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26 Sept 2022

First Drive: Is the updated Ford Fiesta ST still the hot hatch to beat?

First Drive: Is the updated Ford Fiesta ST still the hot hatch to beat?

What is it?

If there’s a car deserving of a place in the historic hall of fame, it surely has to be the Fiesta ST. Throughout its many generations, it has been the performance car for all, the accessible hot hatch capable of transforming the dreariest of commutes into something a little special. On top, the ST has been up to the challenge of the everyday, injecting some much-needed enthusiasm and sparkle into last-minute dashes to the supermarket or a night-time run for milk.

So how do you go about improving on that? The most recent generation of ST marked a real high point for the little Fiesta, so can Ford make things a little better with a bit of nip and tuck? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

This is very much an update, rather than a ground-up rebirth. So rather than rewriting the Fiesta rule book, Ford has instead made some annotations, highlighted some paragraphs in need of re-writing and given it a more appealing cover. It’s why the exterior is a little sharper than before (and you might have noticed the Ford badge migrating into the Fiesta’s grille) while inside there has been a boost in technology, similar to that used on the Puma.

We’ve also got a slight tweak to the engine – more on that later – while there’s a new ‘Mean Green’ colour, which has also made an appearance on the Puma. The elephant in the room? Ford isn’t taking orders for the Fiesta due ‘demand and supply chain disruption’. However, that’s not saying that it’s cancelled from now on, so you’ll still be able to get your hands on one at some point when production woes are ironed out.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Fiesta ST makes use of a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. In terms of power, we’re talking 197bhp, sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Torque has had a slight lift over the older car, rising from 290Nm to 320Nm – the same as run-out ‘Edition’ specification versions of this car’s predecessor. Zero to 60mph comes in 6.2 seconds and flat-out, the ST will manage 143mph.

Yet with fuel economy figures sitting at 42.2mpg combined, it’s reasonably frugal. CO2 missions stand at 151g/km, too. It’s this efficiency that helps to make the ST a more appealing daily driver and one that isn’t going to break the bank in terms of running costs.

What’s it like to drive?

The ST is a car that fizzes away right from the press of the starter button. The steering is weighty – and weightier still if you toggle through the sport modes via the wheel-mounted ST button – but this makes it feel hefty, or tough, even. The steering wheel itself is a little too thick for us, mind you. Make no mistake, this is a firm car and it’ll quickly jiggle you about when you’re just knocking about town.

However, all of those issues blend into the background once you add a little bit of pace. The ST does dart around a tad when you’re at full throttle, but the combination of a strong and boosty engine with direct steering makes this a very exciting car to drive. In terms of engine noise, it’s hardly mind-blowing, but you’ll be having too much fun to worry. Plus, because it’s not over-powered, all of the joy can be had at proper speeds.

How does it look?

As we’ve already highlighted, Ford hasn’t been radical with the Fiesta ST’s redesign for this latest generation, though the repositioning of that famous Blue Oval is quite a substantial move. Naturally, looks are completely down to the individual, but having the badge positioned in the grille appears a bit odd to our eyes. There wasn’t anything wrong with where it was before, in truth. A change for change’s sake? Perhaps.

The rear of the car features redesigned lights which are sharper and more eye-catching than before. The compact dual-exit exhaust remains, too. Our car was finished in that ‘Mean Green’ paint as well, and it certainly got a lot of heads turning.

What’s it like inside?

Going to town with ultra-luxurious materials or rare metals was never the ST’s jam, so it’s no surprise to see this latest model combining hard-wearing plastics with rubberised finishers successfully. That’s not to say it feels low-rent in the car – far from it – while the ergonomics feel very good. You can get the driver’s seat nice and low while the steering wheel – though overly chunky for our hands – has plenty of adjustment.

There’s no penalty in terms of boot size if you opt for the ST over a regular Fiesta – you get the same 292-litre boot which can be expanded up to 1,093 litres by folding the rear seats down.

What’s the spec like?

Our Fiesta came in tip-top ST-3 specification, which brought all the bells and whistles you could want. The big addition is a 12.3-inch digital cockpit system – the same as you’ll find on the Puma – which can be configured to show a variety of different menus and readouts. It’s clear and easy to read.

The central infotainment system – which measures eight inches and runs Ford’s SYNC3 system – and incorporates both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with both accessed via a wired connection with no wireless option. You also get features like lane-keeping aid, traffic sign recognition and automatic headlights. Our car’s £28,020 price does seem a little steep on paper, but given the amount of kit you get – not to mention the driving experience you get – it does justify it.

Verdict

This facelift marks a sharpening of the ST. It’s no less enjoyable to just as easy to live with than it was before, but the small edits that have been made do help to make this Ford even better. The boost in torque is much appreciated, too.

But at the core of the ST’s appeal is just how much fun it is. This isn’t some grown-up, soft-edged hatchback, oh no – this is a fully-fledged hot hatch that continues a legacy established over many years.

  • Model: Ford Fiesta ST
  • Price: £27,245
  • Model as tested: Fiesta ST-3
  • Price as tested: £28,020
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol
  • Power: 197bhp
  • Torque: 320Nm
  • 0-60mph: 6.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 143mph
  • Economy: 42.2mpg
  • Emissions: 151g/km CO2

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