RE: Ford Fiesta ST200: Driven

RE: Ford Fiesta ST200: Driven

Sunday 19th June 2016

Ford Fiesta ST200: Driven

A special edition ST, but is it actually special enough?



New car launches tend to be organized with the sort of relentless precision normally reserved for military operations, to ensure attending journalists don't have to do too much stressful thinking. We're a flock of pampered sheep: go here, do this, eat lunch, drive there, watch this presentation, eat dinner and then drink lots and lots of free booze until your thoughts turn appropriately positive.

Which is why Ford's free-form introduction to the Fiesta ST200 was such a refreshing change. I'm flown into Nice, given a map and a packed lunch and then chucked the keys to the uber ST with no more detailed instructions than a polite request that I get to the hotel near Castellane in time for dinner. There the chief project engineer, Matthius Tonn, will be on hand to answer any questions I might have, leaving me with four hours to kill in a part of the world packed with great driving roads.

On paper, it's hard not to be underwhelmed by the ST200. Or, more precisely, by what it offers over the standard ST in return for a chunky £3,000 supplement over an ST-3. There's more power - 218hp and 236lb ft on a 15-second overboost - but the only other significant mechanical change is the arrival of a lower final drive ratio to close up the gearing. Beyond that buyers will be paying for the black alloys, Storm Grey paintwork (which isn't offered on any other Fiesta variant, and which puts me instantly in mind of rattle-can primer) plus a couple of ST200 badges. There are red brake calipers as well, although the hardware is the same.

Storm Grey won't be offered on any other STs
Storm Grey won't be offered on any other STs
Taut a lesson
Yet it turns out there's (slightly) more to it than that. The ST200 sits on revised suspension, with a new set-up that was specifically designed for it including a 30 per cent stiffer rear torsion beam, slightly softer springs and dampers and fractionally tweaked power steering. But it turns out that, due to production limitations at the Cologne plant that builds European STs, the tweaked settings have also been fitted to the standard ST for the last few months as an undisclosed free upgrade.

We'll leave the cost-benefit analysis until later. First comes the more important decision of deciding which route to take. I opt for a bit of a zig-zag that's aimed at joining up my favourite bits of the Alpes-Maritimes: Col de Vence, cut across to the Route Napoleon and then a long loop through the mountains. It would be rude to return the ST with too much of a tank of fuel still left in it, after all.

First impressions are of driving a Mountune-equipped Fiesta ST. Ford admits that the power upgrade is, in effect, a factory version of the power-boosting Mountune kit - the clue is in the identical power and torque figures. It feels punchier than the standard ST, especially in its bristling mid-range, but it's still not an engine that relishes spending time at the top of the rev counter. The gearchange is as brilliant as ever - Ford manages to give a cooking hatchback a better shift action than many sports cars - but the engine's fat flywheel means it works best with a fractional pause between downshifts. The lower gearing is the discernible change, although a short run on the Autoroute leaving the airport confirms that 75mph translates to 3,000rpm in sixth, so it's hardly packing a set of sprint ratios.

Engine effectively now runs to Mountune spec
Engine effectively now runs to Mountune spec
Rippling muscle
The Col de Vence, although spectacular, is too busy to really stretch the Fiesta's legs - it seems like every middle-aged cyclist in the south of France has chosen to don lycra and ride slowly up the gradient on one of the hottest days of the year; it's tiring just watching them. But even at modest speed the ST200 feels more pliant than I remember from previous STs, with some rougher stretches of road giving a chance for the new springs and dampers to prove how well they ride out bumps. It's not long before I'm seeing the signs warning of Chaussee Deformee as a chance to be impressed by the Fiesta's body control rather than a reason to slow down.

At the top of the Col the cyclists seem to disappear, and past Coursegoules the Fiesta and I seem to have the world - and the superb D2 - pretty much to ourselves. The boosty enthusiasm of the power delivery and the ST200's rorty exhaust note make it feel properly quick, so it's quite a nice surprise to glance at the speedo and find a number that isn't as naughty as I was expecting. The ST is one of the increasingly rare cars that still feels quick at normal-ish speeds.

