Ford Fiesta ST Australian Hands-On: Boy Racer

What happens when you get a beautiful sports hatch, shrink it and make it smarter? You get the Ford Fiesta ST! We've been behind the wheel of this brand new speed machine, and it's breathtaking.

The Ford Fiesta is powered by a the 1.6-litre GTDI EcoBoost engine, packing 134KW of power. The EcoBoost system also includes an Overboost feature, which boosts the power to 147KW, while the torque heats up to 290Nm. That Overboost functionality runs for 20 seconds between 1600RPM and 6000RPM. There's still the sound symposer built-in which actually pipes pleasant engine noise into the cabin so you can feel way radder than you probably are.

The Fiesta ST rides on four 17-inch alloy wheels, packs in Recaro sports buckets, an ST-branded steering wheel, gear knob and scuff plates, a darkened sporty interior and a special orange launch colour. The Fiesta ST also carries the new trapezoidal grille first spied on the Focus ST to keep the model range looking brotherly. Sadly, that means it ditches the Aston Martin-style grille spied on the new Fie

The differences between the ordinary Fiesta and the Fiesta ST are more than cosmetic, however. Under the hood there's a new three-mode Dynamic Stability Control system, giving you the option for a little bit of sporty slip before it corrects you while always keeping you safe, as well as new bit of software in the engine called Enhanced Torque Vectoring Control. Torque is now more efficiently handled by channelling

You've also got new suspension and a lower ride height which sees the car dropped 15mm for a lower centre of gravity in the corners.

All that comes in at a very competitive $25,990, and it's a hell of a compelling package.

Sure, it's comfortable and pretty and full of gadgets, but the most important thing when you're buying a sports hatch is how it drives both on the road and on the track.

We went with Ford out to a test track in Sydney, and found that this new Fiesta is a hell of a machine.

The new torque management system means that the Fiesta ST manages fast take-offs without the wiggle we're used to seeing from cars bearing the sports-branding. We saw when we reviewed the Focus ST that the squirrelling under acceleration was pretty severe, but we noticed none of that off the line or when changing up through the gears on the Fiesta.

Ford explains that the new Torque Vectoring Control notices when the vehicle is understeering, and the software powering the yaw control of the steering adds brake toque to the inside rear wheel -- usually the one that kicks off the ground in an off-camber corner -- in order to balance and reduce the slip of the car. All of it is handled through software, with no extra hardware added to the chassis. That means there's no weight penalty on the car which is important for a sports model.

Of course, once you get up to speed, it's important to stop yourself from hitting a wall. The new ST has rear disc brakes for the first time in the Fiesta range, and paired with the new ABS system that quickly changes the wheels under braking based on the surface grip to ensure that you don't end up on the other side of a skid facing backwards.

The three Electronic Stability Control modes include ESC ON, which always intervenes to help keep the car in line, ESC Sport Mode which allows a bit of slip to keep it exciting while still intervening to help, and ESC OFF which is pretty self-explanatory. The Torque Vectoring Control is always on, even in ESC OFF mode so that you can have "spirited" cornering while still getting optimal handling at speed.

Of course, there's always the opportunity to have a bit of fun with a handbrake turn every now and then.

The Fiesta ST also has MyKey. The MyKey system allows car owners to customise different keys to configure different settings on the car as it’s turned on. That means you can program a key to give to your kids or a mate without thinking .

The MyKey can be programmed to initiate features like completely disabling the audio system if seatbelts aren’t used, sound alarms at 70km/h and 140km/h to highlight if the vehicle is going too fast, keeping the seatbelt reminders on always, sounding an early fuel-low warning to save running out on fuel and restricting safety technologies like stability programs from ever being turned off.

Don't put two smart keys in the car at the same time, however: the system can get confused about which program to initiate.

Underneath the car is a fancy contraption called Emergency Assist which looks at your various emergency systems, and when it figures out that one has been deployed: be it a roll-over alert, airbag or other crash-detection system, it automatically hooks into your pre-paired Bluetooth phone to call 000. Even if the crash knocked you clean out, it’s not a worry: the car will actually speak to the operator for you.

“Hello, I’m a Ford car that has been involved in an accident. Here’s the sensors that have been activated (fire, fuel cutoff, airbags, roll-over, etc), please send emergency services to this GPS location,” it says. That is incredible. The car then leaves the emergency services line open so that you can talk to the operator and tell them more about your condition. That's going to save lives, that one.

You've also got the Ford Sync system in there too. It’s the usual voice-activated, GPS-laden, Bluetooth-audio compatible system that comes with a few new features first seen on the Ford Kuga soft-roader, including a new voice command called “Play Similar”. By uttering those magic words, it takes a look at what you have on your phone or USB input and plays other stuff like what you’re listening to right now. It’s Apple iTunes’ Genius feature in your car, and it’s great.

Sadly, it's still packing a tiny in-dash screen for your content, but on a smaller car it's more forgivable. The Ford Kuga soft-roader's tiny screen, however, makes for dismal viewing.

On the road, the Fiesta ST a comfortable, handsome hatch with sporty looks and gadgets for days, and on the track it's a fierce corner killer. It's the perfect boy racer.

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