The Ford Fiesta ST is our reigning hot hatch of the year because it gives you an unbeatable combination of ‘more than you can imagine’ driving experience with a ‘less than you’d expect’ financial outlay.
However, the thing about the ST-2 version that we've always favoured is that while it gets everything you need – such as air-conditioning, DAB radio and stability control – it doesn't come with everything you may want. That means no automatic lights or rain-sensing wipers, no electrically folding door mirrors, no cruise control and no keyless entry.
Step forward the new Ford Fiesta ST-3, which gets all of the above plus satellite-navigation, climate control and an automatically dimming rearview mirror.
What’s the Ford Fiesta ST-3 like to drive?
Sensational. The Fiesta manages what so few cars do these days – it invigorates. That's because it’s awake, eager and ready for action from the second you push the start button.
Put your foot down and its 1.6 turbo engine rips towards the redline with an infectious rasp, encouraging you to snick into the next gear and go again. Flicking up and down through the gears is a genuine joy, with the gearlever finding the cog you want without a second’s hesitation.
Twiddly roads are where the Fiesta is at its best. Where some hot hatches reward your efforts with speed, efficiency and even a little disdain, the Fiesta is always there saying: ‘nice work, let’s go for it again!’
The steering is quick, gives you decent feedback and holds no surprises during fast turns. The brakes, meanwhile, are perfectly strong enough for road use and delightfully easy to moderate.
The fact that you can easily blip the throttle with your heel during downchanges while on the brakes tells you this car was developed by people who know what fun driving is all about.
If there’s one proviso, it’s the ride. It’s definitely firm when you’re in town or on the motorway, which can becomes tiresome on long journeys. However, the ST's brilliant damping means its wheels never lose contact with the road – even when you're barrelling down a seriously pockmarked B-road.
That exhaust noise does tend to intrude a bit on the motorway, though. Still, who buys a hot hatch to do big motorway miles? No, us neither.
What’s the Ford Fiesta ST-3 like inside?
No longer is the Fiesta an all-the-basics-and-little-else hot hatch. The ST-3 is properly well kitted out, with all the kit mentioned already, plus the superbly supportive Recaro seats (although you’d best cancel the subscription to What Pie? magazine because they are rather narrow).
Centre stage on the dashboard is the rightly maligned Sony infotainment system, which is complex at best and downright indecipherable most of the time. Try to search for your favourite DAB station and you’ll soon see what we mean.
The interior plastics, meanwhile, feel substantial enough but hardly luxurious.
There’s loads of space up front, and getting a good driving position is easy such is the range of adjustment on offer.
Space in the back is perfectly acceptable, although the fact the Fiesta ST is three-door-only means getting into and out of the back requires some dexterity.
Farther back, the boot is easily big enough to deal with the proceeds of a trip to the shops.
Should I buy one?
The reason we’re such fans of the Fiesta ST-2 is that it provides a great combination of kit, talent and costs.
However, if you love your luxuries, the ST-3 makes a good case for itself, because it takes all that’s brilliant about the ST-2 and adds a load of kit. It would cost you a lot more than the £1000 price premium to spec up an ST-2 to the same level.
Bear in mind, too, that you can already get a big discount.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Torque 177lb ft
0-60mph 6.9 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel economy 47.9mpg