Ford Fiesta ST review: still the best small hot hatchback on the road- The Telegraph
Ford Fiesta ST review: still the best small hot hatchback on the road – Alex Robbins - 27 November 2018 • 6:28am - The Telegraph
t’s all good and well building a class leader. Make no mistake, doing so is a feat worthy of great approbation – and to be the maker of the best car in its class is impressive. But class leaders come and go, and often all it takes is something newer and cleverer to come along and yesterday’s flavour of the month is today’s ‘also consider’.
But to build a car that remains at the very top of its class even when it’s at the end of its life, after newer rivals having come along and taken their best shot – and missed? That’s quite something.
Yet even as the last Ford Fiesta ST bowed out, it was still winning group tests, still earning itself five-star reviews, and still at the top of many a hot hatch buyer’s want list
This latest version has much to live up to, then. The omens are good; Car of the Year juror Andrew English already gave it five stars off the back of its launch in the south of France. But does it still fare so well here in the UK, on greasy, leaf-strewn B-roads at the sharp end of November?
You can choose three or five doors for your Fiesta ST, and there are three variants: our top-of-the-range ST-3 test car sits above the mid-range ST-2 and, surprise, the entry-level ST-1, all of which share the same 197bhp, 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine. Which you choose will depend largely upon your budget and your requirement for those two extra doors; that Ford still offers you the choice is a rare treat, mind, with most hot hatches now having five doors.
Climb aboard and the improvements Ford has wrought within the rest of the Fiesta range become immediately apparent. Gone is the old, plasticky dashboard festooned with buttons and topped off with a too-small infotainment screen. In this new model, the screen is big enough to be clear and legible, even if the software that powers it is as glitchy and laggy as you’ll find in other Fords.
And the dashboard that surrounds it is, if not exactly upmarket, then a big step forward over what came before; more usable, more modern, and better finished, with some nice swatches of gloss black plastic drawing your attention away from the hard, brittle plastic lower down.
In the front, the chunky Recaro seats offer fabulous support all round, enclosing you within deep bolsters and keeping you wonderfully comfy. The only problem is that because they’re so large, they make the front seats feel rather claustrophobic, and in the rear, they cut down access. Once you’re in, the space offered in the back is adequate, too, rather than generous, and the same goes for the boot.
But that was always the case with the old Fiesta ST, and its extraordinary talents soon made you forget any quibbles about practicality. Is it the same this time?
In a word: yes. The ST settles to a delightfully thrummy idle, laden with mischievous intent, when you start it up. Around town, it hoots and parps like an old-school hot hatch, and while the ride is still firm, it’s a little less inclined to induce sciatica than before, which can only be a good thing.
Put your foot down away from the lights, though, and you’re suddenly aware of just how potent the ST is, the steering wheel bucking in your hands as the front wheels scrabble for grip.
But the open road is where STs have always shone, and happily, this Fiesta is no different. There are three different drive modes: normal, Sport and Race. Sport gives you sharper throttle and steering responses and opens up the exhaust to deliver even more engine noise; Race then disengages the traction control – ‘Track use only!’ says the warning message that pops up if you select it.
Into Sport mode as a savoury bit of B-road beckons, then, to discover that the new engine is a cracking bit of kit. True, it’s fractionally less exhilarating than before, its torque curve having been straightened out a little with more low-down shove and less reward for revving it to the red line.
It’s perhaps a touch less exciting to listen to, too, though the wonderful impression it does of an angry bee trapped in a megaphone is still more than enough to make you laugh out loud with joy. But despite its slightly less edgy nature, it’s still terrifically gutsy and wonderfully accessible, delivering a glorious surge of torque from the get-go, which means no matter where in the rev range you might choose to clog it, the ST takes off like a whippet.
Squeeze on the powerful brakes, drop a gear and stick it into the first bend you come to. The nose still responds beautifully to the steering, which is delectably accurate and perfectly weighted. Our example was fitted with the optional limited-slip differential, which comes as part of the £925 ST Performance Pack – not cheap, but worth it given how well it allows you to deploy the ST’s power out of a corner.
Lean on the throttle at the apex, and you feel the wheel tilt gently in your hands as the diff hooks up the inside wheel, giving you all the traction you need even on these slippery roads to haul the nose out with the throttle flat.
Too much power? No problem, just ease off the throttle and feel the weight shift to the front of the car, the nose biting to tighten the line and, if you shut the throttle particularly vigorously, the tail tipping into a gentle, progressive, easy-to-gather slide.
In fact, the only fly – or bumblebee, perhaps – in the ointment is the gearchange, which isn’t as sweet or as precise as before, and sometimes causes you to have to fumble for the next ratio. With that exception, the new ST is exhilarating, addictive and utterly beguiling – just like the old car was.
So while it’s true that there are areas in which Ford has grated away a sliver of fun from the Fiesta ST experience, do not fear. The changes that have been made are in the name of better day-to-day usability and improved efficiency, meaning there’s now less of a penalty for choosing the most fun junior hot hatch there is.
And one that, like its predecessor, will probably remain the best in its class for many years to come.
Ford Fiesta ST-3 3dr
TESTED 1,497cc three-cylinder petrol turbo, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE £21,495/now
POWER/TORQUE 197bhp @ 6,000rpm, 214lb ft @ 1,600rpm
TOP SPEED 144mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 6.5sec
FUEL ECONOMY 47.1mpg/37.2mpg (EU Combined/Urban)
CO2 EMISSIONS 136g/km
VED £205 first year, then £140 per year
VERDICT Ford’s tweaked the Fiesta ST’s recipe, but it hasn’t ruined it. This new car loses a fraction of the old car’s edge and verve, but it trades that for more usability without losing the charm, accessibility or outright excitement of the old model. And yes, it’s still the best car of its type.
TELEGRAPH RATING Five stars out of five
Information and image take from the telegraph – see link - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/ford/ford-fiesta-st-review-still-best-small-hot-hatchback-road/
Images for illustration purpose only