Ultra playful handling, engine sounds interesting, supremely economical
The ride's pretty tough, and these days it's £27,000...
What is it?
It's a previous Top Gear Car of the Year, that's what. The current Fiesta ST is one of the benchmarks, the yardsticks by which other fun cars are judged. If you can go quicker and laugh out loud more than this, for less money, you're doing very well indeed.
This shape of hot Fiesta has been on sale since 2018, and it brought many big and risky changes. Instead of the old car's 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, this generation of ST downsized to a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost unit that’s all-new and vastly more economical. In our testing it's averaged over 40mpg. Meanwhile, at a cruise it’ll shut down one cylinder to save you fuel. Not even the normal Fiesta EcoBoost can do that.
What are the numbers?
So, it's green. Very green, if you spec Mean Green paintwork, for £775. But it's also quick. You get 197bhp and torque has been tickled up from 214lb ft to 236lb ft, meaning you can go from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph. In a Fiesta!
This is the revised, tweaked, facelifted 2022-and-beyond ST. But don't go looking for big changes, because they are few. The front grille is bigger and the badge has slid off the bonnet to live in the mesh. There's the new green colour (you can't have missed it) and inside you get digital dials with many animations and gimmicks to coo over.
Anything else new?
What you don't get any more is a clean-looking three-door bodyshell. Ford says three-door sales are too paltry these days to make it worthwhile, so the ST is now a slightly boxier-looking five-door only. That seems a shame when, if you really want a practical car with this engine and interior, you could always go for the taller Focus ST, with its bigger hose-out boot.
Inside there's standard hot hatch makeover tactics: big bolstered seats, a chunky steering wheel, natty pedals and a whole sewing basket's worth of red stitching.
What are the rivals?
Good question. There was a time when a Fiesta ST would have to duke it out with a Peugeot 208 GTI and Renaultsport Clio RS before it was taken seriously, but the rivals have fallen away in the face of the Fiesta's dominance. There are no small French hot hatches any more, all the quick Minis are overweight and joyless, and the VW Polo GTI is an overpriced snore-fest. There's not even the option of a cheaper Cupra Ibiza or Skoda Fabia vRS any more. The Fiesta has conquered the kingdom.
So it basically comes down to a choice between the simple Fiesta ST and the much more complicated, mode-festooned Hyundai i20N. It might surprise you to learn that the Ford is actually more expensive. Because it's now only offered in the UK in kitted-out ST-3 trim, and it's a five-door only, prices start at £26,645 at the time of writing, or about £300 a month on PCP. The Hyundai comes with just as much kit, for £25,250, and it's a smidge faster and more powerful. But really, these two are in a class of their own, and if you're looking to buy a small hot hatchback, you can't go wrong with either.
Read a long term review on the Ford Fiesta ST by clicking these blue words.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Fiesta ST is, overall, a triumph. And given how much of the old one Ford threw away and started afresh with (engine, suspension, steering), that’s a massive result. The innate chuckability is almost all still there, and even if this one does sacrifice a mite of it to have more stability and comfort, the payoff for many will be a less wearing car to live with every day. Which, when all's said and done, is sort of the point of a hot hatchback, isn’t it?
The ST goes well, handles cheekily, looks handsome and sounds fab. The interior’s a two-generation leap from the old one – just as well, too – and it’ll be cheaper to run. We’d like less doughy steering, the jury’s still out on whether or not the modes actually add anything meaningful to the ST’s personality, and the unyielding ride is a literal pain in the bum. But it’s not enough to put us off. This is a very clever reinvention of a true Top Gear favourite. Basically, buy one.