It’s quick enough, and usable enough – but what makes the hot Fiesta a five-star car is its fantastic handling
If you want big thrills from a small car, the Fiesta ST takes some beating. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 179bhp or 197bhp, so it’s fast but not mega-fast – however its handling, the true benchmark of a driver’s car, is simply sensational.
Mated to a brilliant six-speed manual, the engine revs freely and gives you all it’s got with cheerful willingness. Hardly surprisingly, being a tuned unit, it’s not the quietest when you’re just pootling around, but was there ever a more blatant case for the need to suffer for your art?
Similarly, the ST rides pretty firmly, making it less than friendly around town or on the motorway – basically, places where you can’t just get stuck in to enjoying the razor-sharp handling to which this is the evident downside. When you’re in fun mode, it dishes up a sensational combination of grip, poise and steering feedback, making it a playmate that’s as obedient as it is adventurous.
Yet despite the compromises this puts on its ride and refinement, the ST is practical enough as an everyday car. It’s only available as a three-door, however, and its excellent standard sports seats take a chunk out of the legroom available for passengers in the rear – where the view out is also rather restricted.
Also less than generous is the size of the tailgate aperture. This doesn’t prevent the Fiesta from being able to carry a decent load, though if this is something you’ll be doing a lot of we’d suggest forking out for the variable-height boot floor – without which, there’s an awkward step in the load bay when the rear seats are down.
Something else that’s awkward is finding your way around the multi-function menu screen on the dash. The ST suffers somewhat from having too many buttons, making it a bit of an ergonomic jumble.
Oddly, there are two different dash designs. The base-spec ST-1 model is trimmed in plastics that remind you of your low-cost station in life, whereas the ST-2, ST-3 and ST-200 have a finish that looks and feels more premium.
Things the ST-1 does have include air-con, Bluetooth, voice recognition and a USB jack. The ST-2 adds heated seats with part-leather trim, while the ST-3 brings nav, cruise, climate and more and the ST-200 upgrades you to the higher-powered engine.
Another reason for not stopping at ST-1 level is that the other models offer reversing sensors as an option. And with fairly limited rear visibility, it’s one worth taking.
You can afford not to set your sights too low, too, as the ST is well priced – and there’s no shortage of deals around to make it still more attractive. Real-world fuel economy nudges 40mpg, but insurance is pricier than for rivals like the Renault Sport Clio and VW Polo GTi.
If you can wear that, though, the simple fact is that no other hot supermini is as entertaining as the Fiesta ST. It’s a car with truly world-class handling – and a price that’s very fair indeed for what you get.