This is the 2013 Ford Fiesta ST; one of the most eagerly anticipated hot hatches in decades, and we've finally had the chance to test it in the UK.
Priced from just £16,995, Ford's junior hot hatch looks like an absolute bargain, with its considerable price advantage over rivals such as the equally fresh Peugeot 208 GTi and Renault Clio 200.
You'll have no problem identifying the ST as it fills your rear-view mirror, thanks to the distinctive black mesh grille and scarlet ST logo.
Equally, its chunkier bumpers, rear diffuser, 17-inch alloys and lowered suspension all help to mark out this range-topping Fiesta from lesser models.
What's the 2013 Ford Fiesta ST like to drive?
The ST is powered by a 180bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, which pulls hard from low revs all the way to the redline.
True, the Fiesta can't accelerate quite as quickly as more powerful rivals from Peugeot and Renault – it managed the 0-60mph sprint in 7.0 seconds in our tests – but you're never left wanting more overtaking poke and it pulls cleanly in any of the six gears. The ST's engine sounds suitably sporty under hard acceleration, too.
Stopping power hasn't been neglected, either. There's plenty of feel through the pedal, and the brakes are just as impressive at scrubbing off speed as the engine is at piling it on.
The ST has lower and stiffer suspension than that of other Fiestas, along with 17-inch alloys shod with ultra-low-profile tyres. The steering has been recalibrated to offer sharper turn-in and provide less assistance at higher speeds.
The result is more feel on faster B-roads, masses of traction and superb body control. Particularly impressive is the way it puts its power down. You can floor the throttle almost at will and it never writhes, struggles for grip, or more importantly, makes you feel out of control.
For many buyers, the fact that all this comes at the expense of a pretty firm ride won't matter a jot. However, the way the ST jostles you around does start to become annoying on longer journeys. A Renault Clio 200 Cup is much more forgiving, although it doesn't handle as well.
What's the 2013 Ford Fiesta ST like inside?
The ST's driving position is spot-on, thanks to two-way adjustment on the steering wheel, a well-spaced pedal area and figure-hugging Recaro sports seats. Stainless steel pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and chrome ST-monogrammed doorsills complete the additions.
A DAB radio and air-conditioning are standard on all STs, but the £1000 extra you'll pay for the ST2 adds part-leather trim, a higher-spec stereo, LED daytime running lights and keyless start.
All-round visibility is generally good, although – as with all Fiestas – the windscreen wipers leave large swathes of unswept glass.
Although there's plenty of space in the front, rear legroom is on the tight side for adults. Getting into the back is tricky, too, because those heavily bolstered front seats reduce the gap you have to squeeze through.
However, there's a decent-sized boot and you can flip the rear seatbacks forward when you want to carry longer loads. Unfortunately, the rear seatbase is fixed, meaning the seatbacks lie at a pronounced angle when folded.
Should I buy one?
At £16,995 it's an absolute steal and is likely to hold its value extremely well. To our minds, it's a classic in the making and almost guaranteed a place in the annals of hot hatch history.
It's too early to say whether it will sit alongside legends such as the original VW Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTi, but we wouldn't bet against it.
Just be aware that the ST's brilliant handling does come at the expense of a pretty firm ride. If you'd prefer a slightly less fractious hot hatch, take a look at the new Renault Clio 200 Cup.
What Car? says...
Peugeot 208 GTi
Renaultsport Clio 200
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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