Ford Fiesta ST review

Rating:  *****

The Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch offers a sweet drive, good looks and good value

For:                                                                         Against: 
Brilliant handling, subtle                                     Three-door only, smaller
styling upgrades, great                                        boot than its rivals,
value for money                                                    expensive ST200

The Ford Fiesta ST is, put simply, our favourite small hot hatchback currently on sale. It offers everything we love about its big brother – the Ford Focus ST – but in a more compact package. Despite being down on power compared to its closest rivals, the ST offers brilliant handling and scintillating performance in a handsome, great value supermini.

The UK has had a long love affair with fast Fords, and the Ford Fiesta ST very much continues that tradition. By taking the already impressive standard Fiesta as a base, Ford has added sporty styling tweaks inside and out that definitely enhance the regular Fiesta’s looks.

Power comes from a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that’s rated at 180bhp (or as much as 197bhp on ‘overboost’). Add in stiffer suspension, a sports exhaust and a pair of very supportive Recaro sports seats, and the Fiesta ST is a thrilling all-rounder. Buyers wanting even more thrills can choose the limited edition ST200 flagship, which boasts 212bhp for 20 second bursts and bespoke paint. If you need more power, then look to qualified tuner Mountune, which can tweak your ST to offer as much as 227bhp.

 The fact the standard car undercuts rivals like the Renaultsport Clio, Peugeot 208 GTi, MINI Cooper S and Audi S1 by such a significant margin, is just the icing on the cake.

Our Choice:
Ford Fiesta ST-2

Ford has a long and proud history in the hot supermini sector. The fast compact Ford story started way back in 1980 with the 1.3-litre Fiesta Supersport – a car which preceded the introduction of the hugely popular Fiesta XR2 by around a year.

The XR2 carried the flag for performance Fords throughout the bodykit era of the eighties, but the badge was dropped in the mid-nineties in favour of Ford’s new Fiesta RS models, and subsequently the attention of small sporty Ford fans was diverted for a few years towards the Fiesta-based Puma coupe.

After a spell in the doldrums, the fun was injected back into the Fiesta hatch range with the 150bhp ST, unveiled in 2004 as part of the fifth-generation Fiesta line-up – and the ST badge has stuck in Ford’s line-up ever since.

In 2008, Ford also introduced its tuning partnership with Mountune Performance – offering upgrade packages on that older-generation Fiesta ST – and the relationship continues to the present day, with the Mountune Performance package available as a dealer-fit option on the current car.

The latest Fiesta ST went on sale in 2013, based on the newly facelifted version of the Mk7 Fiesta. For power-hungry drivers, the engine is advertised at 180bhp – but to all intents and purposes actually makes 197bhp. In addition to this healthy slug of power, the ST benefits from a quicker steering rack, suspension that’s stiffened and lowered by 15mm, plus uprated disc brakes all round. Revisions were made to the suspension and steering late in 2015 to fix criticisms that the ride was too harsh by making it more compliant. However, the changes haven’t impacted the acrobatic handling that has made the ST such a favourite with keen drivers.

The Fiesta ST is offered in four trim levels. Kicking off the range is the standard ST-1, which is by no means badly equipped. It comes with 17-inch alloys, DAB digital radio, air conditioning, Recaro front seats, heated front windscreen, projector headlights and front foglights. The ST-1 is not a very popular model with buyers, however.

The ST-2 adds creature comforts such as heated part-leather Recaro seats, a multimedia system with a 4.2-inch touchscreen, LED daytime running lights, keyless start and tinted windows.

Ford has also responded to customer demand by introducing a range-topping ST-3. This brings such plush kit as sat-nav, keyless entry, climate control, auto lights and wipers, and cruise control as standard. Most buyers in the UK opt for either an ST-2 or ST-3.

The fourth and final model in the ST line-up is the special-edition ST200 which arrived in 2016. This is very much the top-spec ST, featuring a special paint colour (Storm Grey), matt black wheels, lowered suspension, shorter gear ratios and power boosted to 212bhp. That means it’ll do 0-62mph in a claimed 6.7 seconds – 0.2 seconds faster than the regular ST – and reach a top speed of 143mph, some 4mph more.

If you happen to miss out on the ST200 limited edition, a special Mountune tuning kit is also available for regular ST models. It also delivers 212bhp but costs a lot less. The kit can be fitted at any Mountune-approved Ford dealership at a price of £599 plus fitting. Be careful which package you order, though. While the 212bhp power upgrade doesn’t affect the manufacturer’s warranty, the most hardcore ‘Mountune Racing’ options are only covered by Mountune’s own warranty, not Ford’s.

