Ford Fiesta ST Performance Edition vs. Mini JCW GP

Ford Fiesta ST Performance Edition vs. Mini JCW GP

Wednesday 25th December 2019

Ford Fiesta ST Performance Edition vs. Mini JCW GP

Do trick dampers and 'Deep Orange' make Ford's big-selling ST superior to Mini's best-ever hot hatch?



It speaks volumes about the Ford Fiesta ST's value for money when the most serious threat to the Performance Edition's reputation comes from the stock offering. Forking out Β£26k for an ST with coilovers and orange paint does sound a bit mad, what with a 'regular' Performance Pack'd car already offering so much for several thousand pounds less. But we wouldn't be so quick to lament it; as is often the case with these things, the range-topping Fiesta is worth more than the sum of its parts. You're paying as much for the increase in driver reward and track ability as you are adjustable stainless-steel dampers and lightweight 18-inch wheels.

The transformation - and increased asking price - has us drawing comparisons with the last Mini JCW GP for several reasons. The GP2 was a Β£28,790 hatchback in 2013, which resulted in plenty of guffawing. It was a figure so ambitious that this 218hp two-seat hatch was squeezed up against BMW's six-pot M135i and Volkswagen's 300hp Golf R, which made for a pretty sticky wicket. The GP looked like a lot less car for the money because it literally was - but today used examples can be had for under Β£20k, and it's not like the allure's worn off. On the right stretch of B road the car really does provide an additional level of ability; it's lighter and more honed than those alternatives, and endowed with the kind of focus not often found in the supermini segment.

Even six years on from the GP2's launch, there is no diminishment in the looks department. It's a set of numbers away from being tin top racer, with decals, a bonnet intake and rear spoiler all making its intentions clear. Then there's the R56's squat stance (something lost in the fatter-faced F56), with the funky four-spoke GP wheels pushed out into each corner on the lower adjustable suspension and the twin-pipe exhaust system sitting proud in the centre of the diffuser, projecting bass from the turbocharged 1.6-litre motor. Unless you're (still) harbouring a grudge against the BMW-era Mini, it is arguably as appealing as downsized hot hatches get.



So much so, in fact, that the two-seat cabin feels wholly appropriate, although it seems a shame that Mini didn't opt for a pair of true buckets with harnesses. Nonetheless, it feels the more special machine despite being more common than the Fiesta ST Performance Edition - of which only 600 are to be made compared to the GP2's 2,000-car run. Even with its lick of vibrant paint and those 10-spoke alloys, the Fiesta doesn't look a whole lot different from the standard model.

There's nothing to signal that there are 12 adjustable bump and 16 adjustable rebound settings in the suspension, or a standard fit Quaife limited slip differential between the drive shafts. Even the cabin is just plain old ST-3, and while it's hard to argue against the inclusion of top-sped infotainment and a B&O stereo on a long drive, it is a stark contrast to the stripped-out ethos of the GP. Of course it speaks volumes that BMW's press office has included the hardwired Garmin satnav on its heritage car, but the model was always regular Cooper from the front seats forward regardless.

It feels serious on the road, though, with the sound of stones-in-rear-arches and an ever-present tyre hiss thanks to the lack of rear furniture. The Cooper seating position in the R56 is good, too; you're left asking for maybe half an inch less from the base setting, but with the wheel in easy reach and pedals nicely spaced, the GP feels like it means business. Or perhaps that should be busyness - because tight damping and all that negative camber make for a lively, tramlining companion on less than smooth roads. No shock there, but it does mean that the 'Sport' setting, which weights up the electric steering resistance, is a virtual no-go zone; it just ups your correction workload with no added benefits.



Left alone, the steering is brilliantly fast, and the front-end geometry seems to increase the perceived quickness as speed is piled on. Even accepting the R56's agile baseline, the GP2 is darty and enthusiastic, with real positivity that's followed by a near equal loading of all four Kumho Ecstas, so it corners flat with that lovely sense of fore and aft neutrality. Turn in off throttle or with a trailed brake and there's some useful rotation, from which you can apply corrective lock or maintain the motion with a progressively opened throttle. It never feels snappy or out to surprise you, so despite the initial hyperreactivity you can really get on top it - and savour being there.

What makes the GP really special, though, is how the chassis and engine are so well matched. The four-cylinder unit has a smooth delivery that builds and builds to the 6,000rpm peak, projecting a coarse tone and wanting for an upshift from the Mini's tactile six-speed gearbox only when approaching the redline. This helps make the car a brilliant blend of predictability, adjustability and - without question - rapid cross-country pace. The 6.3-second 0-62mph time only tells half the story because, once rolling and fully wound up, the 1,160kg GP really shifts.

