Has owning a ‘hot Ford’ ever carried more cache? Arguably not. With the Ford Focus RS receiving universal praise from the automotive press, the new GT taking victory exactly 50 years on from Ford’s iconic 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans, and the Ford Fiesta ST200 moving the yard stick – yet, again – for performance hatches, Ford's performance division is on something of a roll.
So, it comes as no surprise the company has decided to capitalise on this recent success with a new Ford Performance inspired ST-Line. On paper, the idea is a novel one. Replace the lukewarm Ford Fiesta Zetec S trim with a line-up that offers customers a more aggressive look and set-up, while still retaining the previous model’s everyday usability and reasonable running costs.
With prices starting at £15,795, all ST variants receive a full bodykit that includes a rear diffuser, a roof spoiler, a black honeycomb-style grille and dark surrounds for the foglights. Sports suspension that lowers ride height by 10mm and intricate 17in eight-spoke alloys complete the package.
As expected, under the bonnet, things are slightly less exciting. UK buyers will initially get three versions of Ford’s three-cylinder 1.0 petrol unit to choose from, plus the 94bhp 1.5 TDCi diesel. All should offer impressive fuel economy figures, and crucially, the three lower-powered motors produce less than 100g/km of CO2 emissions.
A key question still remains, however: does this new model provide a sufficiently engaging driving experience to justify the ST tag in its name?
What's the 2016 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 140 ST-Line like to drive?
Any worries that the turbocharged engine and lowered suspension might have corrupted the day-to-day driveability of the Fiesta are soon put to rest. The clutch is easy to modulate, the 1.0 engine has impressive roll-on performance and the ride, albeit firm, is a world away from the stiffly sprung set-up of the more potent ST.
Heading out of town, the Fiesta continues to impress. Bury your right foot and the compact three-cylinder motor pulls strongly, doing a stellar job of mimicking the power delivery of its more potent bigger brother – the ST200.
The motor starts producing power from 1800rpm, accelerates hard between 3000-4000rpm and keeps on pulling all the way to its 6500rpm redline. It’s a brilliantly flexible unit, and despite producing a rather underwhelming three-cylinder thrum at high revs, it still feels genuinely characterful.
However, even more impressive than the engine is the Fiesta’s revised chassis. Take the steering for example; it’s well weighted, provides the driver with a surprising amount of communication and allows you to place the car exactly where you want it. Granted, this direct set-up - combined with softer springs than you’d find on an ST - results in some body lean through bends, but it’s a predictable characteristic and one that helps the ST-Line flow down the road.
As an all rounder, it's a far more tempting proposition than the more expensive Renault Clio GT-Line and the less engaging Corsa SRi VX Line.
What's the 2016 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 140 ST-Line like inside?
The third-generation Fiesta is now eight years old, and it shows. The sheer number of switches on the dashboard are simply confusing, the 4.2in TFT infotainment screen is hard to read, and the plethora of plastics used throughout the dash results in a rather dreary looking interior.
ST-Line cars recieve red-stitched sports seats, a leather-clad steering wheel, aluminium pedals and ST-Line kick plates, but this isn’t enough to lift an interior that feels distinctly past its best.
Thankfully, the decent driving position is still there. You sit quite high for a sports hatch, but there’s plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat so getting comfortable isn’t too much of a challenge.
On the practiality front, it's worth remembering that the Fiesta’s 290-litre boot is bigger than that of a Vauxhall Corsa or Volkswagen Polo.
Should I buy one?
With its sharp looks, excellent driving manners and day-to-day flexibility the Fiesta ST-Line is a seriously tempting proposition.
In four-door 138bhp guise it’s not exactly cheap, with prices starting at £17,195, but running costs should be kept low thanks to an official combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg and its relatively eco-friendly CO2 emissions of 104g/km. The Fiesta is also well equipped, with a Quickclear heated windscreen, air-con, SYNC and Bluetooth connectivity all coming as standard.
So, if you are looking for a versatile hatchback that’s as engaging as it is practical, the new ST-Line should most certainly be on your shortlist.
What Car? says...
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Vauxhall Corsa SRi VX Line
Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI
Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 140 ST-Line
Engine size 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from £17,195
Torque 133lb ft
Top speed 125mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 62.8mpg
CO2/BIK band 104g/km, 20%