There is no denying that the Ford Fiesta ST is a classic among warm hatchbacks, writes Robin Roberts.
Clever marketing has kept up interest and demand over five decades and it’s now the model in the World Rally Championship for Ford.
Fiesta was launched in 1976 and came to the UK in the following year but it was in the early noughties and during the fifth generation of the car that we saw the arrival of the ST version. That ran until 2008 and the sixth generation but even so the Fiesta ST was not replaced until 2013 with a five-door model added in 2016 to broaden appeal. The enlarged seventh generation Fiesta ST was announced in the 2017 Geneva motor show and will hit UK roads towards the end of 2017, and gets the latest three-cylinder 1.5 Ecoboost engine instead of the 1.6 4-cyl we tested. Our test model is likely to be a landmark version as such.
The Fiesta range is enormous, about 40 models, but the ST versions come in trim graduated 1, 2, 3 and the limited edition 200 series, all sharing a common 182ps 1.6 litre unit made in Bridgend Engine Plant and spanning a price range currently from £18,145 to £23,145 with three or five door bodystyles.
Do no confuse the ST with the ST-Line, which are not as powerful and include diesel derivatives.
The Fiesta ST3 tested in three door trim is the most popular and it has strong acceleration and a composed motorway performance while easily returning over 30mpg day after day.
The engine is an immediate starter, pulls well from low revs and through intermediate gears, and the gearchange is crisp although the clutch pedal has a long and not always comfortable travel.
I liked the power, feedback and modest pressure needed on the footbrake, the parking brake secure held it on a slope while the steering had a good turning circle, modest weight and did not suffer from vibration or kick-back on bad roads.
Secondary controls grouped on or immediately around the steering column and wheel are easy to use but some fascia buttons are hidden out of sight. The instruments are a mixture of big and clear but not calibrated in detail, the computerized display is small and previous generation size, which dates the interior more than anything else.
Once you get used to working your way through the display it is good, but it’s not quick to turn screens and suffered from reflections.
The temperature controls are simple, clear and work well to select, maintain and distribute air in the small cabin, backed up by powered windows. Ford’s tremendous Quickclear heated windscreen is standard on the ST3 and it gets heated Recaro seats infront.
Oddments room is fair, not particularly good, and the boot will take a couple of suitcases without folding down the split back-seats to triple capacity.
Rear access demands a bit of twisting, its much easier slipping into the front sports seats but I still find the legroom range on the short side and it’s something Ford really needs to address in a world where people are getting taller.
Once inside and despite the lower ride height of the ST3, the way the car soaks up bumps is impressive, because you can hear the suspension coping but rarely feel the shocks despite the 17-inch alloys at each corner.
That lower height makes you feel better in touch with the road and the sharp steering responses with good grip are an ideal safe setup from the chassis engineers. You can enjoy the Fiesta without worrying too much about ploughing around bends and lifting off mid-corner simply brings the whole thing back onto a tighter course.
Visibility is important and it’s good to front and sides but the ST3 c-pillar, high tail and slim back window do restrict your view when reversing and pulling out and the sensors are a necessity and should not be an option. Lights and wipers are very good.
The smoothness of the powertrain and major controls, low noise levels and quality feel to the half-leather trim are impressive and it will be interesting to see how Ford improve on these elements in the next generation ST. That really needs to ramp up its infotainment display as well as its interior room if this classic story is to move on.
|Ford Fiesta ST-3 3dr||Price: £20,720 as tested inc. sensors, steel spare, style pack|
|Insurance Group: 30E||Mechanical: 4cyl 182ps 1596cc turbopetrol, 6sp|
|Max Speed: 139mph||0-62mph: 6.9 sec|
|Combined MPG: 35mpg on test||C02 emissions: 138gkm|
|Bik rating: 26%, £200 VED||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
|Sizes: L 3.99m, W 1.71m, H 1.50m||Boot: 290 to 974 litres Kerb: 1163 kg|
|For: Performance & economy, handling, equipment, smoothness
Against: Rear room, modest boot, tyre and road noise, stiff ride.