Tighter corners give the Fiesta the chance to show off its terrier-like handling balance. It seems keener to turn with the stiffened rear axle, and it still enjoys wagging its tail on an eased throttle, certainly with the stability control either switched off or in its more permissive sport mode. But hairpins also reveal the fundamental limitation of having an open differential and all that turbocharged torque: get too keen and it's painting 1s rather than 11s. Possibly a missed opportunity there, given the differece a diff makes to the Quaife-equipped (and pre-Mountuned) Fiesta M-Sport Edition you could have for similar money.

Still brilliant, but largely because the ST is
Still brilliant, but largely because the ST is
Wag the dog
With a couple of hours in hand I decide to take a diversion onto some narrower mountain roads, heading first to Mons on the D563 and then - to give myself the excuse for some loud public swearing - Tourrettes. [He's here all night ladies and gentlemen... - Ed.]

The ST200 feels immediately at home, its compact dimensions making it easy to carry speed on the narrower roads and the shorter gearing meaning I'm making regular use of fourth on the sort of roads where the standard car would likely not get out of third. It feels like a junior rally car, especially when I turn north onto the D25 from Bargemon to La Bastide, a spectacular and near-empty road that could be a private special stage as it travels through some vast military ranges. Progress is fast enough to have the Fiesta's brakes suffering, with the rubbery sensation of early-onset fade coming through the pedal towards the end. It's been a while since I came close to running out of brakes on the road.

Dinner gives a chance to catch up with Tonn. He's the man who created the standard Fiesta ST, as well as a line of hot Fords going back to the Mk2 Focus ST, and although he's moved into a bigger development role within Ford of Europe, he came back to do the ST200 as the equivalent of a Hollywood bank robber drawn by the prospect of a final big score.

Now Ford, how about the RS?
Now Ford, how about the RS?
'Not track focused'
He's happy to explain the logic behind the limited changes, admitting that the power upgrade is pretty much the Mountune kit "when we started in January we went to Mountune and one of the first things I established is that the IP rights of the increased power were with us."

I also get the sense he feels frustrated that what was meant to be the ST200's bespoke chassis set-up has to be fitted to all versions of the ST. Did they consider making bigger changes, like fitting a limited-slip differential or bigger brakes? "We did, but we didn't want to make it unaffordable. ST is all about road performance, it's not track focused."

Chatting over dinner it's clear that Ford still remembers some of its loss-making performance derivatives keenly. Tonn cites the Ford Racing Puma as a classic example of how costs can run out of control. "Bespoke body, expensive differential, unique brakes - and then outside of Britain, nobody bought it..." He also points out that the ST200 has a different appeal in those European markets where the Mountune kit isn't offered as a Ford-approved option.

The ST200 is a great car because the standard ST is. But aside from the lowered gearing, the '200' bits don't really add much beyond whatever satisfaction owners will take from knowing they own a special edition, and having a car in a colour that nobody else can buy. You can get practically the same car at a sizeable saving by buying a standard ST and a Mountune kit. But as more than 2,000 people across Europe have already put their name down for one - and the end of Fiesta production next year will effectively limit sales to around 3,000 - it's clear that plenty do see the appeal.


FORD FIESTA ST200
Engine
: 1,596cc, inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 218@6,000rpm (on overboost)
Torque (lb ft): 236@3,000rpm (on overboost)
0-62mph: 6.7sec
Top speed: 143mph
Weight: 1,163kg
MPG: 46.3
CO2: 140g/km
Price: £22,745

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

dukeboy749r

Original Poster:

761 posts

146 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Ford do still seem to have manual gear changes down to pat - they just feel right.

Not a fan of that colour though and in the end, a £3k premium!

Miles Hardy

24 posts

71 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Is it just me or is 22k enough to buy a really nice car? Like a BMW e9 or a 968 club sport that'll not only hold its value, but are not as ugly as sin! That is one horrible looking car! Not for me that.

shake n bake

1,994 posts

143 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Did they run out of paint?

