The MK7 Fiesta ST was regarded as being one of the most fun drivers’ cars you could buy and was a car you could conceivably own as well whatever your background thanks to its low asking price even from new. It has developed somewhat of a cult status and I had never driven one, although having driven many standard Fiesta’s of that era I knew they were great handling cars even without the Ford Performance upgrades. I was desperate to try one for myself and when the MK8 came along and Ford UK agreed to lend me one of their Press Cars I was over the moon. A whole week to see for myself exactly what all the fuss is about.
The car Ford lent me was a 2019 Fiesta ST2 with the upgraded wheels and tyres which are standard on the ST3 (and a must on the spec sheet) and also the upgraded media as well. I was pleased to see the car was in Racing Red which really made it stand out from the crowd. All of the Fiesta ST’s have an option to spec a Performance pack which adds shift lights, launch control and probably most importantly a limited slip differential. The car I had didn’t have this fitted. At around £20k before options the ST2 retains the great value for money aspect of the MK7 with the ST1 being even cheaper still.
The ST now comes with a 3 cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine which produces 200 PS and 290 NM of torque and is fitted with a 6 speed manual gearbox. For anyone fearing the loss of a cylinder over the predecessor need not worry. Ford have made one of the smoothest most free revving 3 cylinders money can buy and it will even shut off a cylinder when not required to make it 2 pot economical which for buyers at this price point is an important consideration. Fuel economy during my time with the car was excellent. 41-42mpg was easily achievable without any change in driving style and only dropped to mid 30’s when enjoying a good hoon. I’ve no doubt if driven carefully on a run you could see mid to high 40’s which for a car with this much performance is excellent.
And speaking on performance, 0-62mph in six and a half seconds and a vmax of well over 140mph is substantial in a small car like this. Thanks to a fairly hard core set up and a city cars lack of insulation from the things going on outside of the car you feel all of the speed the car has to offer. I drove one of my favourite local roads and was able to use all of the performance nearly all of the time and it felt like I was going quick. I drove the same road in the brilliant and hugely capable BMW M850i the other day at the same speeds and it felt pretty pedestrian. In an age where cars are so rounded and refined with huge amounts of power this is where the hot hatch is becoming more relevant than ever. To get the same feedback from cars like the BMW you would need to be travelling at seriously illegal speeds. Whilst the Fiesta’s performance is far from rabid it always gives you a pleasing thump in the back and makes you feel like you are in something with plenty of performance and I never felt it lacking in the power stakes whatever the situation. It is undoubtedly turbocharged which does give a little lag but it’s not a problem to drive around and the extra torque you get from a turbocharged engine really helps with that sensation of speed.
The larger 18” wheels on the ST3 and optioned on this car wear a special Michelin Pilot Supersport tyre featuring an inner compound slightly harder for longevity and the outer softer for extra grip and in the dry and out of first gear traction is almost absolute. It takes the tightest of hairpins and the most ham fisted dump of the accelerator pedal to brake it and I’m sure the Performance Pack with the LSD would take even that away. In the wet it’s easier to brake traction but grip levels remain excellent and with the car in Race Track mode which turns off traction control it understeers progressively when grip eventually runs out. Body roll in the corners is minimal and whilst the suspension is very firm it isn’t crashy and didn’t feel unbearable by any means. It was only over the very roughest city roads where it felt too hard but that’s a compromise worth paying for the control it gives you where you really want it. The steering is super responsive and you have lots of feel through the wheel and this is a car that changes direction like most modern cars could only dream of doing. Race Track mode has by far the best steering set up because it feels natural in a way the car doesn’t when in Sport mode or Normal. So much so I found myself driving in that mode most of the time. The car always feels nimble and ready to change direction and instils confidence allowing you to push on near the cars limits quickly and safely.
Race and Sport also open up the valves in the exhaust and give you a few pops and bangs which I was pleasantly surprised to find it does that in a manner that feels quite natural. I hate the obsession with unnatural pops every time you are off the throttle in modern sports cars but at the right time here and there? Perfect. The exhaust however is never quiet. A cold start is surprisingly noisy for a hot hatch and around town even in the quietest mode there is a little bit too much noise for my personal taste. I’m sure the target audience which is most likely much younger than me would love this but it would be nice to be able to quieten it down a little more for us oldies. When you really start pressing on the Fiesta amplifies the exhaust noise through the speakers which makes the car sound great inside and out especially considering its lack of cylinders.
When you are driving a car like this spiritedly you need supportive seats to keep you in place and the standard fit Recaro’s hold you rigidly still. A little too rigidly on a long drive I found, especially if you aren’t an extremely thin individual as the seat bolsters press on your thighs and don’t allow any real change of position as a result. I did find the bolsters softened a little over my time with the car so maybe that is something that was down to the car being so new but it’s something to be aware of if you are a heavy user of your car. Otherwise on a run the engine is not intrusive and wind noise decent for a city car but this is a car that is clearly heavily performance biased and never feels anything but that. Something like a Mini JCW does a better job of switching between a bigger more comfortable feeling car and a go kart but then when you consider the cost of that car with a similar specification there is a huge price difference.
The interior of this generation of Fiesta is a massive leap on from the MK7. It now features a good-sized touch screen available with navigation and Fords latest Sync
system as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Being predominantly touch screen it can be tricky to hit the right button on the move but it’s better than most I have used from that perspective as graphics are of a decent size. The system isn’t lightning fast and sometimes takes a moment to load but it’s more than acceptable and I never had any problems with it freezing or lagging during my time with the car. It’s a huge step on from the old matrix screen in the MK7. Driving position is great and everything is logically laid out and provided you aren’t expecting a premium finish to the interior like you would get in a Mini or Audi A1/Polo you will be more than happy with the inside of the Fiesta. It even had decent rear space for a city car and the boot was more than acceptable for a car of this class. Much of the week I had my daughter in the back in her car seat as well as my wife with me and for the three of us there was plenty of space for day to day chores. It’s worth noting you can now have the ST as a 5 door adding even more practicality to the package.
During my time with the car I covered 900 miles in a mixture of town driving, motorway stints and b-road blasts and whilst it was undoubtedly most suited to the tight twists and mountain hairpins of Wales it was a car that was never found wanting in any situation. It’s an impeccable performance car that is not undone by the daily grind and is one of the best pound for pound performance cars you can buy. Little would keep up with it on a tight twisty road and nothing would be substantially more fun doing so. There may be some better all-round performance city cars out there but they can’t give you that old school hot hatch feeling in a modern package that the Fiesta excels at delivering. Cheap to buy, cheap to run but delivers all of the fun!
An enormous thank you to Ford UK for giving me the opportunity to spend a week with the ST. Be sure to check out my Instagram feed for all of the photographs I took.