The Ford Fiesta ST offers fun combined with a 47mpg official economy figure – in other words, it’s exactly what we’re searching for – a great driving experience and efficiency.
There’s a long history of Fast Fords, but rarely have we had a good Fast Ford that is also economical. Has the company come up with the goods in the form of the new Fiesta ST?
Another first for a Fast Ford is an engine comprised of just three cylinders, and 1.5 litres, but that’s exactly what’s under the bonnet of the latest Fiesta ST. The EcoBoost engine is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. However, as if three cylinders weren’t radical enough, the engine also features cylinder deactivation, so the ST can even run on just two cylinders under low load conditions.
All this technology is clothed in a new body that aims to have wider appeal than the last one, and the last interior – along with its fiddly switches – has also been improved. As an extra bonus you get five doors and a decent-sized boot.
The Fiesta ST manages something that very few cars can do: it’s very rewarding to drive progressively, but it’s also hugely enjoyable to drive normally. This is because all the important things – steering with feel, brilliant handling and excellent damping, ensuring great body control – work well as a whole. It has a great engine which is responsive and flexible with virtually no noticeable turbo lag, and the gearbox is slick too.
There are drive modes of Normal, Sport and Racetrack, with traction control being switched off in the latter. It also makes a good noise, as the drive modes adjust the Electronic Sound Enhancement technology and the Active Valve Exhaust.
So all is good so far, but here’s the thing that usually ruins the experience: the Fiesta ST is trying to be a driver’s car, but it’s also front-wheel drive. In other words, welcome to the delights of wheelspin, torque steer and understeer trying to ruin the driving experience. However, Ford has worked some real magic in this department, eradicating the normal annoying traits of front-wheel drive hot hatches.
But the key thing is that the Fiesta ST is still adjustable. This makes it fun and rewarding. But unlike many fast front-wheel drive cars, the adjustability is also controllable. This means that it can genuinely be described as agile. This is obviously helped by the ST also being a small car, and, at 1283 kg, it’s (relatively) light.
An important factor in the driving experience is the optional Quaife Limited Slip Differential (LSD), which also helps to tweak the line mid-corner. The stability control is also well judged: when it’s on, it responds in a measured way and still lets you move the car around, keeping you in control rather than shutting everything down. When it’s off, then there’s real fun to be had – on a race track, of course…
You can also get an excellent driving position thanks to lots of adjustability of the excellent Recaro seat and the steering column (although the steering wheel feels relatively big, especially compared to the super-small wheel in a Peugeot 208).
All this results in the Fiesta ST being one of only a very small number of front-wheel drive cars that we would describe as a genuine driver’s car.
The interior is also much better than the last model, with the small fiddly buttons banished, but if there’s one weak point, it’s the infomedia system. The layout of information on the touchscreen isn’t the most intuitive to find your way around, but the main issue is that trying to control elements of a car on a touchscreen when the vehicle is moving is hard enough anyway, but this is even more difficult when moving quickly with firm suspension over bumpy roads.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy for the Ford Fiesta ST is 47.1mpg based on the new, more realistic WLTP test, with CO2 emissions of 136 g/km. After a week of mixed driving we averaged 39.7mpg over 417 miles. This may be down on the official 47.1mpg figure, but a real-life average of 40mpg for a car that is this much fun is something that we can live with. If driven carefully, 47mpg is probably achievable, but you’d be missing out on the whole point of the car. Adding an Eco mode could help to deliver 50mpg+, by dialling down the throttle response, and keeping the car running on two cylinders rather than three for longer periods, but would that be seen too controversial on a Fiesta ST…? The ST also delivered a useful 391 mile driving range.
The Ford Fiesta ST-2 5-Door 1.5T EcoBoost 200PS costs £20,895. Our test car had the options of Metallic Paint (£745), Ford KeyFree System (£300), SYNC3 Navigation (£550), Full LED Headlights (£600), ST Performance Pack – which includes the mechanical slip differential to transfer engine power to the front wheel with the most grip (£850), and 18-inch Alloys (£425). All options totalled £3,470, taking the total price to £24,365. There are three ST models: ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3. And a wide range of non-ST Fiestas are available.
Green Car Guide has been searching for cars that are efficient and great to drive for over 12 years. The Fiesta ST ticks both of these boxes, and it’s also good value and practical. One of the key benefits of the ST is that, in addition to being great fun to drive progressively, it’s also excellent in everyday driving. But perhaps its ultimate accolade is that the ST is front-wheel drive, yet it’s still a genuine driver’s car. There really are very few cars that we would put in that camp. So, because it’s such a good all-rounder, it scores very highly, but ultimately it still has emissions, and so it ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.