Ford Fiesta ST: Australian Review

The Ford Fiesta ST has been on the market for a while now, but that doesn't mean it's old or beyond its use-by date. Far from it: the Fiesta ST is one of the best hot hatches I have ever driven.

What Is It?

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 cooler than you probably are when you drive by some ladies.

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 not available to other, slower Fiesta owners.

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 2014 Fiesta on Australian roads right now. If you want one of those but still want a sport car, take a look at the Fiesta S: you won't regret it.

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. 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.

What Does It Do Well?

The Fiesta ST is amazing. It takes an already great car and turns it into a winning road and track car.

Despite being a front-wheel drive car with what you would assume is entirely too much torque for its own good, the Fiesta manages to get off the line with minimal hassle.

The new torque management system means that the ST ditches 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 is also using nifty new technology in its stability program to give you the most fun possible in the bends. 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. Light and fun!

All of that adds up to cornering that gives you just enough slip to have fun, but not enough to put you into someone's front garden.

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. By themselves, you're still going to be slipping and sliding to a stop, but you're kept safe once again by the stability program that serves to mitigate these issues.

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.

The ESC ON mode is the one that keeps you safe under heavy braking, with the car's ABS system working in tandem with the stability program to not only mitigate brake lock-up and sliding, but to give you a modicum of control in the wheel. That allows you to turn the wheel under heavy braking so you can jump out of the way of something you may be about to hit. It's terrifying to experience, but you're glad it's there at the end of the day.

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.

As far as entertainment is concerned, the Fiesta ST is packing an 8-speaker Sony audio system and a DSP sound enhancer to make it all sound crisp and sweet. There's also a 4-inch display that lets you run your phone and your media, either through a cable or Bluetooth. The system is easy enough to use and produces one hell of a noise (especially in the bass department), but it's lacking a few features. We'll get to that shortly.

There are also a bunch of bells and whistles to keep you safe, comfortable and entertained. There's rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, Recaro bucket seats that hug you like they're emotionally-clingy.

The ride on the Fiesta ST is firm, but comfortable. Not so bad that it's going to shatter your pelvis on the rougher stuff, mostly because Ford understands that you're still going to need to drive the Fiesta ST on a grocery run as well as around a track.

We were also impressed with the fuel economy on the ST. After burning a tank of fuel on a very "spirited" drive, we were able to notch up 9.1L/100km.

What's Not So Good?

Don't get us wrong, the Fiesta ST is damn-near perfect, but every product could use a bit of tweaking here and there to get it just right.

The Ford MyKey system is great for those who want to reign in their kids while they drive, but it can get a bit confused when you hop in the car with two of the keys at once. In our Ford test day a while back, entering the car with two MyKeys froze the SYNC system, meaning we had to turn the car off and on again a few times before we could connect to the right key and set off. User beware on that one.

By far the most annoying thing about the Fiesta ST is that goddamn tiny screen. Sure it's 4-inches, but it's barely useful when it's mounted so far back in the infotainment panel. It's used only for displaying what you're listening to and who's calling you, and nothing else. No satellite navigation, no touch capabilities, no adjustable ride settings. The Bluetooth audio function doesn't even pull through the name of the track you're listening to.

When cars like the Golf GTI and Holden Cruze SRI are both packing larger screens than you are, it's time to have a long hard look at what you're baking in. Thankfully, Ford looks to have listened and it's offering larger screens on newer models. Whether Aussies will get the 8-inch touchscreen option that some cars in Europe have, however, remains to be seen.

Speaking of adjustable ride settings, the Fiesta ST only has one drive mode: fast and furious. You can never just go for a quiet Sunday drive: it's always a savage response from the throttle, steering and suspension. It would be nice if this boy racer had a normal mode you could use to drive your mother to and from the shops, and a separate sports mode that turned the fun knob up to 11 when you wanted to go sideways with the music too loud (on a track, of course).

Also, there's never been a car more in need of a HUD. Throwing current speed, gear shift notifications and even media information can be of huge help when you're in the middle of a thrilling drive.

This Is Weird...

So, overall we've discovered that the Fiesta ST is an amazing car that's fun to drive and comes in at a decent price. SO what's the weird part you ask? Well, it's the name. Fiesta.

Traditionally, the Fiesta has been known a bit of a gutless wonder. Most of the Fiestas on used car websites these days are meant as learner cars: buy it to get your licence then sell it on to the next pimply-faced learner driver looking for their first ride.

Ford is desperately trying to change that with the new, sexy, revamped line of Fiestas, and with the Fiesta ST: a hot hatch meant for the masses. Sure it might be a great car to own, but you'll need to be prepared to do a bit of re-education for your mates after you buy it. A few quick bends should do the trick.

Should You Buy It?

It's fantastic value for a hot hatch, and it's practically best in class. The only concern we have is the announcement of the new Focus ST model and what it means for this year's Fiesta ST: it fixes everything we dislike. It has a larger screen for SYNC, integrated satellite navigation and the awesome new centre column. No changes to that fantastic engine, and any other changes on the car are all nips, tucks and tweaks to the body.

While the two are completely different cars and we have no idea what's going to be in the new Fiesta ST, it's safe to assume that the changes will mostly be cosmetic once it gets the update, so you're still getting the same fantastic car.

That's a win-win for buyers: you can either get the new model when it comes out which will likely fix all the issues we dislike with the current one, or you could not care about a few little tech niggles and go with the current model, which I'm happy to call the best hot hatch on the market right now. Either way, you win with the Ford Fiesta ST.

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