Ford Fi­esta ST-3

First out­ing for our new hot hatch

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - SAM SHEE­HAN

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT

To see if Ford’s hottest su­per­mini can suc­cess­fully pick up the ba­ton from its class-top­ping pre­de­ces­sor

An­other Fi­esta al­ready, you ask? Well yes, this is the best-sell­ing car in the UK by a long shot (as of Oc­to­ber the Fi­esta racked up 79,416 sales to the sec­ond-placed Volk­swa­gen Golf’s 52,162) and there are many ver­sions that each slot into their own niche. Of course there wasn’t go­ing to be a Fi­esta-shaped hole in the Au­to­car fleet for long.

Any­way, this par­tic­u­lar one’s wor­thy of your at­ten­tion be­cause it’s the top dog, the halo model. Out of all the Fi­es­tas, this is the one that has the best po­ten­tial to get peo­ple like us wan­der­ing into a deal­er­ship ask­ing for a brochure and test drive, even if we don’t re­ally need a new car right now. The lat­est ar­rival on our fleet is a fully-fledged Fi­esta ST. Yippee.

We won’t need to delve into too much de­tail to ex­plain why we’re so ex­cited be­cause the ST has al­ready proved it­self as bril­liantly fun to drive. You might re­call it won our Ju­nior Han­dling Day con­test in the sum­mer, which is im­pres­sive for a car that is nei­ther the most po­tent nor most fo­cused in its class. Any­one can jump into an ST and have a gig­gle, which is what it’s all about re­ally, isn’t it?

Well, no, not re­ally. It’s only part of the puz­zle. Hot hatches have to be hot – and the ST is that – but they also have to be hatches. This means they ar­guably have the hard­est job on the mar­ket: to be ex­tremely prac­ti­cal, easy to drive and com­fort­able enough for daily use, while also be­ing quick, play­ful and, hope­fully, a bit silly. Oh, and they must re­main af­ford­able and cheap to run. The pres­sure’s even higher if your pre­de­ces­sor was the best hatch of its class, or if you ri­vals are supremely tal­ented.

Un­for­tu­nately for our ST, that is ex­actly its case. The pre­vi­ous ST, par­tic­u­larly the ST200 run-out vari­ant, was much-loved and still stands as one of the most en­thralling front-wheel drive cars. It faced a tough bunch of ri­vals but the new car ar­guably has it even harder, be­cause to­day there’s a much bet­ter Volk­swa­gen Polo GTI, the Mini Cooper S has re­ceived a list of im­prove­ments to en­hance its ap­peal fur­ther and there’s a new­comer in the Toy­ota Yaris GRMN that is bloody good fun. Our Fi­esta ST must keep us on side over the com­ing months as win­ter sets in, while also re­sist­ing the pres­sure from its fel­low sporty hatch­backs and any­thing else that crops up be­tween now and spring.

No doubt a key topic for in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be the ST’S use of a 1.5-litre three-cylin­der en­gine. That’s about 100cc and a cylin­der down on the old car’s 1.6, which you might think will lead to a higher stressed en­gine more de­pen­dant on the boost pro­vided by its tur­bocharger. Cer­tainly that’s been the case with plenty of other down­sized en­gines in

re­cent years, but the ST has cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion tech­nol­ogy up its sleeve. Im­pres­sively, it means it can run on just two cylin­ders in low-load sit­u­a­tions, which might help ex­plain the claims for 47.1mpg com­bined and 55.4mpg ex­tra ur­ban. Those are num­bers never be­fore achieved by a hot Fi­esta; in fact, our ex­pe­ri­ences of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion left both fig­ures at least 10mpg lower. This tester’s wal­let hopes the claimed fig­ures are ac­cu­rate.

As a top-of-the-range ST-3, our car comes loaded with kit. As stan­dard it gets 18in five-spoke wheels with a two-tone ma­chined fin­ish, red brake cal­ibers and rear pri­vacy glass, as well as part-leather Re­caro sports seats, a rear view cam­era and key­less en­try. There’s also an 8.0in touch­screen with Sync3 in­fo­tain­ment, in­clud­ing Ap­ple Carplay/an­droid Auto. But the key fea­tures that should re­ally set our car apart are the op­tions of the ST Per­for­mance Pack (£850), which in­cludes a Quaife lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, as well as full LED head­lights (£600) and a B&O Play pre­mium au­dio sys­tem (£350), com­plete with a sub woofer in place of the spare wheel. These fea­tures have po­ten­tial to sub­stan­tially en­hance fun, us­abil­ity and in-car en­ter­tain­ment. They also help to push our car’s on the road price up to £24,515, al­most £3000 more than the stan­dard ST-3 fig­ure.

The venue for the han­dover of our ST was none other than the Ser­vice Park of Wales Rally GB, where M-sport fielded its Fi­esta World Rally Cham­pi­onship cars. It was hard to not get revved up when the Ford keys were handed over as we stood be­side five-time WRC champ Sébastien Ogier’s Fi­esta. Okay, so our car lacked the big wing and protrud­ing aero­dy­namic body­work, but it still man­aged to catch the gaze of sev­eral M-sport me­chan­ics who you might imag­ine to be bored of the Fi­esta form. It seemed they were all ea­ger to see the ST’S top-spec in­te­rior and hear the bur­ble from its ex­haust note in its naugh­ti­est Race mode. Some even jested that they were think­ing of get­ting one.

Does this mo­tor­sport link go deeper than the match­ing body­work ap­plied to the road ST and its WRC coun­ter­part? Prob­a­bly not. For some it might help to make the ST ex­pe­ri­ence more ex­cit­ing, but in truth al­most all peo­ple in­ter­ested in a hot Fi­esta are un­likely to be drawn over by the model’s in­volve­ment in the WRC. Ex­actly what does at­tract – or de­ter – peo­ple to Fi­esta ST own­er­ship is what we’ll be in­ves­ti­gat­ing over the com­ing months.

This tester’s wal­let hopes the claimed econ­omy fig­ures are ac­cu­rate

Suitable touch­screen to con­trol a ban­gin’ hot hatch sound­track Lat­est 1.5-litre three-cylin­der en­gine is smaller and 100cc down on pre­de­ces­sor

Fi­esta ST-3 must com­bine sport­ing fun with prac­ti­cal needs

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