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The light-car segment is not what it once was in Australia, with the likes of the Honda Jazz, Holden Barina and Hyundai Accent discontinued as customers flock to SUVs over hatchbacks.
As a follow up to the Fiesta ST of 2013, the new-generation version promises the same raucous thrills, but is saddled with a heftier price tag, fewer cylinders and finding an audience that may have already moved on from its boy racer charms.
With so much going against it, should Ford have bothered bringing the new Fiesta ST to Australia? Read on to find out.
|Ford Fiesta 2020: ST|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Without a ‘standard’ Fiesta range, the new Fiesta ST stand outs simply because it is the only Ford light car you can buy right now.
The design stays close to go-fast Ford hatchbacks of recent times with a large front grille, angular front bumper, sleek headlights, roof-mounted rear spoiler and a subtle rear diffuser.
While the previous Fiesta ST was a three-door-only model in Australia, the new version is exclusively a five-door hatchback. Though we prefer the former over the latter, your preference may vary.
We wouldn’t call the design boring, but it is definitely safe.
The most unflattering aspect of the exterior design, from our point of view, is the rear bumper, which is too bulbous and protrudes too far from the tailgate, giving the Fiesta ST a sort of underbite look.
We do dig the 18-inch wheels, though, which feature a unique design and contrasting colour scheme.
Likewise, our test car, finished in the flat (non-metallic) 'Silver Fox' colour works well against the blacked-out grille, fog light surrounds, window trims and rear spoiler supports.
Step inside the Fiesta ST and the interior is also designed in a usable, if uninteresting way.
Leather adorns the shifter, steering wheel, armrests and the upper parts of the seats, with suede on the cushion and lower part of the backrest.
With its economy car roots, you will be able to spot some hard plastics on the door trims and dashboard, but Ford has done a good job sprucing up the latter with some carbon-fibre trim and chrome accents.
We like the flat-bottom steering wheel, shapely gear shifter and Recaro sports seats, but would have appreciated a little more 'specialness', such as contrast-coloured stitching instead of our car’s white, to make the cabin pop even more.
Measuring 4068mm long, 1735mm wide, 1469mm tall and with a 2493mm wheelbase, the Fiesta ST is about line ball with other light hatchbacks in the same market segment.
What that translates to, though, is good space for front occupants with decent head, shoulder, and legroom.
The front Recaro bucket seats are very well bolstered, so much so that even our slim frame found them a little too snug for extended periods of driving, especially in the thigh area.
The support is fantastic, and the mix of soft-touch suede and body-hugging design really hold you in place when throwing the Fiesta ST around some corners, but it feels like Ford has gone for seats more suited to the race circuit than the road.
The driver’s seat is also positioned a touch too high, even in the lowest setting, which is a problem that has afflicted other Ford performance hatches in recent memory.
The rear also struggles to accommodate passengers around our 183cm (six-foot) height, with headroom tight, to say the least.
Compared to a rival like the Volkswagen Polo GTI, which we can actually get comfortable in the back of, the Fiesta ST is down on second-row space, so if that is important to you, it might pay to look elsewhere.
Our head hits the roof in all three seats when sat upright, and legroom is cramped with the front seats in place for our frame, while the middle seat is next to unusable.
Having said that, the rear seats are okay for smaller adults and children, or if you need to ferry people short distances.
As for the boot, it offers up 311 litres of volume with all seats in place, expanding to 1093L with the rear seats folded.
It’s enough for one large suitcase or a medium suitcase and overnight bag, but don’t expect Tardis-levels of storage here.
The boot aperture, while wide, is also set a little too high, which could make loading larger, heavier objects, like a stroller or pram, difficult.
However, the Fiesta ST’s boot figures eclipse those of the Polo GTI (305/1079L), and even the one-size-up Mazda3 hatch (295L).
In-cabin storage is modest, extending to slender door pockets with bottle holders, a small glove box and centre storage cubby, and a shallow storage tray and cupholders positioned between driver and front passenger.
But then again, if you were looking for a practical car, the Fiesta ST wouldn't be first on your list!
Priced at $31,990, before on-road costs, there’s no getting around the fact the Fiesta ST is now $4500 more expensive than its predecessor.
But, it's loaded with much more equipment, as well as a ton of the latest active safety systems (more on this below).
So loaded, in fact, that there are only two options available, prestige paint for $650, and a sunroof for $2500.
For reference, the standard paint schemes include 'Frozen White' and 'Race Red', while the 'Moondust Silver', 'Magnetic', 'Agate Black Metallic', 'Silver Fox' and 'Ford Performance Blue' choices cost extra.
The Fiesta ST also sits on 18-inch wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, and boasts keyless entry and push-button start, idle start/stop, rear privacy glass, ST-branded scuff plates, a tyre pressure monitoring system, manually adjustable sports seats and a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system (with subwoofer).
Each door also sports an automatic fold-out protector to keep it from dinging other cars and damaging garage walls.