While the Fiesta ST launched in 2013 was available only in three-door hatchback guise, from October 2016 it followed in the footsteps of its bigger brother, the Focus ST, by also being offered in five-door hatchback form. The ST five-door body style adds cost (£600) but it definitely boosts practicality, particularly for families who have to transport kids. However, fuel consumption and emissions are slightly adversely affected. The five-door is only available in ST-2 and ST-3 trim levels (not in ST-1 form) and accounts for about one in four ST sales.

Engines,performance and drive     *****

5
The Fiesta ST is a punchy performer straight out of the box, while the Mountune option is even zestier

From the moment you lower yourself into the Ford’s figure-hugging Recaro seats, grip its chunky three-spoke steering wheel and place your feet on its perfectly spaced pedals, you know this is a car that puts the driver at the centre of the action.

At the heart of the ST’s appeal is its sublime chassis. Retuned suspension dampers and faster steering mean its limits are raised dramatically over the standard car’s, but despite its hardcore approach, the Ford always feels accessible. Turn-in is sharp, and the ST locks on to a cornering line, but it’s so balanced that quick direction changes are incredibly stable, aided by a neat torque vectoring system that subtly brakes individual front wheels to eliminate understeer.

On the track, this means the Fiesta can carry more speed through corners, and this translates on to the road, where the precision and grip give you the confidence to drive harder. It also benefits from well weighted controls which provide just the right amount of feedback.

It has a great-sounding engine, with a delicious rasp that makes you want to rev it harder. This is paired with a brilliant six-speed manual gearbox, which features a precise, short-throw shift action.

Settle down to a gentler pace, though, and the Ford takes on a more subdued role. The suspension is firm, but the smooth, controlled damping means long-distance journeys are more comfortable than in the jarring Vauxhall Corsa VXR, although the car’s low-profile tyres do produce some intrusive road roar at higher speeds.

Engines

The Fiesta ST is powered by a 180bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, or at least that’s what the brochure says.

In fact, once you’re out of first and second gears the engine makes 197bhp under full throttle, thanks to an ECU that allows the turbo to spin faster for limited periods of ‘overboost’. This is available for 15 seconds a hit – quite a long time on the average British B-road. You’ve only got to lift for a moment to restart the timer, too, so in real-world driving the full 197bhp is available pretty much whenever you want it.

The Fiesta has a top speed of 139mph and the 0-62mph sprint time is only 6.9 seconds as a result.

If you want even more power, Ford’s accredited tuner, Mountune, offers an upgrade to 212bhp. It consists of a modified airbox and filter, plus changes to the engine management computer. Nothing else is touched and the Ford warranty is unaffected. While the upgrade will cost you just over £600, in our eyes it’s money well spent. The 0-62mph time is cut by half a second to 6.4 seconds and there’s more torque in the mid-range to further beef up response.

Ford also offers its own in-house upgrade in the form of the limited run ST200. Designed to celebrate the success of the standard car, the ST200 gets 197bhp and 290Nm of torque, while an overboost function increases these figures to 212bhp and 320Nm for 20 second bursts. As a result the 0-62mph time is reduced to 6.7 seconds and the top speed rises to 142mph. It’s a limited run model, however, and commands a sizeable premium over the already sweet-handling standard car.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.3
If affordable performance is what you seek, a fast Ford is always a good bet

Like any performance car, the harder you drive, the greater your motoring expenses will be. Ford claims 47.9mpg for the Fiesta ST three-door and 46.3mpg for the five-door, but this will soon plummet once you hit your favourite back road, or take the car on track. That said, the Fiesta’s consumption figures are bang in the middle of class rivals.

The showroom sticker prices are typically more enticing, though. In three-door form, the standard ST-1 costs £17,895, the ST-2 £18,895 and, while the range-topping ST-3 trim carries a £1,000 premium over the ST-2, the Fiesta still remains better value than the Renaultsport Clio and Peugeot 208 GTi. Five-door models start at £19,495 for the ST-2 – that’s a £600 premium over the three-door – while the range-topping ST-3 five-door costs £20,495.

