FORD’S BABY HOT HATCH DELIVERS MILES OF SMILES
Ford’s hot hatch is one of the most engaging performance cars out there, quirks and all DAVID McCOWEN
Fiesta means celebration. And that’s how hot hatch fans should feel about Ford’s new Fiesta ST, an affordable performance car worth celebrating in trying times.
Australia almost missed out on the new model. Ford could not build a sensible business case for the standard Fiesta hatchback, a car effectively replaced by the upcoming Puma baby SUV.
But the previous-generation Fiesta ST was a hit with enthusiasts and Ford understands the importance of niche vehicles, having tasted success with the Mustang and Ranger Raptor.
On sale in the UK since 2018, the Fiesta is late to its own party. Fortunately, there are precious few rivals in this class — VW’s Polo GTI is the obvious alternative, while Toyota’s turbocharged and all-wheel-drive Yaris is likely to be more expensive and the French have not readied successors to the discontinued Peugeot 208 GTi or Renault Clio RS.
Priced from $31,990 plus on-road costs (about $36,000 drive-away), the Fiesta ST costs a substantial $6000 more than the previous generation model. But it does have more gear, including pretty LED running lights, an 8-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring, thumping 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo and driver aids such as autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring.
Australian cars are loaded with kit that costs more on overseas variants, including heated Recaro seats, Ferrari-lookalike 18-inch alloys and a tasty performance pack that adds a limited-slip differential and launch control.
The only options are a panoramic sunroof ($2500) and metallic paint ($650).
Ford backs the car with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing costs $299 for each of the first four visits.
This hatchback doesn’t make a strong first impression on looks alone — particularly as the new car comes with an unassuming (though practical) five-door body shell as opposed to the old car’s coupe-like three-door layout. The understated styling helps the Ford fly under the radar, save for pentagram wheels which hint at the devil inside.
The cabin is spot-on, with deeply-bolstered sports seats, a perforated leather flat-bottomed steering wheel, well-placed (if petite) pedals and a six-speed transmission with a short and crisp shift action.
A prod of the starter button reveals the most significant change — the unmistakeable offbeat purr of a three-cylinder engine. Based on the 1.5litre turbo motor in the Ford Focus, the Fiesta’s willing little three-pot makes 147kW and 290Nm. While not particularly big numbers, this isn’t a particularly big car. It scoots down the road with uncommon enthusiasm, warbling a throbbing unconventional tune on the way to recording a sub-seven second dash to 100km/h.
It won’t win a lot of drag races or set lap records but it will win plenty of hearts with truly entertaining handling.
Lightning-fast steering combines with taut springs to help this hatch change direction like a crazed terrier. It even cocks its leg when cornering at pace, raising an inside rear tyre and sliding its outer wheel across the road.
You can’t help but grin when the wheel touches down before flooring the throttle, plucking another gear and sizing up the next corner. That clever diff also helps make the most of its turbocharged torque, delivering impressive traction compared with older fast Fords, which