2013 FORD FIESTA ST REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Performance light hatchback
Price: $25,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/290Nm; 1.6 turbo petrol four, 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
Want an automatic in your new Ford Fiesta ST? You’re fresh out of luck. Sunroof? No dice. Sat nav? Nope.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a concise summary of everything that’s irreversibly wrong with the Fiesta ST.
But everything else? Right now we can't think of a small performance hot-hatch that's 'righter'.
In fact, the amount of joy that this little machine delivers is unmatched at its $25,990 price point.
There might not be a lot of choice when it comes to transmissions or equipment, but this package is positively bulging with thrills.
Quality: All Fiesta STs are built in Cologne rather than the Thai plant that produces Australian-market five-door Fiestas.
There are substantial differences in centre-stack switchgear and materials; the Fiesta ST gets a more pleasing soft-touch dashpad and more easily-navigable media controls.
Elsewhere, you grip a chunky leather-clad steering wheel and tread on alloy-faced pedals (of which there are the correct amount: three).
The upholstery might be cloth, but it’s durable stuff from the house of Recaro and offset by a dark headliner.
For light car standards, this is a solid, well-assembled interior. No clunks, no creaks. It’s just a shame about the hard plastics that dominate the centre console and door trims.
Another annoyance concerns the junction between dashboard and doors, which is like the San Andreas Fault, post-earthquake: jagged and misaligned. Then again, this is a complaint directed at the Fiesta’s designers, not quality control officers at the Cologne plant.
Comfort: The seating position is a little high for this scribe’s liking (even with the driver’s seat in its lowest position), but it’s still a comfortable place to be thanks to the reach and rake-adjustable steering column (other Fiestas only have rake adjustment)..
Even outward visibility is decent. The shallow rake of the A-pillars obscure vision around some gently sweeping right-handers, but over-the-shoulder and rearward vision is good.
And though the Fiesta ST is strictly a three-door, backseaters aren’t cheated for comfort. It’s not hard to get past the front seat when it’s flipped forward, and once settled there’s plenty of leg, foot, elbow and headroom for two adults.
However, resetting the front seat to its original position can be a pain sometimes.
'Girthier' folks may want to give the front seats a good test before committing to a purchase though, as the Recaro’s bolsters may be a bit too tight for those with larger-than-average frames.
Equipment: Keyless-entry and ignition, auto-on headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sensors and 17-inch alloys are all standard on the Fiesta ST, and the spec sheet doesn’t end there.
Climate control is also standard, along with cruise control. Ford’s SYNC infotainment system controls the Bluetooth telephony and audio integration, and you can also play files off a USB key or via the 3.5mm auxilliary input.
Storage: Being a three-door light hatch means there’s isn’t an abundance of boot space, but even with the rear seats up there’s more than enough capacity for a young couple’s weekly shop.
Drop the rear seats and there’s enough room for a full-size bicycle, as one TMR staffer proved.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 5/5
Driveability: The numbers alone aren’t especially remarkable, but it’s the way in which the Fiesta ST’s 1.6 litre turbocharged four-pot delivers them that makes this machine special.
There’s 132kW of power underfoot, delivered at an easily-accessible 5700rpm. Then there’s a handy 240Nm of torque, spread between 1600-5000rpm.
It’s the latter set of numbers that gives the Fiesta its grunty character.
Want more? An overboost feature crams more air into the Fiesta’s cylinders for a maximum of 20 seconds when the accelerator is firewalled, delivering a maximum of 290Nm.
A very healthy figure for a car weighing just under 1200kg.
For reference, Toyota’s ever-popular 86 has just 205Nm of torque and weighs 60kg more. The Fiesta ST would trounce it in a drag race.
There’s one small flaw with the Fiesta ST’s drivetrain though, and it concerns the gearbox.
The gearshift itself is beautiful; smooth through the gate and easily one of the best in its segment (if not THE best). The problem lies with the gearing.
The gap between second and third gear is just a little too wide, meaning that on certain roads where the limit is 100km/h you’ll have a hard time deciding whether to rev it hard in second or upshift to third.
