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New Ford Fiesta ST vs used Honda Civic Type R: driving

At our 2021 new car awards, the Fiesta ST won best hot hatch for value, but is it as compelling a choice as a used Civic Type R for the same money?...

Ford Fiesta ST front

New Ford Fiesta ST vs used Honda Civic Type R – driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Both of these cars are front-wheel drive, and when you accelerate hard from a standstill that isn't ideal, because physics dictate that the front of the car becomes light, making it harder for the tyres to transfer power to the road.

This is a particular problem for the Civic Type R, because it has so much more power than its rival – 316bhp versus the 197bhp of the Fiesta ST. Even so, with measured use of the accelerator, the Civic Type R romps from 0-6omph in 5.5sec, whereas the Fiesta ST requires 6.8sec.  

The Civic Type R also revels in being worked hard; there's a real thrill to be had from winding it all the way up to its 7000rpm limit, although we'd wish its turbocharged, four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine was a little more tuneful, especially compared with the fruity soundtrack provided by the (again turbocharged) three-cylinder 1.5 in the Fiesta ST.

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Used Honda Civic Type R (2017-present)

The Civic Type R also scores with its perfectly positioned gear lever; a mere flick of your wrist and you’re in the next gear instinctively. The Fiesta ST has a jolly good gearchange by the standards of most hot hatches, but it can't match the Civic's positive, mechanical feel.

We've picked the Performance pack version of the Fiesta ST because it has a trick limited-slip differential to match the Civic Type R. The role of the differential is to make sure that power is put down more effectively when exiting tight corners, and in the Fiesta, it feels like the front tyres have grown talons that dig into the asphalt to drag you around. Without it, you'll need to be patient when accelerating out of bends due to the tyres struggling for traction.

The Civic Type R also impresses here, partly thanks to its own differential and partly thanks to its wider tyres. At higher speeds, the rather extreme looking exterior airflow extrusions (particularly that rear spoiler) help to provide downforce that keeps it planted to the road, making the Civic feel unflappable during fast cornering. The Fiesta ST also has high levels of grip, but it is more playful than the Civic, and will allow the rear of the car to pivot progressively if you provoke it by lifting off of the accelerator mid-corner.

2018 Ford Fiesta ST

Although the Fiesta’s steering is a little nervous just off the dead-ahead, with forced self-centring and a tendency to follow cambers in the road, its weighting becomes more predictable as you wind on more lock. The Civic’s steering is impossible to fault for accuracy but, in Sport and +R mode, can be too heavy for road driving – almost as though there’s someone on the other side of the wheel trying to turn it the other way. Fortunately, the weighting in Comfort mode is spot on, and while this does force you to have the suspension it its most relaxed setting, this allows the car to breathe beautifully with bumpy B-roads.

In fact, despite having bigger wheels, the Civic is easily the more forgiving of the two, smoothing over lumps and ridges better than many regular family hatchbacks. The Fiesta ST is a lot firmer, and only just stays on the right side of uncomfortable to be tolerable in everyday driving.


New Ford Fiesta ST vs used Honda Civic Type R – costs

Fuel economy, car tax, reliability

You can understand why we rate the Fiesta ST as a value-packed hot hatch with its affordable £24,980 list price, and our free What Car? New Car Buying service can reduce that to just £23,808. Quite a bargain.

But then so too is a used Honda Civic Type R. Our Valuation Tool puts a 2017 example in GT form with low mileage at an even more affordable £22,688. What's more, the Civic is predicted to lose less of its value over the next three years compared with a brand new Fiesta ST over a similar period, helping to offset the Civic Type R's higher servicing costs.

Honda Civic Type R 2018 right side tracking shot

Both of our examples comfortably sneak under the £40,000 threshold for car tax when new, so yearly VED will incur no additional penalties over the flat rate fee of £155.

Clever fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and its smaller engine help the Fiesta ST to achieve an official average economy figure of 42.8mpg against the Civic’s 33.2mpg

Ford offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty with the Fiesta ST, whereas the Civic Type R will have none of its original manufacturer's warranty left. A 12 month extended warranty can be purchased for £429.99, or you could get 12 months used approved warranty when purchasing a used Civic from a franchised Honda dealer.

Mind you, that extended warranty might not be needed because Honda as a brand finished in an impressive eighth place in our 2020 What Car? Reliability survey. Ford was 18th.