First Drive: 2018 Ford Fiesta ST

17th May 2018
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

The Ford Fiesta has been the best-selling car in the UK for almost 10 years now. Nothing has managed to knock it off the top spot, despite a crowded, price-competitive market place. Five minutes behind the wheel of a Fiesta proves why this is the case. 


The Fiesta is the perfect small car: it feels and drives like a car with another £10,000 on the price tag. The doors open and close with a reassuringly chunky thunk, the materials are plastic but not offensive, the seats are supportive, the steering wheel not too thick, not too fat. Best of all, on the move, the car flatters the driver, with slick gear changes and Ford’s 1.0-litre ecoboost engine that doesn’t leave you caught short on overtakes. The cabin is serene at speed, which can’t be said for any of the Fiesta’s competitors. What’s not to like?

And now, here’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: the ST hot-hatch version. If you don’t want to go all-out or pay the extra insurance premium, you could settle for the ST-line Fiesta, a warmed-through pocket rocket, which we really liked when we drove it, but this is the real deal, the bees’ knees, with a venerable history stretching back to 1981 and the Fiesta XR2.

Of course, you must have it in bright red. There were white, blue and silver versions on the launch, but let’s not pretend this is anything other than an exclamation mark with four wheels. From the outside, the changes over the standard Fiesta are surprisingly sober: there’s some extra bodywork round the belly, a short spoiler on the roof and exposed pipes, but it’s not the hooligan looks of a Renault Clio RS 200 Turbo. You could pop to Sainsbury's and no one would bat an eyelid. 

But it sounds the part, and heads will turn when you press the starter button and press the throttle. Ford has used exhaust valves to accentuate the popping of the three-cylinder 1.5 turbocharged engine, but also use an electronic sound enhancement system to bring the noise into the cabin. Hmmm.


That engine, then. It’s a total peach, with 200hp on tap and a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds. It’ll shut off one cylinder for some eco credentials, and we promise you won’t notice, but really you want the blip-pop noise of a three-pot on the go at all times to echo the sense of fun you’ll be feeling at the wheel. The power delivery curve from the 1.5-litre is superb, with a decent pull from low revs, up through the point where the turbo spools up, and out the other side to the red line. And you can truly enjoy the journey through the rev band thanks to the snappiest, smartest short-throw six-speed manual box we’ve used in a long time. The Mazda MX-5 might be the closest comparison, but Ford’s engineering adds that little extra touch of magic which means a total dimwit couldn’t fudge a gear change if he/she tried. The ratios just swap and slot with quick ease. 

Then here’s that other bit of Ford witchcraft: the suspension. We’ve already mentioned how good it is on a normal Fiesta: on the ST, the dampers respond in extra quick time to changes of road surface, feeding back the character of the route to the driver, while keeping the passengers comfortable.

The driver can choose between Normal, Sport and Track driving modes, which change the throttle response, steering weight and exhaust note. Track turns off traction control. All of which is a long way of saying: select Sport and keep it there. 

You’ll also be wanting the Performance Pack, which adds launch control (yeah, baby), and a limited-slip differential that complements the standard torque vectoring system to give you more power to the gripping front-driven wheel through corners. The pack is standard on the top ST-3 level and an £850 option below that.


Inside, Recaro sports seats apart, it’s not overtly brash, in keeping with the exterior design. We just wish Ford would get a bit snazzier with its infotainment graphics and connectivity offerings – Seat leads the way at the moment in this class, with neat colourful screen shots and Shazzam and Amazon Alexa offered.

But we’re quibbling now… in engineering terms, Ford is still undeniably at the very top of the automotive tree.

The Numbers

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo 

Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Hp/Nm: 200/290

0-62mph: 6.5sec

Top speed: 144mph

Price from: £18,995

  • Ford

  • Fiesta ST

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