Suzuki Swift 2012 review
The Suzuki Swift hatch holds a special place in the hearts of Australian drivers, especially those...
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The Peugeot 208 GTi is in serious trouble. Just two weeks after we praised it, we've driven the second in a wave of affordable hot hatches coming our way, the Fiesta ST. We're in love all over again, and it's the real thing.
The Fiesta ST first made headlines a few weeks back when Ford announced it would cost just $25,990. Standing back and looking at the prices, $25,990 is not a lot more than the excellent but much slower Suzuki Swift Sport, $2000 less than the VW Polo GTI and $4000 less than the 208.
The Ford comes equipped with Recaro front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, projector headlights, daytime running lights, SYNC, a Sony stereo with bluetooth, and keyless start. A 4.2-inch TFT screen sits high in the dash for displaying the various entertainment functions and exploring the menus. Cruise control is also standard.
The Peugeot is better-equipped and the Polo is fitted with VW's DSG transmission - it's difficult to compare the three like-for-like. But cars like this are bought by people who care about the driving, not whether it has sat-nav or dual-zone climate control.
The ST is three door only. It's meaner than the five door, lower too. In profile it looks like a big cat with its ears pinned back. The rear seat is easily accessed and while there's enough room for a couple of sub-six footers, their heads will be close to the roof. The new, higher front grille is replaced with blacked-out honeycomb, a subtle rear wing and new front and rear bumpers.
The interior is all cloth and because the car comes out of Ford's Cologne plant in Germany, the plastics are all a notch above those found in lesser Fiestas from the Thai plant.
Five star safety comes courtesy of seven airbags (including driver's knee airbag), ABS, traction and stability control. An additional feature for wayward teenagers is the ability to set the top speed, an annoying speed limit warning chime and the upper volume limit on the stereo with Ford's MyKey technology.
The Fiesta ST also uses a paired mobile phone to place a call to emergency services with a vehicle mounted GPS unit grabbing the location and sending it through. The system is activated by airbag deployments or the fuel cut-off being activated.
The ST is powered by a 1.6 litre turbo four cylinder EcoBoost engine. In normal driving it develops 134kW and 240Nm of torque. If you put the boot down, the figures increase to 147kW/290Nm of torque. To do this, the engine management goes into overboost for a maximum of twenty seconds. Ford claims 6.2l/100km and 145g/km of CO2 and a 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds.
Inspired. The Fiesta ST was tuned by Ford's Team RS crew in Germany, the same people responsible for the Focus ST. A drop of 15mm, a new rear twist beam and thoroughly reworked springs and dampers turn the accomplished Fiesta hatch into a tarmac eating monster.
It's much stiffer than the basic car and over poor surfaces, you'll feel it - if you're going slow enough. Kick the car into action, though, and the stiffness melts away into one the finest small car chassis ever to roll off a production line. The front wheels carve through the curves with a simple roll of the wrists. Mid-corner bumps are dismissed, rough tarmac just a mild wriggle while the torque vectoring system (inherited from the Focus) sorts out the mess while you line up the next bend.
There's no standout feature, all of it works together beautifully. The brakes - discs all round, unique to the ST - are strong and fade-free, the traction and stability control systems' interventions are subtle and well-tuned. The grip seems never-ending, the ST can be adjusted with brake or throttle right up until you turn in to the corner, the wheels talking to you the whole time. The torque slingshots you out the other side, your whoops of delight echoed by the turbo's "weeee!". There's so much twist you can leave it in third and concentrate on the braking, acceleration and turning.
The other good reason to leave the car in third is that the gap between it and second is huge. Shifting down simply causes a racket from the engine as it bounces off the redline in all but the tightest of corners. When you're off the gas, it behaves almost like any other Fiesta, just a bit stiffer. If you're stuck in traffic, you've got a good Sony stereo to entertain you and the ride, while firm, will leave your vertebrae in place.
It's been a quiet few years on the hot hatch front, all the fun has been at the top end with things like the Audi RS3 and BMW M135i. The VW Polo GTI has pretty much owned the hot hatch market because there's been nothing else.
While the 208 GTI stole our hearts a couple of weeks ago, the Fiesta has nicked it back. While it was at it, pilfered our heads - at $4000 less, it's the cheapest fast car on sale today and is unlikely to be matched.
It's also the best. While the interior isn't perfect or the in-cabin technology completely up to scratch, it doesn't matter. The Fiesta ST is the new king of the hot hatches. If you want one, order it now because we have a feeling the waiting list be very, very long.
|Ambiente||1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$7,488 – 11,990||2013 Ford Fiesta 2013 Ambiente Pricing and Specs|
|CL||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$7,466 – 10,995||2013 Ford Fiesta 2013 CL Pricing and Specs|
|LX||1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$6,490 – 9,990||2013 Ford Fiesta 2013 LX Pricing and Specs|
|Metal||1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$6,820 – 9,680||2013 Ford Fiesta 2013 Metal Pricing and Specs|