November 04 2015

2016 Ford Fiesta ST: A Performance Bargain

2016 Ford Fiesta ST: A Performance Bargain

There's been a lot of commotion lately around Ford's Fiesta ST. Automotive journalists from all over the world have been raving over this little egg-shaped, giant slayin', turbocharged hot hatch.

And who would blame them? When Ford announced they'd market a smaller, tighter, more affordable version of the stellar Focus ST on our market, we were all excited to take this thing out for a spin.

That's precisely what I did, and let me tell you, I believe the hype now. This car is superb!

It Sounds Manly

The first thing you notice when driving the Fiesta ST is the deep, authoritative, induction sound that resonates through the cabin. This little thing sounds properly manly.

Although amplified by a sound symposer, which, unlike BMW’s stupid electronic engine sound simulation system, is an actual amplification of the engine’s decibals through what is essentially a giant tube, the Fiesta ST’s 1.6- liter, turbocharged, 4-cylinder, EcoBoost engine develops way more power than this little hatch should handle - 197-hp and 202 lb/ft of torque.

And that’s a heck of a lot of power for a tiny little Fiesta.

It's the torque that really makes an impression. No matter how many people are sitting in the car, or what gear you're in, this thing simply gets up and goes. The Fiesta ST doesn't accelerate, it flies!

Very much like its big brother, the Focus ST, the Fiesta’s engine is fitted with a rather tiny turbocharger, so boost comes on low in the powerband, quickly delivering linear power that remains constant all the way to redline. It’s a suprisingly rev-happy mill, redlining to 6,500 rpm, and exhibiting no unexpected power surges like you traditionnaly get in turbocharged engines.

There's even an overboost feature which boosts the turbo to an impressive 21 psi of boost (from 18.9 psi) when flooring the throttle between 2,500 and 4,000 rpm, allowing the little mill to churn out its promised 197 horsepower.

Combine all of this with a light clutch, perfectly well-placed pedals, a slick-shifting, 6-speed manual gearbox, and a small tossable chassis, and this little econobox suddenly becomes a seriously entertaining package. Turn off traction control, accelerate hard from a standstill and the low profile Potenzas will peel off some rubber in first and second gear, exhibiting little to no torque steer.

Ford claim a 0-100 km/h time of 6.7 seconds.

All This Handling From A Rear Torsion Beam?

Since the regular Fiesta was never designed to lap the nurburgring, it was fitted with a rear torsion beam to keep costs low. For the ST, instead of completely rethinking the rear suspension, Ford engineers simply decided to tune the system to the point where it actually becomes even more fun than an independant suspension setup.

Enter a corner too hard, and since the chassis is now so stiff, that little rear end will cock a wheel into the air - like a tripod.

And boy is that fun.

There’s an overly exciting feeling about the way the Fiesta handles. While the Focus offers a much more planted and authoritative driving experience, the Fiesta is a complete circus of excitement. I never once asked myself if I was pushing this car too hard. In every bend, I could keep on pushing harder and harder. Yes, the rear keeps lifting and wiggling about, but that front end remains planted, allowing the driver to enter corners at mind-blowing speeds (for a Fiesta) in total confidence. If it understeers, just fiddle with the throttle, that little rear bounces up, and voilà, you’re back on track.

I didn't expect this little car to be such a blast to drive.

Brakes are big strong components that bite hard with authority, never did I feel any sort of fade. Steering is precise and response is lightening quick, yet remains rather vague in road feel.

There’s just no feedback from what the front wheels are doing, but that's mostly due to the electric power steering system, a commun trait in all cars nowadays.

Yes, the ST is a stiff car, not to the point to crush your spine, but remains rather bouncy on rough surfaces. And in Quebec, we know a thing or two about rough surfaces. Nevertheless, even with the lowered stance and stiffened up suspension, the ST retains much of the regular Fiesta’s all around drivability and remains a great every day car.

Love Them Sports Seats

The Fiesta ST comes standard with a pair of seriously cool Recaro sports seats. I must admit, they’re some of the most attractive seats I’ve seen in a production car. They’re aggressively bolstered, offer plenty of support, and definitely add to the car’s overall driving enjoyment.

Yet, at the same time, the seats are one of the Fiesta’s biggest flaws.

In everyday world situations, such as driving long distances, the Recaros can become a bit annoying.

They just don't allow you to move around, and after an hour or so, you simply want to get out of the car.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the Recaros. The Fiesta ST is true a performance-oriented car, and on the track, I assure you, I was more than happy to have the sport seats.

But for a long trip, I’m sorry, they tend to beat you up. I guess if I were a tad smaller and, well, narrower, I wouldn't have complained.

Almost Perfect

It’s true, the Fiesta is a stellar performance car in every respect. This thing is huge fun to drive.

But it’s not perfect.

There’s a slight problem with the way this car looks.

I won’t say the Fiesta is an ugly car, far from it. It’s a rather cute and well executed sub-compact, one of the most attractive cheap cars available today.

But with the ST, the problem is that it’s no longer a cheap car. Granted, you do get more performance for your dollar than any other vehicle on the market, but it still costs $27,049.

For a Fiesta.

I just wish that the ST looked a bit more extreme. No matter how red the brakes are, how lowered it is, or how long the rear spoiler is, it still looks like a cheap economy car on the road. It just doesn't distinguish itself enough from the base model.

Nevertheless, there's no denying the fact that at $27,049, the Fiesta ST is quite an performance bargain.

My second, and only other gripe with the Fiesta ST, is in the interior ergonomics. Simple operations such as turning on the windshield wipers or unlocking the doors aren’t exactly what you would call intuitive. Since when do you push the stalk upwards to activate the wipers? Why aren’t the door lock/unlock buttons located on the doors? How do I turn on the foglights? Why are there two different defrost bottons? Etc, etc.

Yes, once you’ve understood how the controls work, everything operates flawlessly, but Ford should definetly rethink the way everything is placed in there.

Does It Eclipse The Focus ST?

Ford these days is basically building the cars we’re all asking for,because they’re the carmaker with the biggest balls at the moment.

And that makes any automotive enthusiast smile. In fact, the Fiesta ST is so good, that many have wondered why Ford even bother selling a Focus ST, that the Fiesta has made it irrelevent, because it essentially takes all the fun traits from its big brother and wraps them up in a lighter, cheaper package.

No.

The Fiesta ST does not eclipse the Focus ST.

The Focus is a much more competent machine in every way. It offers more power, handling limits are much higher, and, most importantly, is much more spacious, something the Fiesta can’t brag about.

The Fiesta ST’s ace up its sleeve is that there’s absolutely nothing on the market that matches its performance potential in this price bracket. Its only real competitor in the micro hot hatch segment is the Fiat 500 Abarth, which, as I pointed in my review of that car, simply isn’t on par with Ford’s offering.

That being said, this little fire hatch’s mix of practicality, liveability, affordability, and over the top performance makes it the best performance bargain on the market today. Yes, I may have expected to like this car before driving it, but I didn’t expect to be addicted to it to the point of wanting to buy one.

Yes, it's that good.

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