Where better to collect the latest addition to PistonHeads' than at a World Rally Championship round? On the eve of the recent Wales Rally GB weekend, where M-Sport fielded its Fiesta WRC cars, we grabbed the keys to our new ST-3 in the Deeside service park. Then it was time for a chat with a few team personnel to gauge their thoughts on the only road-tyre wearing Fiesta in the paddock.
"I really like the day running lights," said one. "Looks great in this colour," another added. "Wonder how it'd do out on the stage," a third jested, and we laughed, unaware that we'd actually have a pretty good idea by lunchtime tomorrow, following an unexpected venture onto the mud usually reserved for WRC cars only.
But first let's introduce the car. It's a top-spec ST-3 in three-door form. We could have gone for the more practical five-door, but opted against it because team PH wanted the ST-est ST experience. Adding two weighty doors and reducing the body shell's solid area was therefore out of the question. Plus, the three-door just looks better, doesn't it?
Standard on the ST-3 are 18-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped in Michelin Super Sport tyres (it still feels slightly mad that a car of this size can wear such serious rubber), Recaro part leather seats with snug bolstering, as well as other mod cons including an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto, a rear-view camera and keyless entry. It's borderline plush.
We know the ST well, what with having driven it in both normal and Performance Pack forms. We're in no doubt that the latter is the version to have simply because of that Quaife limited-slip differential, so it's the specification we have here. Although not even that effective LSD can extract much traction from the muddy slopes that surround Hiraethog, the location for the shakedown stage of Rally GB.
Let me explain. We were hoping to get the car as close as possible to the action for an explosive opening shot, and, well, we got significantly closer than planned. Somehow, after driving about three miles on damp tarmac and then sodden mud past the last marshal happy to let us through, we were at the stage start line. Not with spectators, no, it was PH in our new Fiesta ST and the WRC drivers, co-drivers and their cars.
We weren't sure if we were actually allowed here, but not wanting to waste an opportunity, we got the shot as the drivers blasted past, throwing mud into the air in an attempt to warm the cars before the start line. Or perhaps they knew PH wanted the shot and they were simply humouring us. Either way, it meant that the opening day of our latest long-termer's tenure was enhanced by much motorsport pedigree.
Not that all ST buyers are keen WRC fans, only interested in heading to a Ford dealer because Sebastien Ogier won in his M-Sport Fiesta later that weekend. The ST is a longstanding popular choice for motorists because it's such an effective all-rounder, one that offers laugh-out-loud front-drive dynamics as well as excellent economy and practicality. Rest assured we'll be exploring its full potential to see if it can maintain that image over the next few months.
Car: Ford Fiesta ST-3
On fleet since: October 2018
Run by: Sam Sheehan
List price new: £21,494 (As tested: £24,515 comprising £745 for Performance Blue paint, £600 for full LED headlights, £475 for blind spot information system, £850 for ST Performance Pack and for £350 B&O premium audio system).
Last month at a glance: The ST gets its hands dirty at Wales Rally GB.