Blue Oval creates headache for rivals with sharp new sports hatch
Engine: 1.6 litres, four cylinders, turbocharged
Power: 179bhp @5800rpm
Torque: 177lb ft @1500-5000rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top Speed: 138mph
I fell in love with fast Fords as a teenager. I had a Metro, my mate Ben an XR2. He’s since owned an Eagle-Weslake and a Cooper-Maserati while I’ve just bought a Peugeot 205GTI, but my jealousy of his cars was never greater than when watching his Ford disappear into the distance every time we met.
The new Fiesta ST evokes very accurately the spirit of the first fast Fiesta, now more than 30 years old. It’s wildly more powerful and sophisticated in every way but the essential proposition of the original — the provision of back-to-basics fun in a simple and above all affordable package — has stayed.
Its 1.6-litre turbo engine has a stated 179bhp, but thanks to a temporary overboost facility its real output is just shy of 200bhp. And while this makes it the first Fiesta to be capable of reaching 62mph from rest in under 7sec, it’s really no more than a supporting act to a chassis tuned by people who know exactly how such cars should behave. Indeed if you wanted a hatchback that’s easier to steer on the throttle you’d need to come and try my Peugeot. But unlike the 205, which would throw you through a hedge without a backward glance, the Fiesta comes with electronic assistance to save you from yourself. It will oversteer if you so much as lighten mid-corner throttle pressure, but only if you’ve asked it to behave this way by shutting down the safety equipment.
Chums who’ve driven the ST in the UK say it’s too stiffly suspended for our roads, and as I drove it only in Spain they might well have a point. But I’m not sure the young at whom it is aimed are remotely bothered by ride quality. I didn’t even know what it was until, aged 23, I got a job on a car magazine and was forced to think about it.
One more thing: the Fiesta ST costs £16,995, less than Ford charges for some Fiestas with mere 1-litre engines. It also significantly undercuts its two most serious rivals in the market: the forthcoming RenaultSport Clio and Peugeot 208GTI. Even at the same money, they’ll need to be brilliant just to get near it.