Ford Fiesta ST (2012-2017) review
Hot hatchbacks are meant to be quick, fun to drive and practical – all boxes the Fiesta ST ticks with ease, making it a clear winner against rivals such as the Peugeot 208 GTi, Volkswagen Polo GTI, and the Vauxhall Corsa VXR.
What's not so good
Ford Fiesta ST (2012-2017): what would you like to read next?
The standard Fiesta is already more fun to drive than its rivals and the ST goes one step further. It has sports suspension (to reduce how much the car leans in corners), stronger brakes and, of course, a more powerful engine.
That engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with 178hp, but it feels even quicker than that power output suggests, mostly because it has an over-boost function that swells power to 197hp for brief bursts of acceleration. Buyers can also go for a (Ford-approved) Mountune tuning kit that hikes power to 212hp. Even without this extra power, the Fiesta ST is guaranteed to put a smile on your face thanks to its punchy performance and addictive engine sound.
In 2016, Ford announced the arrival of the new Fiesta ST200. This model gets an uprated turbocharged engine with 197hp allowing it to hit 62mph from rest in 6.7 seconds – 0.2 faster than the current Fiesta ST.
The Fiesta ST reminds me of the hot hatches that I grew up with
Fuel economy of close to 50mpg means the ST is cheap to drive for something so fast, and its interior is as practical as the regular car’s, although it’s only available with three doors.
Smart looks come courtesy of the Fiesta ST’s unique shades of paint, subtle body kit and racy ‘ST’ badging. Also on the standard-kit list is a DAB digital radio, air conditioning and sports seats from Recaro.
First, the sole not-so-good point: the ride comfort. Hot hatchbacks are naturally a little firmer than their less-hot counterparts, but the ST could feel a little too stiff for some.
The Ford Fiesta ST is the definition of a four-wheeled riot
Costing £3,000 more than the ST-3 on which it is based, your money buys you a unique shade of paint (or is it primer?) called Storm Grey, ST200 badges and red highlights for the brake callipers.
Maximum power with the Fiesta’s 15-second over-boost function in full flow rises from the standard 197hp to 218hp – or exactly the same hike you can get by specifying the factory-approved £600 Montune tuning kit. Mechanically, all that separates the ST200 from it is a revised suspension setup that is 30 per cent stiffer and a lower ratios for the gearbox.
Whether the performance upgrades are worth the money is a mute point then. We’ve yet to sample the car for ourselves, but reviewers that have tell us that there’s little to separate the ST200 from the standard (admittedly utterly brilliant) model – it still corners like an X-Fighter and shoots through space like the Millennium Falcon.
Some say the extra power slightly diminishes the driving experience – leaving it vulnerable to understeer. That’s something even the standard Fiesta can suffer from lacking, as it does, a grip-inducing limited-slip differential.
Whether you think the ST200 is worth the extra outlay comes down to personal priorities – but the fact that just 3,000 (or thereabouts) will be built globally could well swing it for people looking for a collectable fast Ford.
If you’re not one of those folks, though, you’ll be perfectly happy saving your money and going for the already-excellent standard car – particularly when you learn that, owing to the limitations of the factory, all final run STs will get the ST200’s suspensions upgrades absolutely free.
We tested the Fiesta ST in 2015 and found that around town you’re dealt some very firm blows as you go over bumps and speedhumps, but as you leave urban speed limits and pick up the pace the ride quality does get better. The sense of connection the Fiesta ST gives you with the road lends you the confidence to drive incredible quickly down twisty roads.
Speaking of which, the Fiesta ST is an absolute masterpiece when driven down challenging British country roads. The suspension – so firm around town – controls the car’s movements impeccably, and the steering gives you a fantastic sense of how much grip you have. The brakes are strong, and you can easily judge how much speed you’ll shed with a prod of the pedal.
The joy of the ST is that it comes alive at legal speeds (although it’ll encourage you to go much faster than you think sensible), meaning that you can feel like you’re getting the most out of your hot hatch without risking a slap on the wrists. The fact that countless motoring journalists rank it among sports cars costing more than £50,000 in terms of driving fun suggests Ford has really nailed it with the Fiesta ST.
The Fiesta ST’s interior is a little plain and the optional sat-nav screen is annoyingly small, but the basics are right – there’s a pair of bolstered Recaro seats that keep you in place during fast cornering and a great driving position.