No that the ST is a slouch. The talents of the three-cylinder 1.5 at the heart of Ford's performance Fiesta are well documented, and it's as gruff and torquey as we remember in the Performance Edition. The six-speed it comes mated to is surprisingly similar in character to the GP's 'box, but the Ford engine prefers to haul from its mid-range rather than spin towards the 6,200rpm redline, so you're more inclined to hang on to a cog and let the three-pot lean on its 214lb ft of torque. Outright thrust feels marginally down on the GP2 - or certainly the acceleration lacks the Mini's crescendo - but that's not surprising, given the GP's 95kg weight advantage and extra 18hp.



On some sections of road, however, you can bowl along with more unabated pace in the Fiesta thanks to what's underneath. With both cars' suspension set for the road, the ST is the more forgiving over bumps and cracks and suffers much less with tramlining on our challenging route. Those traits provide the front end with a lower workload, so the Performance Edition skims over cambers where the GP dart to and fro across them. In a straight dogfight on this sort of B-road, cross country pace feels remarkably similar. But on something smoother, the GP2 would likely hold the performance advantage.

It's when you're right up on the Fiesta's limit that it just doesn't quite have composure of the GP2. Through the bends it's keener to cock an inside wheel and make the tail rotate in the process, so the Performance Edition doesn't completely shake off the Fiesta's tippy toe lairiness. Which is no bad thing - but it means the car is more lively while tackling corners at pace. It fights back at the other end thanks to the effectiveness of that Quaife mechanical LSD, which gives greater on-throttle control with its ability to tug the ST around corners from seemingly any entry yaw angle. This dance doesn't have the delicacy of the GP2's smoothed out approach, but it sure is effective. And very often hilarious.

That the Fiesta runs its rival so close, while retaining all its cabin furniture and additional kit, reiterates just how far-reaching Ford's achievement with the latest ST really is. The step-up in capability presented by the Performance Edition is significant enough for it to warrant serious consideration at the niche end of the supermini gene pool - and in a way which doesn't do any significant harm to the first-rate reputation of the standard model underneath the orange paint. Moreover, you could argue that the car is a deleted bench and rear strut brace away from even greater things. But if you're the kind of person tempted by that thought, you might just as well settle on a secondhand GP2, which delivers on its badge promise and then some. Let's hope its fast-approaching follow-up - endowed with even more power - manages to be half as compelling.


SPECIFICATION - FORD FIESTA ST PERFORMANCE EDITION

Engine: 1,497cc, turbocharged 3-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 214@1,600-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.5sec
Top speed: 144mph
Weight: 1,255kg
MPG: 47.1
CO2: 136g/km
Price: Β£26,495

Search for a Fiesta ST here

MINI JOHN COOPER WORKS GP

Engine: 1,598cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 218@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 192@1,750-5,750rpm (Overboost: 207)
0-62mph: 6.3sec
Top speed: 150mph
Weight: 1,160kg
MPG: 39.8 (combined)
CO2: 165g/km
Price: Β£17,000-25,000

Search for a Mini Cooper JCW here







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IMAGES | STAN PAPIOR

Author
Discussion

howardhughes

Original Poster:

347 posts

153 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
I'm really liking the new ST. I think Ford are doing a first class job on the styling. I've a big soft spot for GP works too.
There is something about the stance on this car. I just love it. Something they have lost on the latest model personally.

NeilAndHisMini

113 posts

118 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Cracking article, thank you. Sums up exactly why I love my GP, the only thing I'd disagree with is about not using Sport mode.

Hoping there will be a video to go with this ...

wab172uk

1,514 posts

176 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Had a go of a Fiesta ST 2 the other week. What a cracking car. Really is. And if this Performance version handles even better, then anyone buying one of these will have an absolute brilliant fun car to own.

If you're 20 something, and you have one of these, you'll have a cracking time.

It's probably too small for what I need, but if it wasn't, I'd be going for an ST-2, then getting the Performance edition springs fitted (£1690), so then I didn't need to have the Orange paint work.

Otispunkmeyer

10,003 posts

104 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Lots of praise for the ST, but unlike the last one, I think the only one I’ve seen is the one that got used for some tyre testing at work! I’ve not seen a privately owned one on the road yet! Are they not selling?

Come to think of it, I see precious few of the new Focus’ either.

Mike1990

738 posts

80 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
The GP looks just ‘right’ the interior still stacks up well too.

GTEYE

1,479 posts

159 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Otispunkmeyer said:
Lots of praise for the ST, but unlike the last one, I think the only one I’ve seen is the one that got used for some tyre testing at work! I’ve not seen a privately owned one on the road yet! Are they not selling?

Come to think of it, I see precious few of the new Focus’ either.
I think the issue isn't specific to Ford, most manufacturers are really struggling to sell at the moment.

There are lots of factors:

Brexit
Political uncertainty
Petrol v diesel v electric political uncertainty
Oh and now Christmas.
And finally, Ford priced the Focus ST too high, so everyone is waiting for the inevitable discounts. Its coming, they can be had for £26ish now.

