Ford Fiesta ST review

Category: Hot hatch

One of the most fun hot hatches you can get, but the Fiesta ST isn't as competitive on cost as it used to be

Ford Fiesta ST 2022 front cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 front cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 rear cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior dashboard
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior rear seats
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior infotainment
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 right tracking
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 front cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 rear left cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 headlight detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 alloy wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 badge detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 kick plate detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior front seats
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior steering wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior steering wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 boot open
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 front cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 rear cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior dashboard
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior rear seats
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior infotainment
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 right tracking
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 front cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 rear left cornering
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 headlight detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 alloy wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 badge detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 kick plate detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior front seats
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior steering wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior steering wheel detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior detail
  • Ford Fiesta ST 2022 boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Ford Fiesta ST has earned the right to sit proudly among the biggest names in the hot hatchback hall of fame – and that's pretty much the highest compliment you can pay a car.

Indeed, the Fiesta ST can hold its head up high alongside the Peugeot 205 GTi – which is one of What Car?'s favourite cars of all time – and even deserves a mention in the same breath as the Mk1 Golf GTI. Not surprisingly, the previous-generation ST won four best hot hatch titles in our annual Car of the Year Awards.

So is the current Fiesta ST a good enough car to live up to all that? In other words, has the regular Ford Fiesta been injected with enough extra fun and performance to justify wearing the ST badge – which it shares with the Ford Focus ST and Ford Puma ST – and appeal to die-hard hot hatch fans?

Well, to help it along, Ford has given it a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine featuring cylinder deactivation technology. That allows it to run on two cylinders at a cruise to save fuel, but fear not – with all three cylinders firing, the engine kicks out a punchy 197bhp, and there's no compromise on performance when you need it.

The Fiesta ST also gets upgraded suspension to make sure it handles keenly, plus a stiffened body to make it more agile and a limited-slip differential (LSD) to catapult this front-wheel-drive car out of corners. It also has bespoke Michelin tyres for better grip and a launch control mode for perfect traffic light sprints. 

Ford has slimmed down the range to just one trim and body style, so your only option now is a five-door car in the most expensive ST-3 version. Prices have risen considerably, meaning it's not as good value as it was before.

Read on through the next few pages of this Ford Fiesta ST review to find out whether it’s still worth the price. We'll rate it in all the important areas, and tell you how it stacks up against rivals, including the Hyundai i20 N, Suzuki Swift Sport and Volkswagen Polo GTI.

If you do decide to buy a new car, don't forget to check out our free What Car? New Car Buying service. It could save you thousands of pounds off the list price of most makes and models, and is a good place to find the best new hot hatchback deals.

Overview

If you're after a fun hot hatch, the Ford Fiesta ST should be at the very top of your shortlist. It just pips the excellent Hyundai i20 N for driving pleasure, and it's way more exciting to drive than the Volkswagen Polo GTI. It doesn’t represent as good value as it used to, though, which does blunt its appeal and puts it right up against rivals.

  • Fun to drive with loads of grip
  • Cracking engine
  • Great driving position
  • A firm, bouncy ride
  • Rivals have better reliability
  • Steering could be better
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Ford Fiesta ST's three-cylinder engine is a cracker. Its exhaust note is much more soulful than the sound from the Suzuki Swift Sport and Volkswagen Polo GTI (with their four-cylinder motors). The aggressive rasp is enhanced by a 'sound symposer' that pipes engine noise to the interior, and fortunately it doesn’t spoil the effect by sounding too fake.

Ford Fiesta image
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The car doesn’t let itself down on the performance front, either. The Fiesta ST pulls more heartily from low revs than the Hyundai i20 N and is highly flexible in everyday situations. It spins eagerly up to its limiter – enough to tick off the 0-62mph dash in 6.5 seconds. The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a short, slick lever and well-chosen gear ratios, helping you get the very best out of it. 

When you ease off the accelerator and settle down to a cruise, one cylinder deactivates to improve fuel efficiency. It's very difficult to tell this is happening because there's nothing on the dashboard to indicate a switchover and no perceivable change in sound or smoothness. Let's be honest, though – that’s exactly how it should be.

You can choose from one of three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track. Normal maximises ease of use, while Sport makes the accelerator more responsive, adds weight to the steering and cranks up the exhaust volume. Track switches off the traction control and relaxes the stability control for maximum driver involvement and, of course, enjoyment.

The Fiesta ST is a lively thing through bends. It pivots progressively around the front wheels if you back off the accelerator – more so than the more neutral-handling i20 N – and that helps you to get the car turned into a corner and hit the apex cleanly.

You do have to get used to the ST’s lively steering. The wheel can tug from left to right in your hands as you power out of bends or if the road surface is uneven, plus it’s very quick to respond. Basically, you need to keep your wits about you and hang on tight, which for some will add to the thrill. If that sounds mildly alarming, the calmer set-up of the i20 N might suit you better.

The limited-slip differential (LSD) comes as part of the standard-fit Performance Pack and helps to reduce wheelspin by sending power to whichever front wheel has the most grip. The pack also has two more go-faster additions: the launch control system to help you make the perfect getaway, and shift lights, which tell you when you need to change up a gear.

When this latest Fiesta ST was launched, Ford made a big noise about the ride being softer and more comfortable than the previous model. In truth, while it's tolerable, the ride is still very firm.

