Ford Fiesta ST long-term test: report 1

It's the most entertaining hot hatch available for less than £25,000, but is the Ford Fiesta ST also a great everyday car? We're living with one to find out...

Fiesta ST badge long-term report

The car Ford Fiesta ST-3 (5-Door) 1.5T Ecoboost Start/Stop 6-Speed Manual Run by Louis Shaw, social media manager

Why it’s here To find out if the latest Ford Fiesta ST can be the ultimate everyday driver’s car

Needs to be Fun to drive and yet usable everyday, plus economical both on long journeys and around town.

Mileage 463 List price £25,300 Target Price £23,696 Price as tested £27,200 Options fitted Silver Fox metallic paint (£750) Full LED headlamps (£600) Driver Assistance Pack (£550) Official economy 40.4mpg (WLTP) Test economy 41mpg

11 September 2020 – Get it while it’s hot

Life is full of compromises and, unsurprisingly, so too is car buying. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s always something you have to sacrifice in order to find the right balance. With factors like interior space, fuel economy, performance and price to weigh up, it's a lucky Goldilocks that finds her perfect porridge.

The task becomes especially challenging if, like me, you’re a keen driver looking for an affordable, do-it-all sporty car. But could a small hot hatch be the answer? Well, I certainly hope so, because my latest car is a Ford Fiesta ST.

Fiesta ST long-term me with car

For the unacquainted, this pocket rocket has already won a rather impressive list of accolades. It’s our favourite hot hatch for less than £25,000,  and the previous-generation version is our reigning Used Hot Hatch of the Year.

Our recommended trim is ST-2, but I decided to go for the £2600 more expensive ST-3, which provides several key features that I would find it difficult to do without, living as I do in the heart of London. Power-folding electric door mirrors, for example, are a must – forget to fold in your mirrors when parking on a narrow city street and chances are you’ll regret it.

With the colder days of autumn and winter on the way, I also reckon I’ll be grateful that ST-3 trim includes the Comfort Pack (otherwise a £300 extra), because this provides heating for the seats and steering wheel. And as the owner of one very adorable but very excitable little dog, the ST-3’s wipe-clean leather sports seats felt like a necessity.

Ford Fiesta ST long-term seats

Finally, on such a sporty car, I’m glad to have the ST Performance Pack: standard on ST-3, but a £950 option on the lower trim. This includes a limited slip differential (to improve traction out of corners), launch control (for rapid getaways) and something called a Performance Shift Indicator (essentially a light in the instrument panel that tells you when to change up to the next gear).

At the recommendation of my colleague Max Adams, who ran a Fiesta ST-Line with the standard halogen headlights earlier this year, I also opted for full LED headlights (a £600 option), which should perform substantially better than the standard bulbs.

I’ve not had the car for very long yet, but my early drives have been full of smiles. While an output of 197bhp might not sound like a vast amount, it precisely matches the figure of the rival Volkswagen Polo GTI and only falls short of the heavier, larger Golf GTI’s by 45bhp.

Ford Fiesta ST long-term lights

Put it this way, I’ve not found myself wanting more performance, with the ST’s 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine feeling punchy and responsive. In fact, because the Fiesta is quite a small car, you tend to feel like you’re going faster than you actually are, which is ideal in today’s camera-infested driving environment.

As a bonus, I can report that the engine is impressively frugal, averaging more than 40mpg so far and a lot more than that when I’m on the motorway.

And I haven’t even come to the best thing about the Fiesta ST yet: the way it handles. It turns into bends beautifully, feeling incredibly well balanced, while the steering is perfectly weighted. Again, it’s small size helps, making it feel very agile, whether I’m on a B-road or a back street.

Ford Fiesta long-term tracking

For all the smiles, though, there is one thing to gripe about, and that’s the ride, which is properly firm. I find this particularly strange given that the ST is supposed to represent dipping a pinky toe into the performance pool, rather than a full-blown plunge.

True, on roads outside of London, it’s less of a problem, but over the Capital's well worn surfaces it can be a real bone shaker. The big question mark at this early stage, then, is whether the fun will outweigh the discomfort in the long run.

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