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 ‘ST’ moniker presumably now being used by Ford to stop insurance salesmen slamming the phone down when you
muttered the letters ‘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 ‘Exterior Styling Pack’ which adds ‘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.
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 £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