MajorMantra

719 posts

48 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Miles Hardy said:
Is it just me or is 22k enough to buy a really nice car? Like a BMW e9 or a 968 club sport that'll not only hold its value, but are not as ugly as sin! That is one horrible looking car! Not for me that.
New cars cost more than old cars shocker.

culpz

3,893 posts

48 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Ford clearly trying to replicate Renault's Storm Grey paint work there but looks nowhere near as good as it did on the Clio 200. It doesn't help that it doesn't really suit the Fiesta IMO. At least with the Clio the colour really brought out its wide arches and same with the Nardo Grey Paint on Audi RS models.

I love the Fiesta ST. After i test drove one i just wanted one. I genuinely wouldn't be bothered if i got a normal ST3 though as apposed to this. I'd much prefer the Spirit Blue or Molten Orange paintwork and get the Mountune kit on there and it's basically the same car.

I've said this before though and i'll say it again; Ford will have no problems shifting all of these. I'm sure at some point they will appreciate in value or at least hold their value well. Whether that's a good thing or not is a different question.

I just wish Renault would openly admit they ballsed up with the new Clio (although they pretty much did in a nutshell) and fire back at ford who are currently walking all over them. It's a shame cos i like the Clio and i'm considering buying one when they get to around the 10k mark. I can fully see why no-one wants one though. Renault really haven't helped themselves from launch on the new model at all.
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All that jazz

7,632 posts

82 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
shake n bake said:
Did they run out of paint?
Beat me to it. For £23k I'd expect them to finish painting it. Horrible looking car in that colour.

Buff Mchugelarge

3,282 posts

86 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
What an awful job you have, you poor thing. laugh

Nice article though, it makes me want to drive (if not quite buy) one.
125bhp Ecoboost 1.0ltr fiestas are a riot so I imagine this one is exceedingly naughty.

Interesting they've updated the suspension across the production line.. I wonder if anybody actually noticed without being told?

Thorburn

2,272 posts

129 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Should be picking up a new ST-3 on Saturday and was very pleased to read about the minor suspension changes and the fact they've been rolled out to the standard ST models as well - the stiff ride was our one reservation when ordering so softening it up a fraction is a definite bonus. The cars we test drove were both 2014 models, so will be interesting if can feel any difference - although now with the knowledge that it is softer it becomes hard to be objective about it.

As for the ST200, I've heard they aren't going to be discounting much on this, which means it is closer to a £6,000 premium. I can't say I regret going for an ST-3 painted in a proper colour with the option of the Mountune kit, it makes the ST200 seem like a bit of a cash grab!

GTEYE

1,208 posts

146 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Great little car and at least the paint stands out from all the other ST's out there.

Price differential really doesn't make sense, but I'm sure they will sell them all easily, and in the long term residuals will be much better than the standard car.

Axionknight

8,347 posts

71 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Miles Hardy said:
Is it just me or is 22k enough to buy a really nice car? Like a BMW e9 or a 968 club sport that'll not only hold its value, but are not as ugly as sin! That is one horrible looking car! Not for me that.
..... Really?

mooseracer

388 posts

106 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Thorburn said:
Should be picking up a new ST-3 on Saturday and was very pleased to read about the minor suspension changes and the fact they've been rolled out to the standard ST models as well - the stiff ride was our one reservation when ordering so softening it up a fraction is a definite bonus. The cars we test drove were both 2014 models, so will be interesting if can feel any difference - although now with the knowledge that it is softer it becomes hard to be objective about it.

As for the ST200, I've heard they aren't going to be discounting much on this, which means it is closer to a £6,000 premium. I can't say I regret going for an ST-3 painted in a proper colour with the option of the Mountune kit, it makes the ST200 seem like a bit of a cash grab!
Had mine for a couple of months and have been wondering what all the fuss about the ride was. Now I know why.

EnglishTony

2,552 posts

35 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
|So it's a Mountune with a short gear ratio box but without an LSD. Does the LSD equipped M-Sport come with the box & the suspension changes?


