- Max Speed
That’s bright, let me get my sunglasses…
The bad news for the sensitive eyed is that Deep Orange is the only colour Ford’s Fiesta ST Performance Edition comes in, too. Limited to 600 units – and priced at £26,495 – it’s the ultimate edition of our 2018 Car of the Year.
Um, a 26 grand Fiesta?
Yep, but then a top-spec ST-3 like the one we ran in the Top Gear Garage is easily £25k with some very modest options list surfing. This Performance Edition counters criticism of its stocky price tag with not just its rarity, but some focused components beneath.
Ford’s thrown in the Quaife limited-slip differential available on regular STs, for starters. Then there’s a set of new 18in, 10-spoke alloys that not only look the dog’s danglers, but shave 7kg from a quite important part of the car.
The biggest change is a suspension overhaul, though. Out goes the standard set-up, in come manually adjustable coilovers with a multitude of settings and a ride drop of around 15mm over standard. The resulting stance – and newly aggressive camber of the front wheels – is enough to make tiresome nerds like me swoon.
It must be firm.
Actually, no. The regular ST is a stiff old thing, rattling you around at low speeds and only coming together with a bit of committed driving. Even then, an especially knobbly country road can unpick it a little.
Adding much harder cored componentry has actually settled it down, at least in the mid-range settings we drove the car in. All that low-speed jiggling has gone, the ST settled over bumpy urban tarmac and more composed on those tricky back lanes.
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. Look out for your regular round-up of news, reviews and offers in your inbox.
Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.
That doesn’t mean it’s a softy, though. There’s a supreme tautness to the whole thing and more grip than ever before; this thing will corner at quite outrageous speeds for its modest size. Which does ever so slightly stifle the ST’s famed playfulness, the whole experience feeling less slidey and more grown up. But therefore better able to take on hot hatches in the next class up. As it should, given its price flirts with entry-level versions of the Hyundai i30N and Renault Megane RS, cars with another 80bhp.
You say its suspension’s adjustable, though…
Oh yes. Get clicking with the dials and you’ll be able to shift the balance to suit your liking, just like you can in the £50k Megane Trophy R. Think of it like difficulty levels in a computer game; just as you’ve got a grasp of how your Fiesta handles, switch it up a bit and give yourself something new to learn.
How’s the rest of it?
Much as before. The six-speed manual gearbox is a cracker, the Recaro seats embrace you like a long-lost friend and the engine is… fine. Some of my colleagues think the 197bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder in the ST is a cracker, I’m marginally less convinced.
All the best hot hatches have an engine rather too large for their size shoehorned gracelessly beneath their bonnet. While this Fiesta is outrageously quick – no qualms about its performance – there’s a sensation of its engine being entirely fit for purpose that makes it just a bit less exciting to operate than the big 2.0-litres of hardcore hatches of old.
That does mean the ST is freakishly economical for a hot hatch, mind – think a 40mpg average across a breadth of driving conditions – and it sounds good for its size, with a layer of popping, crackling aggression when you’ve selected its Sport or Race modes.
So what’s the verdict?
It’s a belting car. One that’s ever so slightly skewed the Fiesta ST proposition, from a boisterous little terrier to a more honed, sophisticated thing. A terrier that’s on its best behaviour for Crufts, perhaps.
I absolutely adore cars like this: affordable (ish) hatchbacks with some proper gritted-teeth commitment manufactured into them. And the ability to switch their demeanour with some hands-on geekery, rather than a carefree stab of a settings button inside the car. You could take it on a trackday and have endless fun fiddling with its balance when you find it understeers a bit too much at your favourite corner.
If anything, the orange paint’s a bit off-putting. The paintjob may be silly, but this is the Fiesta ST getting serious.