Ford Fiesta M-Sport Edition: Driven

Ford has just announced itsย Fiesta ST200, building on demand for a hotter, more potent version of itsย already brilliant hot hatch. Call us greedy but as good as it sounds it's perhaps not the full fat RS recent memories ofย the Focusย version of the same might have tempted us to imagine.

Perhaps this will suffice instead! OK, it's another 'tuned' Fiesta ST and will, to some people, bear a degree of stigma for that. But if you're going to go aftermarket there are worse people to turn to than M-Sport, Malcolm Wilson's Cumbria-based operation that's for years built Ford's factory rally cars and, more recently, competed in its own right. Since the end of the Focus's WRC career that business has centred on the Fiesta, now extending to a full range of customer rally cars from entry-level clubman R1 all the way up to WRC.

The temptation to build a road car celebrating this success and, hopefully, exploit some of the in-house expertise in making Fiestas go faster was thankfully too much to resist. Bringing us to this - the Ford Fiesta M-Sport Edition.

Well obviously we had to do a water splash
Well obviously we had to do a water splash
ST Plus Plus
Yes, the stickers, rally-style mudflaps, OZ Superturismo wheels, WRC-aping rear wing and interior embellishments mark it out as a 'tuned' car. There's also Wilson's autograph under the sun visor. But there's substance too, building on the familiar and fully warrantied Mountuneupgrade kit and a Quaife ATB limited-slip differential for an all-in price of ยฃ21,600 when based on a ยฃ17,645 ST-1. After demand from customers to base Edition cars on ST-2s and 3s M-Sport is finalising a price for this and embossing its logo on the leather, rather than stitching it into the cloth of the ST-1.

That's still pretty keen when you consider a Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport's ยฃ21,995 starting price and the ยฃ21,780 for the Clio Renaultsport 220 Trophy. To that you can add further goodies featured on the test car, including the Bilstein damped and Eibach sprung handling pack, an M-Sport/Pipercross induction kit for ยฃ249 and a ยฃ549 backbox built by Chris Tullett Exhausts, all of these components developed with suppliers to the rally team and utilising M-Sport's existing contacts. Same applies to the Alcon/Goodridge brake kit also in development, pricing for this and the suspension upgrade yet to be confirmed.

"When working with a car that is already critically acclaimed, we had to be careful all the changes added to the whole," says project head Simon Brace of M-Sport partner Permashine. "I suppose what we wanted was a Fiesta ST, but turned up to 12!"

M-Sport's local roads the ideal test route
M-Sport's local roads the ideal test route
Pace notes
Having driven up to M-Sport's Cockermouth headquarters the local Lake District roads seem an appropriate place to put the Fiesta through its paces, the tight and twisty lanes having more than a whiff of tarmac rally stage in places.

The cheeky burp of the Tullett exhaust is the first thing you notice as you pull away, the tone - as intended - a little more characterful without being too intrusive or attention seeking. From the inside you also get a lot more turbo noise from the Pipercross induction kit, again the plan being for excitement rather than any power gains.

The standard ST is a cracking package out of the box. But you notice where Ford has perhaps managed costs in order to hit its impressive price point, not least in the stock dampers. The ST's balance - all cheeky little scamp, ready to cock a wheel and adjust its line on the throttle like hot hatches of old - is endlessly entertaining. But when you really start asking questions of the chassis the dampers can start running out of answers, Ford to its credit managing to make this on-limit scrappiness a mainly endearing quality rather than an annoyance.

Do your thing expensive dampers!
Do your thing expensive dampers!
The progressively wound Eibach springs drop the ride height by about 20mm and, in partnership with the Bilstein dampers, are entirely faithful to the standard ST's character. Which is to say on the firm side and enough to make you wince over speedbumps - think carefully before ticking the box if most of your driving is around town.

The great outdoors
If you're lucky enough to live somewhere close to proper roads or fancy some track time it's an easier choice to make though. Here the return on investment in quality dampers really comes good, the M-Sport cornering hard and fast but much more able to cope with bumps and compressions without being deflected off line. One corner we session for photos has a very tarmac rally stage feel about it with a big kerbside dip at its apex the dampers just swallow without any upset.

Here the differential shows its worth too, meaning you can keep your foot hard in even with one front wheel temporarily off the ground. Traction is noticeably improved, there being none of the standard car's scrabbling from the exit, in its place just a smooth, progressive lock-up and sufficient traction to encourage earlier and earlier throttle input. The Quaife's progressive nature means it's not intrusive in straight-line acceleration either, there being just a murmur of feedback through the wheel over uneven or split grip surfaces. Its seamless integration into the rest of the package deserves credit - you feel the benefit when needed but the rest of the time it fades into the background.

The best made better - it's damn good
The best made better - it's damn good
It's true of the base car too but one of the great things about the M-Sport Fiesta is its ability to combine modern manners and civility up to the limit. And then the kind of hoonery and playfulness beyond it fans of traditional hot hatches thought had been lost in the name of progress. You can drive the M-Sport within itself and never feel on edge or nervous. Or you can turn everything off, stand it on its nose into the bends and initiate a lovely, predictable rotation to get the nose pointing in a direction where the diff can show its worth.

It's accessible, it's fun and it's blindingly quick if you're willing to put the effort in. Everything a fast Ford should be in other words. And then a bit more.

: 1,596cc 4-cyl turbo
Power (hp): 215@6,000rpm*
Torque (lb ft): 236@3,000rpm*
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Top speed: 137mph
Weight: 1,163kg (EU with driver, 'lightest possible specification')
0-62mph: 6.4 secs (claimed)**
MPG: 47.9 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 139g/km
Price: ยฃ21,600 (Price based on Fiesta ST1 with Mountune pack and including Quaife ATB limited-slip differential, OZ Superturismo wheels, M-Sport rear spoiler and graphics package, M-Sport interior upgrades; cost options include Chris Tullett Exhausts backbox, M-Sport cold air induction kit, 'Handling Pack' comprising Eibach Pro springs and Bilstein dampers and Alcon brake kit.)
*Power and torque figures on overboost
**Claimed 0-62mph from Mountune; all other stats for standard Fiesta ST









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Comments (12) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Atmospheric 24 Feb 2016

    Like these cars. Looks like a good package as well

    Don't like "M-Sport"

  • TheTyreAbuser 24 Feb 2016

    I'm glad they're offering ST2 and 3 packages too, definitely thought it's a worthy package when applied to the better specced cars.

    If I could get my Mountuned ST3 done as well I'd be all over this.

  • Limpet 24 Feb 2016

    I'd love it without the stickers and wing.

    Won't BMW have something to say about the M-Sport moniker?

  • morgs_ 24 Feb 2016

    Atmospheric said:
    Like these cars. Looks like a good package as well

    Don't like "M-Sport"
    What is it about "M-Sport" you don't like?

    Limpet said:
    I'd love it without the stickers and wing.

    Won't BMW have something to say about the M-Sport moniker?
    If anything, the other way round! Google M-Sport and see what comes up...

    BMW Motorsport (which became BMW M) has been around slightly longer, but the BMW M-Sport branding is very recent, although more commonly known in the wider world I guess.

    Edited by morgs_ on Wednesday 24th February 14:20

  • RyanTank 24 Feb 2016

    cracking piece of kit. Malcolm Wilson and his M-Sport outfit know a thing or two about tuning fiesta's wink
    More recently Bentley Continentals too!

    M-Sport (shortened from Malcolm Wilson Motorsport) the Rally/Race team are completely different to ///M Sport the BMW boutique brand! the hyphen makes all the difference in googling the brand biggrin

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