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Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Mini Cooper S
You'll get plenty of change from £15k if you buy either of these used hot hatches. Time to find out which is best...
Ford Fiesta ST200
List price when new: £22,745
Price today: £14,000*
Available from: 2016-2017
Tweaked engine and suspension settings over the standard ST make this one of our favourite used hot hatches
Mini Cooper S
List price when new: £22,780
Price today: £11,500*
Available from: 2014-present
The Mini is plusher inside than the ST200, and a lot more affordable, but is it the better buy?
*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Hot hatches are a blend of silly and sensible: cars with driving thrills to suit a twisty B road, as well as a practical boot to suit your weekly shop. But above all, fun is the name of the game, and that's why one of the very best used options is the Ford Fiesta ST.
Specifically, here we're looking at the ST200, a limited-run version introduced in 2016, which offers more power and sharper handling than the regular ST, although it does cost more as a result.
Indeed, you'll pay several thousands more than you will for a Mini Cooper S of the same vintage, despite that car feeling significantly more premium inside. So, can the Fiesta justify its higher price?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
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.
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 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 that was specified with optional adaptive dampers by its first owner. 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.
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