The ST200 is a limited-run model: just 400 were initially earmarked for the UK but high demand increased the number available to as high as 1,000. The ST200 weighs in at a hefty £22,895, which is £3,000 more than the ST-3 three-door (the ST200 is only offered with three doors). You could argue you get more performance for the money, but Mountune’s factory approved tuning kit costs just £599 plus fitting and delivers similar pace for the excellent ST. Fit a Mountune Racing upgrade at a Ford dealership and you’ll maintain Ford’s manufacturer warranty.

Once the Fiesta ST is parked in your driveway, it remains affordable fun as most consumables are the same price as on the standard supermini. But remember to budget for extra wear on pads, discs and tyres if you plan to do track days – and given how entertaining the Fiesta is to drive, it’d be a shame not to.

Considering its impressive performance potential, the Ford’s CO2 emissions are surprisingly low, which makes it a cost effective choice for company car users. The three-door model emits 138g/km, which puts the Fiesta ST in VED band E, so a year’s road tax will cost £130, which is the same as owners of the SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Peugeot 208 GTi or MINI Cooper S will pay. However, opt for a five-door and emissions rise to 141g/km, which puts it in band F, costing £145 a year.

Insurance groups

You don’t expect to buy a hot hatch and not take an insurance hit, but things have certainly improved over the years. In the late nineties, cover providers got fed-up with having to pay out on stolen GTis, and virtually killed the hot hatch by pricing drivers off the road. Nowadays, significantly improved safety and security have made hot hatches from all makes much less of an insurance liability. So if you’ve got a reasonable driving record, the Fiesta ST’s Group 30 rating isn’t too outrageous. Even the limited-run ST200 fits into the same bracket. For the sake of comparison, the 180bhp SEAT Ibiza Cupra sits in insurance Group 27.

Depreciation

You can reckon on a new Fiesta ST retaining 45 per cent of its original purchase price if you sell after three years and 36,000 miles. Our experts say that makes it a slightly better investment than a SEAT Ibiza Cupra, for example, and a bit worse than a MINI Cooper S – but then the MINI has more of a premium brand feel and is more expensive to buy when new.

Interior, design and technology

Smart styling reflects the Fiesta ST’s performance, and there’s plenty of tech to play with, too
The standard Fiesta is one of the most stylish superminis, so Ford hasn’t had to work too hard to transform it into a muscular pocket rocket.
The design changes really stand out, though. At the front, there’s a larger mesh grille with a deeper front bumper, while the standard car’s sleek, swept-back headlamps give the ST an aggressive look. LED daytime running lights add a final flourish. On models with the Mountune upgrade, a subtle yellow Mountune badge at the rear hints at the car’s enhanced performance potential.
Buyers wanting to make an even bigger impression can add the £275 ST Style pack, which includes a dark-grey finish for the 17-inch alloys. While the standard silver rims fill the bulging wheelarches perfectly well, the darker wheels increase the Fiesta’s visual presence and give it a more aggressive stance. Red brake calipers (also part of the ST Style pack, along with illuminated ST sill plates), a large boot spoiler, a deeper rear bumper and twin exhaust tailpipes complete the racy makeover.

Inside, the ST’s changes are less obvious, with metal pedals, bright red flashings for the part-leather Recaro seats and revised dials the only highlights. The bespoke instruments are much easier to read than in the regular car, which is welcome.

ST200 models are identified by their unique SVO Storm Grey paint, two-tone 17-inch alloys and besoke badging. You also get part leather seats, silver accents for the seatbelts and an ST200 badge set into the centre console ahead of the gearlever. The £3,000 premium over the ST-3 seems a lot to ask, but such is the price of exclusivity in this day and age.

Our money would go on a mid-range ST-2, but top-spec ST-3 models are well equipped – adding cruise control, heated seats, keyless go and sat-nav all as standard. However, the interior is let down by its fussy layout and the small infotainment screen that’s set too far back in the dash. And while the cabin is robustly built, it’s not as upmarket as those in rivals like the MINI Cooper S and VW Polo GTI.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The infotainment system gives away the age of the Fiesta. Despite the recent facelift, the set-up is let down by a 4.2-inch screen that’s too small and recessed too deeply for comfortable use, plus menus that could be more slick to navigate. Still, given the Fiesta ST’s focus on entertaining the driver, this perhaps isn’t as much of a setback as it might be in the rest of the Fiesta range. Features available on the car include MyKey, which allows owners to set speed and audio volume limits and ensure safety features are not disabled when loaning the vehicle to other drivers. There’s also Ford’s voice-activated connectivity system, called SYNC.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

 
A Fiesta is not built for load-lugging, but as superminis go it’s still pretty versatile, especially in five-door form
Although it’s a performance model, underneath the skin the ST is just a three-door Fiesta. This means that it still retains a useful boot, and rear seat space isn’t compromised too much more by the chunky Recaro front seats. Even so, the standard Fiesta is by no means the pick of the crop if you’re looking for maximum interior space.

