It’s not a good time to be someone who derives their motoring kicks from indigenous six-cylinder and V8 sedans, that’s for sure. Life now consists of tumbleweeds and a longing for the past, or at least will soon.

If, however, you prefer to get your fix from small, zesty, more espresso-like packages you’re probably chortling away in the corner, overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of possibilities on offer from brands like CitroenPeugeotSkodaSuzuki and VW.

And things have got even more interesting with the arrival of a swag of new contenders, including the mildly wild Holden Barina RS and the next generation of that long-time standard setter, the RenaultSport Clio. Ford, too, has also unleashed a tickled-up version of its Fiesta, the ST.

2013 Ford Fiesta ST Click for more photos

Ford Fiesta ST first drive review

2013 Ford Fiesta ST

What do you get?

The light hot-hatch segment covers more than a bit of ground, from $20,000-odd for a Barina RS through to about $30,000 for the more pumped-up contenders intended for more serious operators.

The ST drops squarely into the middle of this fight, kicking off at $25,990 plus on-road costs.

Despite being far from expensive it wants for little. Climate control, auto headlights/wipers, Bluetooth, keyless entry/start and a powerful Sony CD/MP3 stereo are standard and – with an artillery that includes seven airbags, stability control, rear parking sensors, an emergency-assistance system (it’ll call 000 on your mobile if you crash), programmable key (to temper younger drivers) and a five-star ANCAP rating – its safety credentials are strong.

It’s not without the odd question mark. Mandatory spec with an ST is a three-door body and manual gearbox, which could be a stopper for some buyers, while satellite navigation and a reversing camera aren’t available even as options.

The Ford, though, doesn’t skimp on vital performance-car hardware with its 17-inch alloys, chunky twin exhausts, body kit and purposeful looking cross-drilled front brakes. And with service costs capped to an average cost of $275 per year for seven years or 105,000km, there’s plenty that’s sensible about it as well.

What's inside?

This is just another iteration of a cabin that’s been familiar to local buyers since 2009. If you’re looking for the cleanest, most contemporary design (like other Euro-sourced Fords, the dash is an edgy, busy riot of shapes) or touch-screen useability (there are LOTS of buttons) you might be disappointed and it has no answer to the obvious quality of rivals like Peugeot’s 208 GTI and VW’s Polo GTI.

It is, though, a step up on cheaper Fiestas with its nicer soft-touch dash (regular models moved to a hard unit with an update and switch to Thai production in 2011; the ST is German-built) and the various sporty touches give it a suitable sense of occasion.

It delivers functionally, too, at least up front. The Recaro sports seats are brilliantly supportive and comfortable, and while the switchgear and instruments are now old fashioned they’re still logical and legible. Ford also throws in a decent supply of stash spots.

The ST’s mandatory three-body body has its obvious downsides in terms of access and is a bit tight for taller folk but by light-car standards it's in the game. The boot, smaller than some at 276 litres, is also pretty useful, with plenty of space for bikes and bigger items with the split-fold back seats dropped.

Under the bonnet

Officially, the ST’s 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four produces 134kW of power and 240Nm of torque. Really kick it in the guts, though, and you get access to a rather more potent 147kW and 290Nm for 20 seconds courtesy of an overboost function.

It’s great fun to pedal along. Floor the throttle and a hearty surge is delivered right to your doorstep, with little in the way of delay or dawdling, yet it’s no less happy repeatedly banging its head against the tacho’s redline. It’s a genuine dual-purpose drivetrain with an unburstable willingness and flexibility that caters to red-mist moments just as well as around-town dawdling.

The deep-chested warble the ST pumps out when you’re really getting into things is also pretty special, even if – being filtered through a sound symposer – it’s as artificial as a Hollywood starlet’s smile.

Other Drive respondents have noted a trace of notchiness in the ST’s six-speed manual gearbox but our test car shifted sweetly, slickly and decisively. Just don’t expect to match the official 6.2L/100km economy rating with an engine of such enthusiasm and charm; we logged a 7.7L/100km result on our combined urban/highway test.

On the road

This isn’t a car for comfort seekers. The ride is unflinchingly firm and reacts sternly to sharp, low-speed bumps. On a lumpy, pockmarked coarse-chip rural road it fidgets and jiggles about constantly and the 17-inch rubber makes plenty of noise.

Really serious drivers, though, are likely to find these issues totally reasonable in light of the ST’s considerable ability to thrill on a twisty road. Every key aspect is pretty much exactly as you’d hope it would be, from the strong, progressive brakes and responsive, unerringly precise steering to its hunkered down road-holding qualities, disciplined body control and predictable, confidence-inspiring balance.

It puts its power down to the road well, too, with little of the steering wheel tugging and other histrionics you get in some powerful front-drivers.

Verdict

The Fiesta ST’s tightly knitted sporting focus could temper its potential with more mainstream buyers, who may well prefer to have their hot hatch with five doors, an auto transmission or a more easygoing, accommodating character.

All that, however, is background noise. Any hot hatch worth its salt needs to be fun, functional and affordable and when it comes to satisfying these three crucial basic requirements the Ford hits the ball past the stands and right out of the park. If there’s a car out there that delivers more driving bang for fewer bucks, we're struggling to think of it.

Vital statistics

How much? From $25,990

Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. 147kW/290Nm

Fuel use: 6.2L/100km

Emissions: 145g CO2/km

What's it got? Seven airbags; Stability control; ABS; Rear parking sensors; Climate control; Keyless entry/start; Auto headlights/wipers; CD/MP3 stereo; Bluetooth; 17-inch alloys