Ford Fiesta ST

Since the brisk but brash Fiesta XR2i disappeared over ten years it is almost as if Ford lost interest with the whole small hot hatch thing, instead coming across all mature. There were a few warm Fiestas knocking about but while Ford managed to turn the bread and butter Mondeo and Focus models into great drivers cars the hot Fiesta bloodline that began with the XR2 in 1981 appeared to be fading away. That all changed in 2004 with the Fiesta ST, the β€˜ST’ moniker presumably now being used by Ford to stop insurance salesmen slamming the phone down when you muttered the letters β€˜XR’. Not only did the Fiesta ST promise to be a proper fast small Ford, by this point the company had developed something of a Midas touch when it came to chassis design. If even the cooking Fords could handle sweetly then then Ford fans expected the 2.0 litre Fiesta ST to be a gem.

At first glance the blue ST that we drove looked understated but smart, with the spoiler and side skirts giving it a subtle aggression rather than an all-out racer look. This can be easily rectified by going for the β€˜Exterior Styling Pack’ which adds β€˜over-the-top stripes’ (Ford’s words, not ours), side stripes, or a combination of both. Personally I would just stick to the side stripes. The ST has 17” alloys, a mesh grille and a lowered stance but overall it is difficult to hide the fact the design is starting to look slightly dated and it lacks the visual appeal of the Mini Cooper, Renault Clio Sport 197 and the Vauxhall Corsa VXR.

Inside it is everything you would expect from a Ford – the controls are well laid out, simple and everything works well. This car had supportive full leather seats (part-leather come as standard) which were easy to get comfortable in. Unfortunately I couldn’t help thinking it could feel a little more special considering this is the ultimate Fiesta. The worst part for me was the blue dashboard that looked like it had been inspired by an early Eighties Datsun.

Although the cabin is not an unpleasant place to be it could have been sportier.You quickly forget the cabin’s shortcomings however when you are on the move. The suspension is not as hard as a Corsa VXR and although this may not work to its advantage on a track on bumpy, urban roads it is easier to make progress and perhaps more fun. The Fiesta quickly brings a smile to your face and the chassis feels composed and lively. The steering has been made 10% quicker and has decent feel, making you want to push the ST harder and harder. The close-ratio gearbox has a short-shift and feels precise, allowing you to snick through the gears as you hustle the little Fiesta along.

There is no shortage of grip from the Pirelli P Zero tyres and the Fiesta feels like it wants cock a rear wheel as you pile it into a corner. The front springs have been considerably stiffened and a revised design for the front suspension knuckle provides more negative

camber to the front suspension to generate more front end grip. The rear springs have also been stiffened and the dampers modified to suit the ST. The Fiesta feels agile, and at the same time is bags of fun, making you look forward to getting back in it every morning.

Surprisingly the ST is the first Fiesta with rear disc brakes and 258mm x 22mm front ventilated discs have been fitted with larger calipers and pads from the Focus ST170, giving the car impressive stopping power. The 1999cc Duratec engine has 148 bhp but the downside doesn’t feel as quick as perhaps it should, sounding slightly course when revved hard. It has a low inertia fly-wheel and there is better throttle response than the Corsa VXR, but the Vauxhall is much quicker. The Β£13,622 Fiesta should do 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 129mph, but the car feels brisk rather than red hot. This, however, doesn’t matter a great deal. The beauty of the Fiesta ST is that it is not too hard core, with with ultimate speed in place of any kind of refinement.

Somehow despite the power deficit of say the Corsa VXR or the Clio 197, but it is a lot of fun going from A to B. The whole package has a simplicity that is strangely endearing, and reminds you of the early Fiestas that may never have been the most sophisticated cars on the road but were often the biggest laugh.

Comments (141) Join the discussion on the forum

  • NiallOswald 27 Dec 2007

    The power defecit is easy enough to rectify -

  • bob1179 27 Dec 2007

    I think it's a cracking little car, I also like the fact Ford seem not to be playing the mega power hot hatch game and have concentrated on making a car thats fun to drive.


  • RichyBoy 27 Dec 2007

    Think I would have a new panda 100hp for half the money, similar performance and more fun.

  • Welshbeef 27 Dec 2007

    RichyBoy said:
    Think I would have a new panda 100hp for half the money, similar performance and more fun.
    And where do you buy a brand new Pansda 100HP for £6.5k?? Drive the deals best ever was £9k and thats £2k odd off list price - me thinks you have having a giraffe.

  • Gizmo535 27 Dec 2007

    Sounds like good fun. I can't quite get my head around the concept of 200bhp in a small FWD runabout... of course, the current Fiesta, Clio, etc aren't exactly small any more (probably bigger than a Mk1 Escort I'd guess, certainly bigger than a 205, maybe almost 306 size?) so that might make a difference. Still, in a hot hatch I'd rather have something you can drive the doors off everywhere (the old James Hunt plan) rather than having to keep it reined in.

    Notwithstanding that, can't help thinking that perhaps this is the 'warm' version, and there will at some point (perhaps make that 'should') be a truly hot 'RS' version, like the Audi S/RS idea...

    Oh, and shoot the proofreader wink

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