As with the standard models, there’s plenty of useful storage for odds and ends, including a large glovebox, deep door bins and numerous cup-holders.

Engine noise is well suppressed at 70mph, too, making the ST a comfortable car to drive longer distances. However, the addition of a larger engine and six-speed gearbox has increased the Ford‘s turning circle, so it can be hard work in crowded car parks.

Size

As you’d expect, the Ford Fiesta is all about hitting the class averages when it comes to dimensions – at 3,969mm long, it’s a bare 1mm shorter than the VW Polo GTI, and 7mm longer than the Peugeot 208 GTi. The Ford is about 30mm higher than both, and the biggest variance is width, where the 1,722mm-wide Ford compares to the 1,682mm VW and 2,004mm Peugeot.

It’s a similar story inside, where the trio’s passenger compartments are all within a few millimetres of each other for elbow and leg room.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The bulky nature of the sports front seats makes life slightly difficult when climbing in and out, particularly for rear passengers in the three-door model. If you need to fit child seats, there are standard Isofix mounts in the back, but we’d recommend the five-door ST for families – the chunky Recaro seats really get in the way when fitting child seats in the three-door version.

Head and legroom is also limited for adults sitting in the rear, as it is in the standard Fiesta, but it’s fine for children.Still, things look better up front. The seats are set nice and low and are very comfortable, even if the firm ride takes the edge off comfort slightly.
That said, the driving position is usefully adjustable, with a seat that goes up and down, as well as a steering column that tilts and slides.

Boot

The Fiesta ST has a practical 290-litre boot space, and while the 60:40-split rear seats don’t lie fully flat, when they’re folded this capacity increases to 974 litres. Opt for a space-saver spare wheel – which we’d recommend over the pressurised can of puncture gunk that Ford supplies as standard – and boot space with the seats up is cut to 276 litres.

For the sake of comparison, the boot space with the seats in place/folded down is 280/952 litres for the VW Polo GTI and 285/743 litres for the Peugeot 208 GTi.

Reliability and Safety

Reasonable results in our Driver Power satisfaction survey and an excellent safety rating should put your mind at ease
The Fiesta is the UK’s best-selling car and has been in production for almost eight years, so niggles should be few and far between. That said, it’s showing its age and this was reflected in its showing in this year’s Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, in which the popular Ford finished in the second half of our table.

Less impressive is the brand’s dealer network, which placed a lowly 27th out of 32 in our 2016 poll. On the plus side, if your Fiesta does go wrong in any way, you won’t have to travel far to get it fixed as Ford has 781 garages across the country.

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes seven airbags and Ford’s intelligent MyKey set-up, which allows parents of younger drivers to limit the car’s top speed and radio volume, plus make sure that any electronic safety systems cannot be overridden.

The brakes are more powerful than on other models in the Fiesta line-up, too, although unlike some other versions, the ST isn’t available with the option of autonomous emergency braking.

Still, the safety package is comprehensive enough, and the crash performance sufficiently strong, for Euro NCAP to have awarded the Fiesta a five-star rating after testing.

 Warranty

If a Ford Fiesta ST with the Mountune tweaks is your thing, but the idea of aftermarket upgrades makes you nervous, you needn’t worry, as many of the packages are covered under Ford’s manufacturer warranty. Thanks to its long-running relationship with Mountune, Ford officially approves the modifications, which is a strong indication that reliability shouldn’t be affected. You can get the upgrades fitted to your ST at one of 150 approved dealers, and in the first five months over 500 owners bought the Mountune pack.

The standard Ford warranty term applies, and it’s the old industry standard of three years/60,000 miles. You can do better elsewhere – for example, four years’ cover is offered on the Renaultsport Clio. The Ford only comes with 12 months’ breakdown cover, and there’s a one-year paint warranty and 12-year ‘perforation’ warranty should your Fiesta rust right through.

Servicing

Unlike many of its competitors, the Fiesta isn’t available with a fixed-price servicing package. However, as Ford is a mainstream brand, you shouldn’t expect heavy charges for dealer maintenance – an interim check-up will set you back around £125, while a main service will be closer to £200.