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Car Review

Ford Fiesta ST (2018-2023) review

Published: 28 Dec 2023
The fast Fiesta is more grown up in all the ways you’d want, marginally less chuckable than before, but still hilarious

Good stuff

Ultra playful handling, engine sounds interesting, supremely economical

Bad stuff

The ride's pretty tough, Ford has pulled it from sale


What is it?

Think you mean 'What was it?' As of July 2023 the Ford Fiesta is no more, and neither is the ST hot hatch version of it. We are in mourning, not least because it's a previous Top Gear Car of the Year. The Fiesta ST was one of the benchmarks, the yardsticks by which other fun cars were judged. If you can go quicker and laugh out loud more than this, for less money, you were doing very well indeed.

This shape of hot Fiesta was on sale for five years from 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; all-new and vastly more economical. In our testing it averaged over 40mpg. Meanwhile, at a cruise it’ll shut down one cylinder to save you fuel. Not even the normal Fiesta EcoBoost could do that.

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What are the numbers?

So, it's green. Very green, if you specced Mean Green paintwork, for £775. But it's also quick. You get 197bhp and torque ticked 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!

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 (check out the gallery) and inside you get digital dials with many animations and gimmicks to coo over.

What happened to the three-door?

The clean-looking three-door bodyshell died a death before the five-door followed it. Ford said three-door sales were too paltry to make it worthwhile, so the ST became a slightly boxier-looking five-door only before the end of its life. That seems a shame when, if you really wanted 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.

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What were 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 fell 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 conquered the kingdom. Then it abdicated.

So it basically came 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 was actually more expensive. Because it was only offered in the UK in kitted-out ST-3 trim, with prices starting at less than £27k, or about £300 a month on PCP.

The Hyundai comes with just as much kit, for basically what the ST cost, and it's a smidge faster and more powerful. These two were in a class of their own, and if you're looking to buy a small hot hatchback, you can't go wrong with either. Now 'either' isn't an option.

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 was, overall, a triumph... they're only available on the used market now. But basically, buy one

The Fiesta ST was, 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 was a very clever reinvention of a true Top Gear favourite. Sure, they're only available on the used market now. But basically, buy one.

The Rivals

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