The most comfortable hot hatch in this price range is the Volkswagen Polo GTI but that’s a bit boring the rest of the time. The i20 N is a better compromise. It’s still great fun when you want it to be but the ride is more settled than the ST’s 90 per cent of the time.

Ford Fiesta ST 2022 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

The figure-hugging sports front seats in the Ford Fiesta ST are comfortable on a long journey, and are fitted with electric lumbar adjustment and an extendable seat base for longer-legged drivers.

The steering wheel moves up, down, forwards and back by a useful amount, and the pedals are perfectly aligned with the seat and steering wheel, so you'll feel instantly at home and in control.

As with the standard Ford Fiesta, the Fiesta ST's visibility suffers because of its chunky front pillars and relatively small rear side windows, which obstruct your over-the-shoulder vision. The back window is also fairly small. 

All in all, you’ll find that it’s easier to see out of the Volkwagen Polo GTI but at least the Fiesta ST comes with rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera to help with reversing.

The driver gets a 12.3in digital instrument panel with good colour contrast, sharp graphics and a range of colour themes that change according to your drive mode. There’s plenty of information available from the trip computer, although we’d like to view the sat-nav map here too.

All the commonly used controls fall easily to hand, with physical controls for the ventilation system and a drive mode button on the steering wheel. The buttons for the stop-start and stability control are buried on the lower centre console by the handbrake and can be tricky to locate, but they’re not commonly used and can be found by touch once you get used to them. 

The Ford Sync 3 infotainment system is fitted as standard and comes with an 8.0in touchscreen. In some ways, it’s not as easy to use as the Polo GTI's system – the icons tend to be smaller, for example – but it’s still decent, with sharp graphics, relatively simple menus and lots of features. These include built-in sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, a DAB radio and Bluetooth.

One gripe is that the infotainment system doesn't have physical shortcut buttons to make it easier to hop between functions, but it's more responsive than the Hyundai i20 N set-up and miles better than the system in the Suzuki Swift Sport and the (significantly more expensive) Toyota GR Yaris.

The Fiesta ST's interior quality is better than you'll find in the Swift Sport too, because you get some soft-touch plastics on the upper half of the dash – something that’s also absent in the i20 N. The ST stands out from the rest of the Fiesta range because of its leather sports steering wheel, the unique sports seats, carbon fibre-effect trim inserts and the numerous ST badges. Still, there’s no doubt the Polo GTI is the plushest hot hatch for the money.

The Fiesta ST can fight back in the audio department, though. There’s a 10-speaker B&O sound system available as an option (it otherwise comes with six speakers as standard) that knocks the Polo GTI’s optional six-speaker Beats system for… wait for it… six when it comes to sound quality.

Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space in the Ford Fiesta ST is excellent, so people of most shapes and sizes should be happy with the head and leg room on offer. You also get a decent glovebox, a sizeable cubby at the base of the dashboard and generous door pockets for storing odds and ends.

As with most of its rivals, the Fiesta ST is now only available as a five-door. In the back, it matches the Volkswagen Polo GTI for head and leg room but not interior width. The chunky front sports seats do steal a bit of rear legroom and it’s a lot snugger for a couple of taller adults than the Hyundai i20 N but it's still roomier than the Suzuki Swift Sport and the Toyota GR Yaris (which is tiny in the back),

The Fiesta ST's boot fits up to five carry-on suitcases, which trumps the i20 N and Polo GTI's tally of four (the GTI's boot is smaller than the regular Polo’s). The only problem is that there’s no option of a height-adjustable boot floor. That means that when you drop the 60/40 split-folding rear seats, they leave an awkward step in the extended floor area.

There are plenty of larger hot hatches, both in terms of rear seat and boot space, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Hyundai i30N and the Ford Focus ST. They're all pricier than the Fiesta ST, though.

Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior rear seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Ford Fiesta undercuts the Volkswagen Polo GTI on price, but costs significantly more than the far less powerful Suzuki Swift Sport and fractionally more than the Hyundai i20 N.

The Fiesta ST and the i20 N are both predicted to have solid resale values, so they’re broadly on a par when it comes to PCP finance, and will average around 40mpg when driven carefully. You can find the best current prices with our free New Car Deals pages.

Standard equipment on the ST includes air conditioning, a heated front windscreen, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, keyless start, privacy glass, cruise control, red brake calipers, 18in alloy wheels, automatic high-beam, keyless entry and the Performance Pack.

When it comes to safety equipment, there’s lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition. Unfortunately, you don't get automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard – it comes with the optional Driver Assistance Pack.

Because of that, the Euro NCAP safety test doesn’t technically cover the Fiesta ST. The regular Ford Fiesta, which is available with more advanced AEB than the ST, was awarded the full five stars in 2017. Crash protection should be the same for the ST, and on that specific point, the Fiesta was outscored by the Polo, which offered better adult and child chest protection.

The standard Fiesta was rated 'poor' for reliability in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey compared with other value and small cars. Ford did badly in the overall manufacturer section of the survey too, coming joint 27th with Nissan out of 30 brands, beating only Land Rover and Fiat.

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Ford Fiesta ST 2022 interior infotainment
At a glance
New car deals
Target Price from £27,415
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Nearly new deals
From £15,900
RRP price range £27,415 - £27,415
Number of trims (see all)1
Number of engines (see all)1
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 42.2 - 42.2
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,069 / £1,814
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £2,138 / £3,628
Available colours