Inevitably, we chose third gear. The midrange pull is more than strong enough to slingshot the ST from low speed back to triple digits, and bouncing it off the 6600rpm rev cut in second didn’t feel like we were being kind to the engine.
Refinement: Thanks to noise from the inlet tract being ducted straight into the cabin, the Fiesta ST has a distinctively growly engine note.
Oddly though, it’s not really balanced by what comes out of the tailpipes. Most of what you hear is induction noise.
But it sounds great, and at low throttle inputs the engine is fairly muted. There’s plenty of tyre noise though, particularly on coarse-chip.
Ride and Handling: This section right here is what makes the Fiesta ST so great. The way it carves through corners simply has to be experienced to be believed.
Firstly, the chassis balance is exceptional. It’s as close to neutral as we’ve found in a FWD hot hatch, and it’s also supremely resistant to understeer. On a dry road, it’s extraordinarily hard to unstick.
Setting the stability control to “Sport” improves the situation. Come into a corner quickly, give a judicious lift of the throttle and the Fiesta ST rotates easily, progressively and predictably.
Add to that a steering rack that is both direct and fast from lock-to-lock, and you have one hell of a chassis.
There's a trade-off for that handling precision though. While composed at speed, and at its most compliant, when picking over lumpy urban pavement it can feel excessively firm.
On road though it takes a big bump mid-corner to unsettle the Fiesta ST, and with a brake-based psuedo-LSD apportioning drive between the front wheels, traction under power is never an issue when turning.
Braking: These are fantastic brakes. A firm, progressive and responsive pedal is mated to a capable all-disc brake setup with ventilated rotors on the front and solid rotors at the rear.
Stopping performance is excellent, and the Potenza RE050 rubber barely breaks a sweat during hard deceleration.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars; the five-door Fiesta scored 34.44 out of 37 possible points in Euro NCAP testing.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable between On, Sport and Off), traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, seven airbags (front, front side, driver’s knee, full-length curtain) and three-point seatbelts for all passengers.
Ford’s Emergency Assistance system will automatically call emergency services if a compatible phone is connected to the Fiesta’s Bluetooth system, enabling swifter emergency response in the event of a crash.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service costs: Under Ford’s capped-price servicing scheme, a general service for the Fiesta ST comes in between $245 and $270. A major service is due at 60,000km/48 months, and costs $405.
Service intervals are set for 15,000km or 12 months.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Peugeot 208 GTi ($29,990) - Peugeot’s latest GTI is a return to form for the manufacturer, and its power output of 147kW is appreciably higher than the Fiesta’s.
It comes with a higher price tag and more luxury features, but as good as the 208 GTi is, it’s not quite as sharp as the Fiesta ST when asked to perform. (see 208 reviews)
Volkswagen Polo GTI 3door ($27,790) - Until the Fiesta ST came along, the Polo GTI was at the top of the light hot-hatch heap.
Now its glossy sheen has faded. With ultra-firm suspension and fun-sapping DSG automatic, the GTI is a very capable performance hatch, but nowhere near as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta ST. (see Polo reviews)
Suzuki Swift Sport ($23,990) - We’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the spunky Swift Sport.
An entertaining chassis, light weight and rev-happy engine make it a lot of fun at the wheel, but its naturally-aspirated 100kW 1.6 litre has nothing like the grunt of its turbocharged competitors. Its strongest suit is a hefty price advantage. (see Swift reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Full marks in both 'On The Road' and 'Value For Money' tell you everything you need to know about the Fiesta ST. It serves up maximal thrills for minimal dollars.
And it does so with a certain degree of polish. The ST’s interior looks old and certainly won’t win any awards, but it’s well-built and comfortable enough for four.
With a sports suspension that treads that fine line between firmness and compliance, the ST is a perfectly acceptable daily drive for an enthusiast.
If you want an automatic gearbox, sat-nav and/or a sunroof, look elsewhere. But if you want a truly exciting car, buy a Fiesta ST.