The French have been rather aggressive with their offerings of late, but however, one name has been quite the talk of the town – the Ford Fiesta ST.
Having owned a Fiesta 1.6 Sport myself, I was much eager to know how improved this hot variant was.
Fully-imported from Germany and based on the humble Mark-VI Fiesta platform, Ford’s sports car-beater is available solely here in 3-door form.
This makes it immediately recognisable as an ST, and with an aggressive new nose and all-round bodykit, you would not be mistaking it for a regular Fiesta either.
The rear bumper has a sleek-looking diffuser (which looks sexy in bright colors) and (finally) a twin-exit sports muffler tip.
The Fiesta ST looks every bit a junior Focus ST, and our test unit came in a head-turning uber-hot Molten Orange hue – the “hero” colour, if you will.
The ST also comes with daytime-running lights (DRLs), not the fancy LED ones but rather the conventional bulb-type.
Would have been cooler if they had brought in lightbar-integrated headlamps as seen on foreign units.
Racy grey 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenzas complete the overall look of the exterior.
Inside the car feels very familiar if you are a Fiesta owner.
The parts are somewhat a mishmash of components from the face-lifted and pre-facelift models, but feature bits that help make the car feel more premium.
Head-unit and multi-function screens retain the facelift’s blue hue, but the needles gain back their red colour to denote the ST’s sporty nature.
An all-black soft-touch dash is a welcome addition, and a noticeably missing component of local Fiestas – the central armrest – has finally been added in this car.
The steering wheel is now fully covered in leather, and the matt-chrome bits enhance the much-in-contact parts of the interior.
The central head-unit, which is now in matt-black, is similar to the one in the original Fiesta Sport and not the updated glossy Sony unit.
It is still however, a rather cool design in this writer’s eyes.
All the bells and whistles from the regular Fiesta are intact, from voice-control to Ford SYNC.
Ford’s decision to use light-up bits (in red of course) above the glove compartment and around the cup holders also helps enhance the perceived quality of the interior.
Front seats are now body-hugging Recaro, that both look and feel up to the task.
While some might question the lack of leather in the flagship Fiesta, Ford explains that fabric is preferred due to its enhanced bum-to-seat grip during cornering.
Power comes via a turbocharged 182PS 1.6L powerplant, mated to a six-speed transmission manual (yes, a proper stick-shift!).
This gives the Fiesta the much-needed boost it truly needed, propelling this hot hatch from 0-100kph in just under seven seconds.
And being powered by one of Ford’s award-winning EcoBoost engines also meant the ST receives excellent fuel economy.
Driving the Fiesta ST is a blast.
Right from the get go, the extra horses make themselves felt, powering the ST with much ease and the 240Nm of torque (up to 290Nm via time-limited overboost) provided much thrills.
Engine acoustics can get quite addictive, with a sporty growl that isn’t overpowering.
The sports suspension ensured maximum agility and the Recaro, with their shoulder and torso support certainly did their job in keeping this driver secured.
Despite the pocket-rocket nature of the ST, the car keeps you feeling totally in control and it was in fact rather easy to handle.
The ST also has probably one of the best gear shifters tested in recent memory, with slick, buttery smooth changes and is simply a joy to drive.
The steering is well weighted and like the regular Fiesta, gives good feedback despite being an electric-assisted unit.
When the time comes to bring the fun to a halt, the high-performance disc brakes do an excellent job (and with their red-painted callipers, look good too).
Possibly one of the perks of the Fiesta ST is the fact that despite being a three-door street demon, it is also very much at home ferrying the family on weekends.
Sure, the stiff sports suspension might be less comfortable than a regular Fiesta, but it is still pretty tolerable.
You have the same boot space for your groceries and foldable rear seats for more room.
Seven airbags are also standard, for that peace of mind.
The ST may lack some features of its French rivals, namely leather seats or large-screen infotainment systems but those are hardly a deal-breaker.
For those looking for a serious compact hot hatch that won’t entirely sacrifice practicality, the Fiesta ST will get the job done.