"The 180bhp Ford Fiesta ST is great fun to drive and exceptionally good value."
If you’re in the market for a hot hatchback, your search really need only start and stop with the Ford Fiesta ST. Launched within weeks of two of 2013's other most important hot hatchbacks – the Peugeot 208 GTi and the Renaultsport Clio 200 – the ST sets the bar for performance-focused superminis. Being in such impressive company doesn’t detract from the Fiesta's abilities, which, thanks to its suitably muscular exterior and bargain price tag, certainly look good on paper. Once you also check out its outstanding performance figures and its market-leading levels of driver enjoyment and you’ve easily got one of the best handling hot hatchbacks on sale in the UK today.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
There's a very simple equation with the Fiesta ST – drive it to its full ability, and you will end up paying more to run it. Obviously that's true of any car, but the ST's impressive performance exaggerates this and encourages you to drive it a bit faster than the standard car. The lively ST has the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds, right up to a top speed of 137mph. Now, if driven with some care, it's also capable of returning 47.9mpg and emitting only 138g/km of CO2, but as soon you start exploring the car's performance potential on a regular basis, these figures will quickly tumble. That said, it's without doubt a bargain to buy and standard equipment and technology is generous. If you also consider its pre-paid servicing packages and strong resale values, then you’ve got one of the most affordable hot hatchbacks on the market.
Interior & comfort
The ST handles surprisingly well and is very comfortable indeed for a performance-focused car. Yes, the suspension is firmer and lower than on the standard Fiesta – how could it not be? – but not to the extent that you’ll ever feel uncomfortable or rattled. It's a decent motorway cruiser thanks to a responsive gearbox and effective turbocharger, offering loads of power in any gear. The well-bolstered Recaro sports seats suitably grip your body in place without feeling harsh, doing a good job of soaking up the jolts and bumps in the road. Not so in the back, however – after climbing into the rear via the front doors it's a totally different story. It feels pretty cramped and the lack of rear doors means the rear bench is, in reality, reserved for children and small adults only. The upmarket interior feels well made, though, and can now challenge the MINI for build quality.
Practicality & boot space
The Fiesta ST is all about the drive. As such, practicality takes a back seat to the fun driving experience. It is only available as a three-door, which has obvious implications for access to the rear seats. But beyond that, it still offers a good level of practicality that is easily on par with the standard hatchback. There's just as much space as in the supermini that it's based on, with the same 276-litre boot with the back seats in place and versatile interior. Fold down those rear seats and the boot expands to 960 litres, which is a lot more than you’ll get in a MINI Cooper S but still quite a bit less than the 1,146 litres on offer in the current Renaultsport Clio. You do get a large array of useful storage cubbies and there's lots of adjustment in the driving position. However, getting comfy in the back is a different story, with taller passengers likely to struggle because of the lack of headroom. That said, the Fiesta's compact dimensions and powerful engine mean it's a genuine joy to drive around town, while being suitably smooth and relaxing when on the open road. All in all, the Fiesta ST really is a car for any occasion.
Reliability & safety
The facelifted Fiesta doesn't make an appearance in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the previous model performed pretty badly in the 2013 top cars rankings. In 2012 it placed a disappointing 64th, with build quality, performance and braking letting it down, but in 2013 it dropped a further 53 places to come 117th, for some of the very same reasons. Ford itself also only come 23rd out of 32 in the manufacturers rankings, so really needs to pull its socks up in this regard. It is worth saying that the latest model does aim to address these main downfalls, so we’d expect to see the Fiesta re-enter the top 100 a lot higher up in the next couple of years. Ultimately though, because the ST is based on the UK's bestselling car should mean that the hot hatchback is actually fairly reliable. It's part of Ford's ‘One Ford’ philosophy, so the ST will remain almost unchanged around the globe – resulting in significant cost savings and improved reliability. The ST also shares its engine with the Ford Kuga SUV and suspension with the Ford B-MAX MPV, so its parts are tried-and-tested and should be readily available if anything goes wrong. All cars come with the Fiesta's maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, making the ST one of the safest fast superminis available on the market, while safety equipment like Ford's MyKey – which lets the car's owner limit the top speed and stereo volume, specifically designed to help parents police their teenage driver's behaviour – is fitted as standard on all models.
Engines, drive & performance
This is where the ST truly hits the spot. As you’d rightly expect with a flagship performance model, the ST is easily the best car to drive in the Fiesta range. The steering is light but sharp and the ride isn’t overly firm even though the suspension is 15mm lower and around 12 per cent stiffer than in a standard hatchback. All cars come fitted with a 180bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine, which, given the ST's compact dimensions, feels like more than enough, as it pushes the car from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds. What's more, thanks to an effective turbocharger, there's loads of power available through all the gears and it never feels like it will run out of puff, even on the motorway. The Fiesta is the best standard supermini on the market, and Ford has undoubtedly produced one of the most entertaining hot hatchbacks as well.
Price, value for money & options
The Fiesta ST really is a bit of a bargain. If you look at its main high-performance hot hatchback competition, not only does it undercut the Peugeot 208 GTi, but it's also cheaper than the Renaultsport Clio and VW Polo GTI, as well. And you get a lot of equipment and accessories for your money, with all models coming fitted with 17-inch alloys, Recaro sports seats and Ford's innovative My Key system, which allows the owner to pre-programme aspects of the car, such as the car's top speed and stereo volume (no more boy racing to thumping tunes in this hot hatch). The top-of-the-range ST-2 models also add part-leather seats, heated front seats and a Sony stereo. Plus, the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is affordable to run, too. And while some Ford's only have so-so resale value on the used car market, you can expect the ST's reputation and known excellence to mean that you will find a pretty decent second-hand deal when you do decide to sell it on.