I would imagine its a tough time to be in car retail at the moment.

Vocht

1,369 posts

113 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Enjoyed the read!

I've always loved the GP, but I can't help think that a nice R56 Cooper S JCW can provide all the same thrills for less than half the price. They're real bargains at the moment!


gigglebug

1,459 posts

71 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
I wonder how the Mini Challenge would have faired against the ST? They are a bit closer in concept to my mind than the GP is.

cerb4.5lee

13,372 posts

129 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
howardhughes said:
I'm really liking the new ST. I think Ford are doing a first class job on the styling.
I'd agree with that and I'm a fan of the styling too. The Mini looks quite daft looking to my eyes in comparison and I've never really got on with the way the Mini looks.

I'd enjoy driving either of them though for sure.

Niffty951

1,898 posts

177 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Worthy of note that the engine is in a lower tax group and almost 10mpg better (theoretically) for practically the same performance.

Although having owned an R56 JCW and achieved a 14.9 second 1/4 mile on my first ever attempt. I'm very confident BMW are understating those numbers.

LuS1fer

35,677 posts

194 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
cerb4.5lee said:
howardhughes said:
I'm really liking the new ST. I think Ford are doing a first class job on the styling.
I'd agree with that and I'm a fan of the styling too. The Mini looks quite daft looking to my eyes in comparison and I've never really got on with the way the Mini looks.

I'd enjoy driving either of them though for sure.
All a matter of taste. After 3 consecutive Fiesta STs, the new styling has turned me right off it (along with poor colours bar the Magnetic Grey) and I've never liked the MINI.
I think I'd just buy a lightly used i30N Performance which looks epic.

cerb4.5lee

13,372 posts

129 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
LuS1fer said:
cerb4.5lee said:
howardhughes said:
I'm really liking the new ST. I think Ford are doing a first class job on the styling.
I'd agree with that and I'm a fan of the styling too. The Mini looks quite daft looking to my eyes in comparison and I've never really got on with the way the Mini looks.

I'd enjoy driving either of them though for sure.
All a matter of taste. After 3 consecutive Fiesta STs, the new styling has turned me right off it (along with poor colours bar the Magnetic Grey) and I've never liked the MINI.
I think I'd just buy a lightly used i30N Performance which looks epic.
Yes and looks wise I do think that the previous generation Fiesta ST looked even better. I've just never liked the way a Mini looks, the front lights just look silly to my eyes(they are even worse though on the F56 model I've got). So basically any car looks good to my eyes when compared to a Mini to me.

I quite like the i30N too when I've looked around them at the car shows I've been to. A very under rated car I reckon.

LuS1fer

35,677 posts

194 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
cerb4.5lee said:
I quite like the i30N too when I've looked around them at the car shows I've been to. A very under rated car I reckon.
I drove an N Performance today, an as new ex-demo priced at £24k with 2000 miles on the clock.
It's a lovely steer with strong brakes. Lacks torque low down and the interior is not where the money went but the instruments are nice.
In the Hyundai blue, it looks fabulous - far better than photos suggest so would still be my choice of hot hatches.

I didn't buy it, only because it still has a very firm hot hatch ride and, at my age, I realised I was looking for something rather more comfortable.

Porsche911R

18,231 posts

214 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
wab172uk said:
If you're 20 something, and you have one of these, you'll have a cracking time.

.
what does age have to do with it,

I ran ST3 in my 40's was great car.

Bigarlick

2 posts

13 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Why does everyone forget about the Polo GTI that will whip the doors off both of these cars and with a lot more class

A1VDY

1,227 posts

76 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Porsche911R said:
wab172uk said:
If you're 20 something, and you have one of these, you'll have a cracking time.

.
what does age have to do with it,

I ran ST3 in my 40's was great car.
Cracking time refers to broken bones at that age when it's wrapped round a tree or driven backwards down a ravine..

Trevor555

1,404 posts

33 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Bigarlick said:
Why does everyone forget about the Polo GTI that will whip the doors off both of these cars and with a lot more class
A great car.

And you're right, it gets very little coverage.

LuS1fer

35,677 posts

194 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Bigarlick said:
Why does everyone forget about the Polo GTI that will whip the doors off both of these cars and with a lot more class
Because all the motoring press and group tests disagree with you?

ZX10R NIN

16,125 posts

74 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
Bigarlick said:
Why does everyone forget about the Polo GTI that will whip the doors off both of these cars and with a lot more class
Except it doesn't (are you Polo Joe in disguise) the Fiesta shows the VAG alternatives a clean pair of heels in standard form.

lee_erm

832 posts

142 months

Monday 23rd December 2019
quotequote all
My other half has the new Polo. It does a great job of leaving you completely detached from the driving experience. It feels a bit like you're driving it via a cheap playstation steering wheel and pedal combo.