Ford Fiesta ST200

With the cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Fiesta on the way out, the ST200 steps in as a scorch­ing last hur­rah

Car (South Africa) - - CREDITS -

FOUR years. That’s how long it’s been since we last tested the cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Ford Fiesta ST. It’s telling that, in that con­sid­er­able time, noth­ing has come close to knock­ing the plucky lit­tle Ford from its lofty perch as CAR'S favourite light hot hatch.

Now, with the sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Fiesta fam­ily rmly on the hori­zon and a fresh ST ag­ship pow­ered by a 1,5-litre turbo triple wait­ing rest­lessly in the wings, Ford has seen t to un­leash 160 ex­am­ples of the spe­cial edi­tion ST200 on South Africa as some­thing of a swan­song.

Avail­able in Europe since early 2016, the ST200 is a lit­tle late to our shores, but its ar­rival is none­the­less a wel­come one con­sid­er­ing the rel­a­tive lack of B-seg­ment blasters in our mar­ket. Opel no longer of­fers an Opc-badged Corsa lo­cally, while the un­der­rated Peu­geot 208 GTI has also qui­etly ex­ited the SA stage.

So, what does the ST200 – which is avail­able ex­clu­sively in the di­vi­sive Storm Grey hue – of­fer over the al­ready highly rated stan­dard Fiesta ST? Well, per­haps most im­por­tantly, part of the R14 000 pre­mium it com­mands bankrolls an in­crease in oomph.

The stan­dard 134 kw tur­bocharged 1,6-litre en­gine – which has long been at a power dis­ad­van­tage when com­pared with di­rect ri­vals – makes a health­ier 147 kw and 290 N.m (the lat­ter up a con­sid­er­able 50 N.m) in ST200 guise, with an ad­di­tional 11 kw and 30 N.m on tap for up to 20 sec­onds thanks to an over­boost func­tion. Peak power now ar­rives a lit­tle later, while

max­i­mum torque is on of­fer over a some­what shorter band.

At our test strip, the ef­fects of this ad­di­tional mus­cle were im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous. As was the case with the stan­dard ST, we strug­gled to match Ford’s claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6,7 sec­onds, re­turn­ing a slightly un­der­whelm­ing best of 7,31 sec­onds. But this nev­er­the­less rep­re­sented an im­prove­ment of some three-10ths of a sec­ond over the stan­dard ST when we tested that model, with in-gear ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures sim­i­larly bet­tered.

The six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion (no dual-clutch frip­pery here) features just as pos­i­tive and me­chan­i­cal a shift ac­tion as that of the stan­dard ST, although Ford Per­for­mance has gifted it a shorter fi­nal-drive ra­tio, fur­ther im­prov­ing the three-door ST200’S al­ready grin-in­duc­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion (but, in­ter­est­ingly, not at the ex­pense of the claimed 230 km/h top speed).

As with the com­mon-or­gar­den ST, this spe­cial edi­tion makes use of a sound sym­poser that es­sen­tially pipes the freerevving four-cylin­der’s in­take noise into the cabin, mak­ing it sound a lit­tle an­grier in­side than it does out.

Al­ready boast­ing a well-sorted chas­sis, the front-wheel-drive ST200 fur­ther­more gains up­grades to its sus­pen­sion setup (and to its steer­ing), in­clud­ing a stiffer rear tor­sion beam, a chunkier front anti-roll bar and slightly softer dam­per set­tings (although th­ese tweaks were qui­etly rolled out to the base ST a lit­tle while back). The re­sult is an ever-so-slight im­prove­ment to the still-firm low-speed ride, with­out de­tract­ing from the lively hot hatch’s ad­mirable abil­ity to ab­sorb road im­per­fec­tions as the speedome­ter nee­dle swings clock­wise.

Of course, it’s still ou­tra­geous fun point­ing Ford’s hottest Fiesta at a twisty road – even if the driv­ing po­si­tion is a touch too lofty – with the three-mode trac­tion­con­trol sys­tem ef­fec­tively al­low­ing the driver to de­ter­mine the limit and the clever torque vec­tor­ing con­trol help­ing to serve up heaps of front-end grip. In short, the fleet-of-foot Fiesta ST200 is an em­i­nently dif­fi­cult car to flus­ter, even at speed

over bumpy sur­faces.

Be­sides the unique paint scheme, the lim­ited-edi­tion model is identi able at a glance thanks to its adop­tion of unique two-tone 17-inch al­loys (and red brake cal­lipers), LED tail­lamps and a smat­ter­ing of ST200 badg­ing, in­side and out. It fur­ther­more gains well-bol­stered, gure-hug­ging (and now heated) par­tial-leather Re­caro front seats, two-tone front seat­belts, rear park­ing sen­sors and a re­vers­ing cam­era.

The fa­cia, how­ever, re­tains Ford’s some­what fussy early Sync in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, a long-in-the-tooth, but­ton­heavy ar­range­ment that is sim­ply no match for the mod­ern touch­screens em­ployed by fresher com­peti­tors.

TEST SUM­MARY

The Ford Fiesta ST200 rep­re­sents some­thing of a dy­ing breed. With three doors, an en­gag­ing man­ual gear­box and undi­luted thrills favoured over out­right prac­ti­cal­ity, com­fort and ev­ery­day ci­vil­ity, it may well be the last true hot hatch (in the orig­i­nal sense of the word, any­way) buzzing about the B-seg­ment.

Boast­ing an al­most old-school, boy-racer ap­peal, this pocket rocket serves up more en­ter­tain­ment than most per­for­mance ve­hi­cles triple its price. It may be in the twi­light of its ex­is­tence, but the charming, big-on-value ST200 is as pure a hot hatch as you’ll nd to­day.

Ul­ti­mately, it’s the class-lead­ing ST we’ve come to know and love, only even bet­ter. A tting farewell if ever we’ve seen one.

bot­tom The sin­gle ex­te­rior colour is Storm Grey, while the mod­elex­clu­sive 17-inch al­loys frame red brake cal­lipers.

This pocket rocket serves up more en­ter­tain­ment than most ve­hi­cles triple its price

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