IT'S ALL ABOUT PERFORMANCE, THE 2016 FORD FIESTA ST MOUNTUNE. That's why this already brilliant hot-hatchback gets a power upgrade first - up a beefy 24kW and 80Nm - and the infotainment and feature upgrade comes later.
Ford will later this year hike the Fiesta ST’s price to $27,990 plus on-road costs. That $2k rise will bring a larger colour screen (now just 5.0 inches) with satellite navigation and reverse-view camera added to the equipment list.
First, though, Ford has offered this Mountune performance package that raises power and torque figures for $2328 extra. And which do you think its enthusiast target market would rather: fresh sat-nav or greater performance?
Vehicle Style: Hot-hatch
Price: $28,318 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 158kW/320Nm 1.6 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 10.9 l/100km
Mountune Performance is a UK-based tuning company that works in conjunction with Ford of Europe engineers, so the great part about this boosted Fiesta ST is it gets to keep its factory three-year/100,000km warranty.
The package, dubbed MP215, has been through the wringer at Ford Australia’s local proving ground before being sent to dealers for local installation (a process that takes about one hour).
The Fiesta ST Mountune adds an aluminium high-flow airbox with twin cold-air feeds, high-flow air filter, porous lower air-feed hose, a revised engine calibration and the all-important yellow Mountune badge on the rear tail-gate.
Owners even get an mTune app that monitors vehicle running via their smartphone.
Power moves from 134kW at 5700rpm, to 158kW at 6000rpm. Torque, meanwhile, shifts from 240Nm between 1600rpm and 5000rpm, to 320Nm at 3000rpm. They sound like big jumps, but then the regular Fiesta ST makes 147kW/290Nm on 20-second full-throttle overboost between 1600rpm and 6000rpm. So is the package really worth the extra spend?
- Standard Equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, climate control air conditioning, Recaro sports seats, auto-dim rearview mirror, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers
- Infotainment: 4.0-inch colour screen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, remote emergency assistance and eight-speaker audio
- Options Fitted: none
- Cargo Volume: 290 litres
On the surface the 2008-era cabin of the Fiesta ST looks dated, but (to paraphrase the classics) don’t judge a book by its Sony ‘Xplod’ stereo and hard plastics.
The Ford hot-hatchback has one of the most perfect driving positions in its segment, nice and low with the terrific leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel both height and tilt adjustable.
Standard cloth-trimmed Recaro sports seats are among the most snug form-fitting units around, although, unlike Ford’s broad Falcon XR buckets, for example, the Fiesta’s won’t cater for the "fuller figured driver".
The Fiesta focuses on the stuff that matters for drivers, yet there are also surprising touches such as soft-touch dashboard trim that signifies its German origins, replacing the hard plastics of Thailand-made regular Fiestas.
Red mood lighting spills from under the dash and inside the door handles, while puddle lights, electrically foldable door mirrors and keyless auto-entry add to the impressive list of standard equipment.
While the button-fest stereo and small screen don’t inspire, the eight-speaker audio system is actually crisp and clear, and the voice control/USB/Bluetooth audio functions work with ease.
Being a hatchback, there’s practicality aplenty including a 60:40 split-fold rear seat, large (for its segment) 290-litre boot and surprising room rearwards, although being available singularly as a three-door (a five-door is US-only) could limit its appeal.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 158kW/320Nm 1.6 litre 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes, front and rear: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: n/a
Some sports models of twice and three times the price of the Ford Fiesta ST don’t feel as immediately natural and cohesive to drive.
After easily finding the perfect driving position, the shifter for the six-speed manual slips slickly into place and the steering moves with perfect accuracy and immediacy just off the centre position.
Pleasingly, the Mountune detracts nothing from the driveability experience of the little hot hatchback. The throttle pedal still responds as eagerly as ever, and the fettled 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder doesn’t suffer from increased lag or delay often associated with, and a consequence of, aftermarket modifications.
Equally, however, it’s difficult initially to pick the changes to what remains a strong performer. From 'seat of the pants' first impressions, we felt there was a noticeably quicker response lower in the rev range, and a marginally quicker rush on full throttle.
These were the main notes around town, but - to really test its mettle, and the value in the package - we borrowed a stock, 10,000km-old Fiesta ST to drive back-to-back with the Fiesta ST Mountune on the open road.
And, no question, confirming those early indications, the Mountune pulls harder particularly from 3000rpm with foot flat. The regular car – same gear, same speed – flounders for a brief moment before coming on-song.
There is also a greater rush above 4000rpm and a louder and beefier intake roar as the tachometer needle rushes towards its 6800rpm cut-out.
Are the changes worth the $2k asked? Well "yes", if those margins in performance are important to you, but also "no", because the 'base car', this delicious ST, is such a gem anyway.
And as for us? Well, given the bargain purchase price of the stock Fiesta ST and its imminent price rise, we would rather the Mountune kit than satellite navigation. Either way, Ford's brilliant Fiesta ST is a compelling buy.
There aren’t any steering, tyre or chassis modifications to the Fiesta ST Mountune, but there really doesn’t need to be.
The steering is simply perfect, sharp and responsive at all times. Yet the delicate balance of this Ford teamed with the superbly liberal Sport mode of stability control, means that the hatchback loves to pivot its rear-end to eliminate understeer. The irony is that while the steering is so good, less of it is required to point into corners.
Either belt it into a corner quickly and let the Fiesta ST stand on its nose, or flick it in with late braking, or run through a curve on the throttle then back off for some tasty but safely controlled oversteer – the brilliant chassis is always on your side.
Of course the suspension is very firm, particularly at low speeds around town. Crucially, though, it never feels harsh and rarely feels clunky, with an uncanny ability to round off sizeable hits despite its relatively low profile (40-aspect) tyres.
Forget the claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres, though – we almost doubled that driving the Fiesta ST Mountune as it should be driven.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.44 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Seven airbags including dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, rear parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: three years/100,000km.
Servicing: capped price program with annual or 15,000km intervals at an average cost of $227 each over seven years or 105,000km – among the very cheapest in the segment.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The three-door Holden Astra GTC Sport is roomier but not as sporty, while the five-door Clio is more practical but offers only a dullard automatic.
The Polo GTI is the most logical and nearest competitor; read our comparison test between the stock Fiesta ST and the Polo GTI here.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Technically the Mountune kit adds just a sprinkle of extra brilliance to the Fiesta ST package. It nuances this gem of a car with a little more power and usable performance.
And, while this little hi-po Ford is fantastic in its stock form, we’re happy to pocket every bit of extra greatness we can get.
This hot-hatchback is not one for those who value outright practicality or smooth urban running – see the Polo GTI for that – but it absolutely remains the king of the segment for driver involvement, sheer capability and overall fun.
Drive it, and the impression is inescapable: put it up against any vehicle in a five-figure price bracket and there are few cars as cohesive and enjoyable to drive as the Ford Fiesta ST.
Just call the Mountune a very little giant killer…
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