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Ford Fiesta ST

8/10
Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review:Ford Fiesta ST

£18,995

Driving

What is it like on the road?

The ST’s trademark of a super-pointy front end is intact here. Spec the Performance Pack and once the quick steering – just two turns lock-to-lock – has darted the nose into the bend, you’re aided by a proper Quaife limited-slip diff instead of ESP fakery. The steering itself is springy in the Normal and Sport modes and rather doughy in the Track setting, but, in fairness, the old ST never majored on steering feel either. What it loved to do was wag its tail. Preferably with one rear wheel dangling in mid-air. And the new one’s still as adjustable as you’d like it to be. If you’re shopping for a car to learn the art of lift-off oversteer, look no further.

Even with bespoke Michelin tyres featuring a stickier shoulder that clings to tarmac when you’re leaning on the door handles, the ST’s addictively playful. In Track mode, the ESP is slackened off, which means Ford says it’s not for road use, like the Focus RS’s Drift Mode. You switch settings by prodding a rather inconveniently placed button on the centre console between the seats, which is a bit of a fumble. Right next to that mode switch is the button for turning off the ESP completely. Careful, now…

The ride’s less punishing than before, but still jiggly. It’s worth it for this handling balance, though. A little bit of roll before the inside rear picks up and the slides begin in a classic piece of ST-ness. 

Torque steer is present, but it’s never something you have to wrestle with. Interestingly, you pretty much never notice it when you’re accelerating in a straight line. It’s more apparent if you’ve got a bit of lock wound on and then prod the throttle on corner exit. You can just sense the wheel being wrenched further around rather than pulling itself straight, so it’s on you, the driver, to get the ST pointing back on course.

The six-speed manual gearshift could be a little slicker – it’s a shorter, notchier throw than the last ST’s but you can’t quite flash the lever between ratios. And the no-lift shift function just feels wrong, like wanton abuse. And it’s hardly as though keeping your right foot planted while dipping the clutch brings a massive leap in performance. Ford claims 0-62mph in 6.5sec and 144mph flat out.

The power delivery isn’t bad either. There’s some lag, sure, and revs don’t tail off that sharply when you lift out of the throttle (a classic three-cylinder bugbear) but the torque-band’s wider than the old ST’s, and it doesn’t labour or strain as the revs climb past 6,000rpm. And the noise is terrific. It’s augmented by the speakers, but forget that and revel in its blaring, aristocratic tone. With three 500cc cylinders, it sounds deep and reverberant, like a turbocharged BMW M3 trapped in a padded cell. Which is the best place for a turbo M3.

The £850 Performance Pack adds a microscopic shift-up light to the dash, and launch control that pegs the revs at 3,500rpm. Most folks will have to have it, but the getaway setting is a gimmick, and this ain’t a hatch you drive on the diff. This is one you aim for a corner 10mph too quickly, then give it a bung and marvel at how friendly the chassis is. Yes, it’s been as deliberately engineered in as the twin-piped poppoppop drum-roll that accompanies every lift off. And it needs more provocation than the old car, because the wheels are wider, the tyres stickier, and it’s slightly heavier.

But if you’re not having fun in the ST, you’re stuck in traffic.

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

9/10

Mazda MX-5

£18,735£25,225
Not planning on using those rear seats much? Why not spend £20k on a purer B-road fungibility special? And get the roof down on sunny days...
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