Clas­sic hot hatch

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Robin Roberts

THERE is no deny­ing that the Ford Fi­esta ST is a clas­sic hot-hatch. Clever mar­ket­ing has kept up in­ter­est and de­mand for the most sport­ing of the three and five-door hatch­backs over five decades and its now the model con­test­ing the World Rally Cham­pi­onship for Ford.

The Fi­esta ST-3 in three door trim is the most pop­u­lar and it has strong ac­cel­er­a­tion and a com­posed mo­tor­way per­for­mance while eas­ily re­turn­ing over 30mpg day af­ter day.

The en­gine is an im­me­di­ate starter, pulls well from low revs and through in­ter­me­di­ate gears, and the gearchange is crisp although the clutch pedal has a long and not al­ways com­fort­able travel.

I liked the power, feed­back and mod­est pres­sure needed on the foot­brake, the park­ing brake held it on a slope while the steer­ing had a good turn­ing cir­cle, mod­est weight and did not suf­fer from vi­bra­tion or kick-back on bad roads.

Sec­ondary con­trols are mostly grouped on or im­me­di­ately around the steer­ing column and wheel and are easy to use but some fas­cia but­tons are hid­den out of im­me­di­ate sight.

The in­stru­ments are a mix­ture of big and clear but not cal­i­brated in de­tail and the com­put­er­ized dis­play is on the small and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion size, which prob­a­bly dates the in­te­rior more than any­thing else.

Once you get used to work­ing your way through the dis­play it is good, but it’s not quick to turn screens and suf­fered from re­flec­tions as well.

The tem­per­a­ture con­trols are sim­ple, clear and work well to se­lect, main­tain and dis­trib­ute air in the small cabin, backed up by pow­ered win­dows. Ford’s tremen­dous Quick­clear heated wind­screen is stan­dard on the ST-3 and it gets heated Re­caro seats in­front. Od­dments room is fair, not par­tic­u­larly good, and the boot will take a cou­ple of suit­cases with­out fold­ing down the split back-seats to triple ca­pac­ity to over 900 litres.

Rear ac­cess de­mands a bit of twist­ing. Its much eas­ier slip­ping into the front sports seats but I still find the legroom range on the short side and it’s some­thing Ford re­ally needs to ad­dress in a world where peo­ple are get­ting taller.

Once in­side and de­spite the lower ride height of the ST-3, the way the car soaks up bumps is im­pres­sive, be­cause you can hear the sus­pen­sion cop­ing but rarely feel the shocks de­spite the 17-inch al­loys at each cor­ner.

That lower height makes you feel bet­ter in touch with the road and the sharp steer­ing re­sponses with good grip and an ideal safe setup from the chas­sis en­gi­neers. You can en­joy the Fi­esta with­out wor­ry­ing too much about plough­ing around bends and lift­ing off mid-cor­ner sim­ply brings the whole thing back onto a tighter course.

Vis­i­bil­ity is im­por­tant and it’s good to front and sides but the ST-3’s back pil­lar, high tail and slim rear win­dow do re­strict your view when re­vers­ing and pulling out and the sen­sors are a ne­ces­sity and should not be an op­tion. Lights and wipers are very good.

The smooth­ness of the pow­er­train and ma­jor con­trols, low noise lev­els and qual­ity feel to the trim are im­pres­sive and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Ford im­prove on these el­e­ments in the next gen­er­a­tion ST.

That re­ally needs to ramp up its in­fo­tain­ment dis­play as well as its in­te­rior room if this clas­sic story is to move on.

TEST DRIVE FORD FI­ESTA ST-3

MODEL: Ford Fi­esta ST-3 3dr PRICE: £20,720 Me­chan­i­cal: 182ps, 1,596cc, 4cyl petrol en­gine driv­ing front wheels via 6-speed man­ual gear­box MAX SPEED: 139mph 0-62MPH: 6.9 sec­onds COM­BINED MPG: 35 IN­SUR­ANCE GROUP: 30 CO2 EMIS­SIONS: 138g/km BIK RAT­ING: 26% WAR­RANTY: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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