Sitting between the driver and front passenger is Ford’s new 'Sync 3' multimedia system, housed in an 8.0-inch floating touchscreen, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, satellite navigation and voice activation.
Scrolling through menus is quick and easy, with no hint of delay or stuttering from the screen. Everything is easily navigated, even while driving, making the new system a significant quality-of-life update.
We would have liked to see a head-up display, but even that omission is helped by inclusion of a 4.2-inch driver display offering up key readouts, and a digital instrument cluster.
Powering the pint-sized Fiesta ST is an equally pint-sized 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine producing 147kW/290Nm.
Peak power is available at 6000rpm, while maximum torque is on tap from 1600-4000rpm.
Feeding power to the front axle is a six-speed manual gearbox, while Ford has also fitted a Quaife limited-slip differential as standard.
If you just read the above stats and scoffed at the idea of a three-cylinder performance car, well consider the new Fiesta ST makes 13kW/50Nm more than its four-cylinder predecessor.
Also keep in mind that the Fiesta ST tips the scales at just over 1200kg, and with the help of standard launch control ,is claimed to sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds.
It’s a fantastic engine, too. With torque available so low down, its easy enough to just mash the throttle and surge forward, no matter which gear you're in.
With room to stretch its legs, the Fiesta ST is spritely enough, but can lose a bit of huff at freeway speeds, meaning overtaking with pace might need a downshift or two.
The engine also emits all the appropriate sounds in Sport mode, including turbo spool ups and a rough growl, to match its sporty intentions.
Likewise, the exhaust will crackle and pop on overrun when the revs have climbed close to the 6500rpm redline.
And if speed is a consideration, keep in mind the Fiesta ST is just as quick, if not quicker off the line that hot hatches a class (and price) above, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Hyundai i30 N. Not to mention ground-up sports cars like the Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5.
Paired to the engine is a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, one of the best we’ve sampled in a while, which teams with a forgiving clutch to make shifting ratios a pleasure.
Official fuel consumption figures for the Ford Fiesta ST peg it at 6.3 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are recorded at 144 grams per kilometre.
In our time with the car, which included inner-city driving and a backroad country blast, we averaged 8.1L/100km.
We saw figures drop to the high six’s during short stints on the highway, but also kept the Fiesta ST mostly in Sport mode, not Normal.
With such a cracking engine under the bonnet, it would be shame if Ford stuck it with a wallowy, numb-feeling chassis, but luckily the Blue Oval’s latest Fiesta is anything but.
Much of the feel is thanks to unique ST-tuned suspension with an independent front end and Ford's patented, directionally-wound, 'force-vectoring springs' combined with the rear, 'twist beam' suspension set-up.
The tricky springs are designed to increase lateral stiffness by allowing cornering forces to load directly into the springs. But we’re sure (as evidenced by track-day press photography) the new Fiesta ST will still cock up a rear wheel in high-speed cornering.
Road feel is wonderful, while there is plenty of grip available thanks to the sticky 205-section Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres and standard Quaife limited-slip diff.
Steering does go a little numb at full throttle, but that's not unexpected in a front-wheel drive performance car.
Without access to a track setting, we weren’t able to fully explore the limits of the Fiesta ST on open roads, but detected hints of understeer when turning into high-speed corners. Not not enough to spoil the experience, though.
Scrubbing speed are large 278mm front brake discs and 253mm rears, which work beautifully and offer loads of pedal feel.
So, the Fiesta ST is a great car for those that want to drive enthusiastically on the weekends, but what about the weekday commute?
Here the latest Ford is let down a little by a firm ride and those over-bolstered front seats.
Some of Melbourne’s lumpier roads and tram tracks are especially hard on the back in the Fiesta ST, which was honed on Germany's much smoother blacktop.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Fiesta ST comes with a long list of standard advanced driver-assistance safety equipment; a likely contributor to its increased price.
Included is autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and traffic sign recognition.
The new Ford Fiesta is yet to be tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), but scored a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP assessment.
The score applies to all variants of the Fiesta available overseas, with an 87 and 84 per cent result for adult occupant and child occupant protection testing.
Pedestrian protection and safety assist technology notched 64 and 60 per cent respectively when the Fiesta was tested in September 2017.
Like all new Fords, the Fiesta ST comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, while service intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Ford caps each scheduled service in the first four years/60,000km at $299, but prices thereafter are yet to be disclosed.
So, the first four years of after sales care will cost just $1196, which isn’t too bad for a performance hatch.
Ford’s new Fiesta ST proves once and for all that size doesn’t matter, delivering performance unmatched by some cars a class above, let alone its direct rivals.
Sure, the ride is a bit hard and no automatic transmission option means it will turn away some potential buyers, but as a fit-for-purpose, raucous fun machine, few can match the Fiesta ST in delivering the smiles per miles.
To answer our original question. Should Ford Australia have bothered bringing the Fiesta ST to this market? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
|ST||1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$31,990||2020 Ford Fiesta 2020 ST Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||9|
|Engine & trans||10|