What's the used Ford Fiesta ST hatchback like?
Every so often, a hot hatchback comes along that simply grabs the market by the lapels. There have been Peugeots that have done it, Hondas that have had a go, and of course lively Volkswagen Golf GTIs aplenty. Fast Fords have always enjoyed a certain reputation here too, often producing some of the lairiest and most outlandishly fun cars in this class, and without a doubt the Fiesta ST is one of them.
The recipe is simple enough: you take one Fiesta, drop in a more powerful engine, add sporty bodywork and fancy bucket seats, uprate the suspension and brakes and add in some wider wheels and sticky tyres. Job done. And in the case of this second-generation ST, the results are rather wonderful. It was a popular car that sold well and stayed in production until 2017, when it was replaced by an all-new version based on the latest Fiesta.
Under the bonnet is a lively turbocharged 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine, which drives the front wheels through a slick six-speed manual gearbox. A power output of 180bhp is a large figure for what is a small and relatively lightweight car. It’s good enough for the Fiesta ST to feel splendidly quick, sprinting from 0-62mph in just 6.9sec – supercar-fast not so many years ago. If that still isn't impressive enough, there is always the ST200 version, with altered gearing and a bit more power (197bhp) for a faster acceleration time of 6.7sec.
Approach a corner and things get even more thrilling. The steering is quick to the point of being razor-sharp, but it never becomes wearing, only more delightful. Grip is tremendous and the handling’s a delight, with a rare adjustability that makes it feel especially playful.
The payback for this handling finesse is a very firm, jiggly ride at low speeds, although it gets more comfortable the faster you go, and it gives the ST exactly the sort of body control it needs to fulfil its function as a spirited hot hatch. If you're worried about the ride, try an example from 2015 onwards, because some subtle alterations were made to the rear suspension that improved comfort ever so slightly.
The interior is relatively spacious and has some extra sporty touches over regular Fiestas, although it still comes with a confusing array of small buttons for the stereo and a desperately small 4.2in infotainment screen. The driving position is set rather high, but it comes with comfortable Recaro sports seats as standard, and they hold you in place well. There’s plenty of fore/aft adjustability to accommodate a taller driver, too.
There’s a reasonable amount of space in the back for two – or three for short hops – and there’s enough space in the boot for a couple of suitcases or a large weekly shop. If you're after the most practical Fiesta ST, you'll need the rare five-door model that was introduced in the final year of production (2017).
There are potentially three trim options to seek out. The ST-1 trim gives the Fiesta ST-style 17in alloy wheels, a body kit, rear spoiler, rear diffuser and honeycomb mesh grille, as well as a DAB radio and fabric-upholstered Recaro seats. The mid-range ST-2 adds partial leather and heated front Recaro seats, keyless ignition and a Sony stereo system, while the ST-3 models get sat-nav, cruise control, climate control, keyless entry and automatic wipers and headlights, plus an auto-dimming mirror.
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