They say that summer tyres work best in temperatures above about seven degrees Celsius, and that performance rubber needs around a couple of degrees more than that to grip as intended. So when I set off for Bicester Heritage one bitter January morning, it's fair to assume that the Michelin Pilot Super Sports fitted to our ST were a bit outside of their comfort zone.
Yet as I powered along the Beaconsfield Services slip road and up to motorway pace behind Ben's 321hp RS Megane, the little Fiesta and its summer-focused tyres did remarkably well. Hot hatches can sometimes scrabble and judder as their fronts try to claw into a cold surface (we're looking at you MQB cars), like a puppy attempting to sprint after a ball on laminate flooring. But the effectiveness of the mechanical Quaife limited-slip diff perched between our ST's driveshafts was clear. It smoothly distributed 200hp and 214lb ft into the tarmac, allowing only a dozen or so over-rotations when steering lock was applied.
Rather than hampering progress, however, these slips serve to remind us that there's a lot of energy going through the front tyres. Because the Fiesta, now having ticked past 6,500 miles, feels perkier than ever, pulling more strongly and urgently than a 200hp hot hatch ought to and with a deeper, more muscular tone than anything else in this class. It meant that in this short burst of acceleration en route to Bicester, Ben's Meg never got the chance to utilise its power advantage. This, like several other times over the past three months, was an example of how our car can feel quicker than you'd expect - and on an early January morning, the pace provided a welcome shot of adrenaline to kick the day off.
Parked up and ticking away on PH's section of Bicester Heritage, it was impressive to see how much attention our Fiesta got. Sure, the ST is still a fairly rare sight on UK roads, what with only about 3,000 having been delivered so far (just over five per cent of the Fiesta mix), so some attention is expected. But the number of people that stopped and walked over to peer through its windows or examine the ST additions showed just how much respect this three-pot model already has. Especially among proper enthusiasts, who you might have expected to prefer the 911s and TVR that were parked a little further on.
I've certainly noticed people of all ages and both genders appreciating its form over the past three months, though, particularly at night, when the LED lights add to the ST's tidy front end. To these eyes, it's a prettier, more sporting form than even the Polo GTI, which costs a couple of grand more but is no faster or more generously equipped than the ST-3. Sure, the German's optional digital instrument cluster pushes things up a notch inside, but the Fiesta's never felt wanting for tech. Actually, the whole cabin feels as solid and well put together as the German's, and there are no audible rattles even when the powerful optional sound system is turned up to maximum.
So our car has now departed the PH Fleet. A short tenure it was, yet the ST has burrowed so deep beneath our skin that it's barely a week since it left and I'm missing it greatly. In its time some have complained about the firm ride, but to me, it was always confident and composed and never crashy. As a car to live with and enjoy, it ticked all the boxes and more - and was always only a squeeze of the throttle away from being hilarious, although it could also hunker down and be a serious hot hatch if you wanted it to be.
Honestly, our car got better and better as the miles piled on, standing up to the heavy-footed demands of a PHer without complaint and, perhaps most impressively, offering genuine frugality that to this day still impresses. In fact, it's had such a marked impact on us that Ben has even found himself speccing an ST up online, which is a great compliment given the level of cars our man has owned over the years. Perhaps, then, we won't be without a new ST for that long. That'd certainly be fine by me.
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: Fiesta departs but not without flaunting its talents one final time