I’ll admit that I am completely jealous of the European automotive landscape for the variety of vehicles on offer. Aside from the countless number of wagons that would make an automotive writer tremble, there is a wide range of hot hatches on offer. From compact hatchbacks that are lapping the Nürburgring under eight minutes to subcompact models that can provide a thrill for not that much money. The hot hatch is still a new thing to the U.S., with only a small number available in the compact segment. The subcompact hot hatch was mostly nonexistent unless you decided to drop a fair amount of change on a MINI Cooper. Last year, Ford decided to ship over the Fiesta ST, complete with a turbo-four, six-speed manual, and a number of key changes to the suspension and exterior. Have we been missing something in our hot hatch diet?
The Fiesta has always been one of sharpest looking subcompacts since going on sale back in 2011, especially if you went for the hatchback. The European style with a rounded shape, low front end, and a number of wheel choices makes the Fiesta stand out. For the ST, Ford put in a new mesh grille insert finished in black, 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color rear spoiler, and a rear diffuser. My Fiesta ST tester came in a bright red-orange paint color, which works very well for the intent of the vehicle. But I found it to be a bit too much in loudness. Despite the color choice, I still think the ST is the best-looking model in the Fiesta lineup.
Moving inside, the Fiesta is a mixed bag. The Fiesta ST feels and looks step above many competitors thanks in part to aluminum trim pieces and solid plastics used throughout. But in terms of ergonomics, the Fiesta seems like a step back. The climate controls are so low in the dash, you have to stretch out your arm to get them. Also, you can forget about taking a quick glance at them because of how low the controls are. Then there is touchscreen featuring MyFordTouch that comes standard on the ST. The screen is quite small and makes using the system more of pain since the touch points are much harder to hit. Combined with the sluggish performance and questionable voice recognition system, and MyFordTouch becomes more of a hassle.
The Fiesta ST comes with a 1.6L EcoBoost four-cylinder with 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque. This engine only comes with a six-speed manual. With a curb weight of 2,742 lbs, the 1.6L is quite punchy. Power comes on quite early and it seems to never end the further you climb up in the rev range. It doesn’t hurt that the engine has an intoxicating note that will cause you to press the accelerator more often. The six-speed manual is one of the slickest transmissions I have used. The motion to change gears feels like a hot knife going through butter. I found that I was able to go through gears at a quick rate. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the Fiesta ST at 26 City/35 Highway/29 Combined. I found my average to land around 27 MPG in mostly city driving.
In terms of handling, the Fiesta ST feels like a dancer as it gracefully goes around corners with no sign of body lean and changes direction quite fast. A lot of this comes down to the changes Ford made to the suspension including a 15-millimeter drop for the suspension and a set of stiffer springs. The steering is very impressive with excellent feel and a nice weight which makes driving the ST that much more fun. For day to day driving, the Fiesta ST is slightly uncomfortable as the stiff suspension will let in some bumps into the interior. But Ford did a great job of isolating a fair amount of road and wind noise from coming inside the Fiesta.
There is the thought in the automotive world that it's better to drive a slow car fast than driving a fast car slow. The Ford Fiesta ST shows that it is very much true. This is a vehicle that you play with and not draw the ire of the law. It also helps that a base price of $21,435 nets you a lot of equipment and performance. Not only is the Fiesta ST one of the crown jewels in the hot hatch hierarchy, it’s one the best performance car values on sale today.
Now the question I find myself asking is, how do I get one into my hands?
Disclaimer: Ford Provided the Fiesta ST, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 1.6L GTDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 197 @ 6,350
Torque @ RPM: 202 @ 4,200
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/29
Curb Weight: 2,742 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico
Base Price: $21,435
As Tested Price: $25,530 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge and $490.00 SYNC & Sound Discount)
Recaro Package - $1,995
Navigation - $795.00
Molten Orange Metallic Tricoat - $595.00
17" Premium Painted Wheels - $375.00