Sensible on the surface but all fun underneath, the Ford Fiesta ST is a pleasingly practical proposition.
Ford Fiesta: It’s party time
Time was when we’d buy cars purely for the pleasure they would deliver. Of course, these days, we all need to be responsible, take into account baby capsules and ISOfix fittings, evaluate luggage capacity and running costs and consider how many CO2s we’re emitting into the atmosphere.
But, if you’re clever, you can be smug and still have the occasional burst of sheer enjoyment from your motorised transport.
It won’t happen if your choice is a lumbering SUV, designed for exploring the Great Sandy Desert but less suited to nipping down to the local shopping mall or delivering a swag of children to school and weekend sports activities.
And as for buying a self-indulgent sports car with a bellowing V8 engine, you can only expect harrumphs of disapproval from judgmental neighbours and relatives.
However, if you park a Ford Fiesta ST in your driveway, everybody will nod approvingly and only those who understand these things will know that you’ve succumbed to your inner hoon.
Where the previous model was an uncompromising three-door hatch, the new one is more family-friendly with five. And even though the Fiesta superficially appears meek and mild, it is made in Germany and honed on the notorious Nürburgring.
Most small hatches will offer you a choice of drive modes – you expect Normal or Sport, but the Fiesta ST reveals its intent with a third: Track. Choosing Sport or Track sharpens throttle response and activates a bi-modal exhaust that crackles and pops between down-changes Then there’s the shift light that lets you know you’re getting close to the redline and need to shift up a gear. And, for the technically-minded, a mechanical limited-slip differential ensures power always goes to the wheels that need it. Speaking of wheels, they are now 18-inch and wear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, just like you’ll find on Italian and German top-end sports cars.
Not surprisingly, all this performance enhancement comes at a price, but not one that’s ridiculously out of reach. The Ford Fiesta ST comes in at $31,990 (plus on-road costs).
But the real bonus is how usable the hot Fiesta is every day.
There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a truly superb Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. You also get a largely unnecessary heated front windscreen, heated steering wheel and heated seats, courtesy of its European heritage. And clever pop-out protectors for the door edges. Seats are grippy, low-mounted Recaros, but you’ll have to adjust them manually. The rear seats split 60:40 and there are ISOfix child restraint mounting points on the two outer positions and three top tether locators. The boot is bigger at 311 litres (up from the previous 276) – not capacious, but the shopping will easily fit back there, and now you have two extra doors making it easier to load bags into the rear seat. Fuel consumption, officially rated at 6.4L/100km, helps ensure our dwindling oil reserves will last a little longer (we’re told the engine drops back to two cylinders when full power isn’t called for, although we never noticed).
But the Fiesta ST is more about the driving than the practicalities.
It all starts with a fizzing, turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that eggs you on to push it harder (and then fulfils its 146kW/290Nm promise). Despite being a small engine with turbocharging, there’s no obvious lag and pushing the accelerator hard from anything above 1600rpm delivers a surge of smile-inducing acceleration. The exhaust note is equally pleasing, but not so raucous as to draw too much attention. And in keeping with its sporting aspirations, the only transmission choice is a slick six-speed manual. Peak torque comes at 4500rpm, peak power at 6000rpm and each up-change pops you straight back into the middle of the power range. Perfect for setting yourself up for the corner and then powering out of it, all the while indulging in British Touring Car Championship fantasies yet travelling safely within the speed limit. As you’d expect, road noise is higher than in a more mundane hatch and the rear end can get a bit lively, but that’s all part of the appeal.
The Fiesta ST will seduce the driver in anybody, yet still be easily justified as a “sensible” decision. Ford has made great strides in improving the quality of its interior and the ergonomics. Two adults will fit in the rear seats and the extra doors make the car a much more usable proposition.
None of which will come to mind when you just decide to take it out on a twisting country road and have fun. Or, even better, to a weekend track day to explore its upper limits.
This story first appeared in the February 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
including free delivery to your door.