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The Fiesta ST offered driving perfection | Thank Frankel it’s Monday

31st October 2022
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

It was 2013 and I remember it well. Remember feeling that the long-lost halcyon days of the affordable, desirable hot hatch were back. Days when Peugeot 205 GTIs roamed the earth. For little more than the price of a standard shopping car you could buy a car you’d be happy to use every day and, while you did, make you giggle all the way to your destination. The 2013 Fiesta ST brought that back to us.

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Of course, the fast Fiesta was almost as old as the Fiesta itself and ever since the first XR2, it kept unapologetically true to its bold, basic roots. And while that vast new trapezoid grille made the new ST look like the result of a back-of-the-bike shed liaison between a Fiesta and an Aston Martin, at its heart, the ST was a chip off the old block.

The price proved it. At £16,995, it cost less than Ford charged at the time for some standard Fiestas with 1.0-litre engines and three cylinders. But it came with a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine claiming to produce 183PS (134kW), while actually developing nearer 200PS (147KW). The anomaly was explained by the fact Ford was not allowed to include temporary power only available on overboost which, unless you were going to run the tank dry at full throttle and maximum speed, was actually always available.

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Read our Ford Fiesta ST 225 Mountune review

07th January 2021

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That price brought not just a full body kit with its big rear wing, deep front spoiler and chunky 17-inch alloys. It had also been through the suspension from end to end too, lowering here, stiffening there and even redesigning components at the front to ensure great accuracy was achieved at the high g-loadings the ST could muster. The entire steering rack was thrown away and replaced by one that made the car turn more for any given input, while torque vectoring was included, braking an inside front wheel in the middle of the curve, encouraging the car to pivot around that point to improve agility.

If Ford’s mission with the ST was to prove it remained possible in those risk-averse times for a small, cheap hatchback to make its owner smile, it only failed because it was too busy re-arranging your facial features into a face-splitting grin. At the time I wrote: "Truly, I cannot remember when I last laughed so much in a car that costs so little".

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No, it wasn’t particularly fast, but that didn’t matter because the smooth responsive motor was only really a delivery mechanism, a means of getting you to the speed at which you could really enjoy what the ST did best.

Which was to provide simple driving pleasure. This isn’t a complicated subject and nor, if you had an ST did you need to be in a desert or half way up a mountain to enjoy it. Any half decent road driven at a perfectly sensible, legal pace would do. There you’d find a car so tuned into your wavelength the relationship felt no longer one of man and machine, but a shared experience. I can remember thinking that you’d only realise how poor most cars are at the basic business of going where you point them when you drive an ST and discover you could place it not to the inch, but the millimetre.

Up the effort level and you’d discover a chassis set up in such a way that if you lifted off the accelerator in the middle of the corner, the car didn’t just prosaically slow down, it bit back into the apex. Hard. And, if you wanted, this little Ford Fiesta would rotate around its axis like an old rally car, letting you adjust your line through a corner as much with your right foot on the throttle pedal as your hands on the steering wheel.

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It felt like a throwback to another, simpler and more entertaining age, but I don’t think any of us could have predicted how long that would last, how many other fun hatches would take its lead or how abruptly, for the Fiesta at least, it would end.

The last time I drove a Fiesta ST was a year or two ago, a standard car save a Ford-approved Mountune chip to give it a bit more easily handled get up and go. And I can remember thinking that if someone said: “that’s it, it’s all over, this is the only car you’ll ever drive again”, that I’d be ok with that. I’d not welcome it, because I’ve been a spoiled and lucky boy, but I’d be fine. With a Ford Fiesta, for the rest of my days. That’s how good the ST was, and for a few more months, still is. How sad it is that by this time next year, it’ll be gone for good.

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