Hot Hatches are back in force this year, with a remarkable array of small FWD road rockets scampering out of the showrooms this last year. The mental Renault Megane RS265, the awesome Ford Focus ST, the utterly brilliant VW Golf GTI – all of those have been out favourite at one stage or another over the course of the last year, but now we have a new favourite and not only is it quick and boasts handling that can make a grown man giggle, it also has a simply MASSIVE advantage over the others…
It is CHEAP!
It is the Ford Fiesta ST and it is quite wonderful.
Likes: Looks like a smaller, angrier Focus ST. Leaves utterly no doubt about its purpose in life. Suits outrageous colours. Very shouty!
Dislikes: Perhaps looks a little too much like the Focus from the front. Not for shrinking violets. Not for you if you don’t like outrageous colours, because that is when it looks its best. Very shouty…
Likes: A step up in quality over standard Fiesta, with the return of the soft-touch dash. Lovely, fat leather steering wheel. The Fiesta dash design still looks great. Fantastic-looking Recaro sports seats.
Dislikes: Unfortunately, while they look fantastic and are very comfortable and super-supportive, they seem nto be made for jockeys or small children, especially across the shoulders. In a Ford tradition, the seating position is very upright and high.
Under the bonnet
Likes: The 134kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo EcoBoost engine is a fantastic piece of kit, with an absolutely amazing amount of mid-range shove. The littlest EcoBoost we get here (so far) does a far better job at being a performance engine in the Fiesta than it does as an economy engine in the Kuga SUV. The six-speed manual transmission is an absolute sweetheart.
Dislikes: Can’t think of much to dislike under the bonnet…
On the road
Likes: Point it towards a tight, winding road and the Fiesta ST is about a million dollars worth of fun packed into a tiny little $35k package. The chunky mid-range grunt of the engine plays perfectly with the sweet manual transmission and the startlingly good chassis. The grip is seemingly endless, even in the wet. Quite possibly the best, sharpest and most communicative electrically assisted steering we have felt.
Dislikes: Around town ride is gruff and uncivilised.
Around town the Fiesta ST has a relatively harsh ride and feels powerful, but nothing particularly mind-bendingly special. Wind it up on a winding back road, however, and that is where the magic starts.
The fat mid-range poke of the engine plays perfectly into the slick six-speed manual transmission’s ratios, and the communicative and wonderfully grippy FWD platform comes alive underneath you.
But the real star is the utterly wonderful steering. Packed with feel and telepathically sharp, the ST dives eagerly into any corner with the merest hint of input and the incredible front end simply holds grimly on to the road and powers through.
Mid-corner adjustability via the steering and throttle is delightfully precise and, if you feel like a laugh, then a stab of the brakes brings hilarious and wonderfully controlled tail-happy consequences.
While the seats may well be made for midgets and the low speed ride slightly grim, neither of these things are anywhere near close enough to count the Fiesta ST out.
So is the Fiesta ST a scaled down, slightly immature (in a good way!) Focus ST, or a Suzuki Swift Sport on angry, angry steroids?
Think of it as sort of a stepping stone between the Suzuki Swift Sport and the larger Hot Hatches, like the Focus ST, Golf GTI and Renault Megane RS265. In terms of sheer, sweaty, feral fun though, the Fiesta is closer to the Renault than anything else though.
Easily the best Bang for your Buck value on the planet today.
Engine: 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel consumption: 5.9L/100km
CO2 emissions: 138g/km