Ford Fiesta ST hatchback review
"Fast and fun yet practical and economical, the latest Ford Fiesta ST is as great a hot hatch as ever"
- Huge fun to drive
- Great performance
- Relatively efficient
- Unsettled ride on rough roads
- Sporty image not for everyone
- Engine not as characterful as before
If you’re in the market for a small hot hatchback you’d be forgiven for being a little overwhelmed. A worthy shortlist of talented candidates includes the Peugeot 208 GTi, Suzuki Swift Sport, Volkswagen Polo GTI and MINI Cooper S – but the Ford Fiesta ST, for many the traditional class leader, was notable by its absence after the previous-generation model went out of production in 2017. Thankfully, May of 2018 saw the return of an all-new version.
Ford has pulled out all the stops to make sure the latest Fiesta ST can reclaim its crown. There’s a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 197bhp, giving the ST a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds – thanks in part to an overboost feature. Despite this performance, economy is respectable; the car’s engine can shut down one of its three cylinders at lower engine speeds to save fuel while you're cruising, helping it return over 40mpg.
During more spirited driving, the short-shift six-speed manual gearbox can be ‘flatshifted’, meaning you don’t have to take your foot off the throttle when changing gear. Launch control is also included if you specify the optional Performance Pack, along with a limited-slip differential to improve traction and gear shift lights.
Hot hatchbacks aren’t all about straight-line speed though, and the Fiesta ST really comes alive when tackling a twisty road. Fast, accurate, communicative steering and an impressive suspension setup with clever dampers mean the ST feels poised and lively through corners, with plenty of grip. The optional limited-slip differential and standard torque-vectoring make it easy to put power down out of corners, while the car’s electronic stability control system can be backed off gradually via selectable driving modes if you don't want them to intervene prematurely on a race track.
A Performance Edition version is also offered, adding lightweight alloy wheels and coilover suspension that can be adjusted by the owner. It comes in a bright orange paint and costs around £2,500 extra. For most owners, the standard ST is better value but the Performance Edition is the ultimate version of the car from a handling perspective.
The good news is that all of this potential for fun has not come at the expense of day-to-day usability. The Fiesta ST loses none of the standard car’s space and practicality, with the same interior layout and identical boot space. Unlike some rivals, both three and five-door versions are available too. The ST also benefits from the same five-star Euro NCAP safety rating as the standard Fiesta. Provided you can afford the higher running costs, there’s no reason why the Fiesta ST couldn’t serve perfectly well as everyday transport.
The Fiesta ST doesn’t give much cause for complaint, but those who value pliant suspension and relaxed cruising may find it slightly too firm, especially over rougher surfaces. While the car’s sporty suspension actually does a fine job of keeping the driver in control over undulating roads, ride quality does suffer slightly even in the most relaxed driving mode.
If you don’t mind a harder, less relaxed edge to your motoring experience though, the Ford Fiesta ST is one of the best cars in its class. It’s more fun to drive than the Volkswagen Polo GTI, faster and more engaging than the latest Suzuki Swift Sport, and more than a match for the enthusiast-favourite Peugeot 208 GTi.
For a more detailed look at the Ford Fiesta ST, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.