Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Mini Cooper S

A used Mini Cooper S has always been a sophisticated hot hatch, but can the raucous charms of Ford’s hottest Fiesta ST be enough to tempt you?...

Used Ford Fiesta ST vs Mini Cooper S

The Contenders

Ford Fiesta ST200

List price when new: £22,745

Price today: £14,500*

Available from: 2016-2017

Tweaked engine and suspension settings promise to make our favourite hot hatch an even bigger threat to a used Mini.

Mini Cooper S

List price when new: £22,780

Price today: £14,500*

Available from: 2014-present

It’s a similar price to a used ST200, so will the premium feel of the Mini prove irresistible?

*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

The hot hatchback is arguably the perfect choice for a petrolhead’s single-car garage. With the combination of a practical interior and giggle inducing handling, they work well in a huge variety of situations.

We’d argue that a used Ford Fiesta ST is the best of the breed. After all, it was our hot hatch of the year in 2017. However, even the mighty ST can be made even better, which is why Ford created the limited run ST200 in late 2016; a more powerful and sharper handling version of the regular Fiesta ST.

Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Mini Cooper S

The only issue is that you could have a much more sophisticated Mini Cooper S for a comparable amount of money. It’s similarly quick and feels much more premium inside. So, can the ST200 justify its price, or will the Mini’s premium charm win out?

What are they like to drive? 

The hot hatch is no stranger to a traffic light grand prix and here the on-paper figures suggest the Fiesta should trump the Mini. Despite our best efforts, though, the 0-60mph results we recorded swung in the Mini’s favour by nearly half a second. Even more surprisingly, the ST200 proved slightly slower than the regular Fiesta ST we’ve tested on previous occasions, despite the warm and dry conditions during this test.

However, the ST200 was quicker than the Mini when accelerating from low revs in any gear apart from sixth, mainly because of its shorter gearing. In fact, the Mini’s lanky gearing means that sometimes you have to change down into a surprisingly low gear to stir up enough pace for a snappy overtaking manoeuvre.

Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Mini Cooper S

Speed isn’t everything, of course. The Fiesta’s engine sounds racier and loves being revved to its redline, whereas the Mini’s motor doesn’t really encourage you to thrash it, despite a few pops and crackles from the exhaust when you select Sport mode (done by sliding a switch next to the gearlever). Talking of gearlevers, the Fiesta strikes another blow with a wonderfully precise, short-throw gearshift action, whereas the Mini’s gearbox always feels slightly notchy and rubbery by comparison.

For us, though, it’s how a hot hatch copes with a twisty ribbon of road that matters most, and in this respect the Fiesta is head, shoulders and a fair bit of torso above the Mini. Although the Mini shows initial promise, with quick steering and an eagerness to turn in to corners at moderate speeds, it’s progressively less fun the faster you go.

Pushed to its limits, the Mini leans over far more than the Fiesta and is far more reluctant to respond when you ask for a sudden change of tack. Push too hard in a corner and the Mini’s front wheels will run wide of your chosen line in a safe but unexciting manner, whereas the Fiesta is more neutral and precise when you approach its grip limits and far more playful as a result. It’s huge amounts of fun without ever being intimidating.

Driven more sedately, the Mini is marginally more comfortable in an urban environment, especially one equipped with optional adaptive dampers. At speed, both cars jostle you about on all but the smoothest of roads, but the Mini is just less wearing.

However, the Mini’s tyres kick up more road roar, so it’s fractionally noisier cruising at 70mph, even though the Fiesta’s engine never completely shuts up.

Next: What are they like inside? >

Page 1 of 4