HJMS123

982 posts

69 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
mooseracer said:
Had mine for a couple of months and have been wondering what all the fuss about the ride was. Now I know why.
Can you please swap with my 15 plate frown

dci

362 posts

77 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Buff Mchugelarge said:
What an awful job you have, you poor thing. laugh

Nice article though, it makes me want to drive (if not quite buy) one.
125bhp Ecoboost 1.0ltr fiestas are a riot so I imagine this one is exceedingly naughty.

Interesting they've updated the suspension across the production line.. I wonder if anybody actually noticed without being told?
Thorburn said:
Should be picking up a new ST-3 on Saturday and was very pleased to read about the minor suspension changes and the fact they've been rolled out to the standard ST models as well - the stiff ride was our one reservation when ordering so softening it up a fraction is a definite bonus. The cars we test drove were both 2014 models, so will be interesting if can feel any difference - although now with the knowledge that it is softer it becomes hard to be objective about it.

As for the ST200, I've heard they aren't going to be discounting much on this, which means it is closer to a £6,000 premium. I can't say I regret going for an ST-3 painted in a proper colour with the option of the Mountune kit, it makes the ST200 seem like a bit of a cash grab!
I took delivery of mine last week and I will admit I haven't noticed any difference. I already knew I wanted one before I test drove one so my test drive consisted of a foot down blast up a dual carriageway and back. I didn't really take anything in other than how much faster it accelerated than my old car and how well it look the roundabout at the end. It was In a 14 plate car and I can't remember having any complaints about the ride in that car.

I would like to compare mine with an older model to see if there is a noticeable difference. There is about a £6k difference between my ST3 with all options and SB paint and the price of the ST200 listed above. I could have the montune 215 kit fitted for just over £600 which leaves hell of a cost for some gray paint and ST200 badges.

Edited by dci on Thursday 16th June 11:42

Mafffew

1,218 posts

47 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
I wish Ford had been a bit braver with this, bigger upgrades, better colours. It just doesn't sound like it is worth the extra premium, the tuning route seems to make much more sense.

Still a brilliant car, good to hear they've made adjustments to the suspension for new models, just way too late for my poor bones! rolleyes

RacingBlue

1,255 posts

100 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
mooseracer said:
Thorburn said:
Should be picking up a new ST-3 on Saturday and was very pleased to read about the minor suspension changes and the fact they've been rolled out to the standard ST models as well - the stiff ride was our one reservation when ordering so softening it up a fraction is a definite bonus. The cars we test drove were both 2014 models, so will be interesting if can feel any difference - although now with the knowledge that it is softer it becomes hard to be objective about it.

As for the ST200, I've heard they aren't going to be discounting much on this, which means it is closer to a £6,000 premium. I can't say I regret going for an ST-3 painted in a proper colour with the option of the Mountune kit, it makes the ST200 seem like a bit of a cash grab!
Had mine for a couple of months and have been wondering what all the fuss about the ride was. Now I know why.
I came to my ST-3 from a FN2 Civic Type R, and compared to that the ride in the Fiesta is superb. It hasn't bothered me a bit, whereas in the Civic it completely ruined the car.

As for the ST-200, I like it a lot, but the Mountune upgrade will do for me later in the year smile

Leins

6,503 posts

84 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Miles Hardy said:
Is it just me or is 22k enough to buy a really nice car? Like a BMW e9 or a 968 club sport that'll not only hold its value, but are not as ugly as sin! That is one horrible looking car! Not for me that.
Most potential buyers of this car will probably already have an E9 and a 968CS in the garage

Fire99

9,408 posts

165 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
So if the 'conventional' ST now has the suspension upgrades and you can probably get some kind of discount on that, what would attract you to paying the full RRP for the '200 ?

I'd say a wise man would go for the ST with a decent colour paint and then pick their own upgrades from there...

JMF894

2,664 posts

91 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
Great car no doubt but at £22k plus this or a Megane Cup-S?

z_chromozone

1,433 posts

185 months

Thursday 16th June 2016
quotequote all
I don’t usually comment, but I had to laugh. I think the dog analogy may have been taken too far. Just what is a “terrier-like handling balance?” Compared to what, a Labrador. Perhaps we need a ‘what dog best represents my car’ thread.
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