"Fast and fun yet practical and economical, the latest Ford Fiesta ST is as great a hot hatch as ever"
If you’re in the market for a small hot hatchback you’d be forgiven for being a little overwhelmed. A worthy shortlist of talented candidates includes the Peugeot 208 GTi, Suzuki Swift Sport, Volkswagen Polo GTI and MINI Cooper S – but the Ford Fiesta ST, for many the traditional class leader, was notable by its absence after the previous-generation model went out of production in 2017. Thankfully, May of 2018 saw the return of an all-new version.
Ford has pulled out all the stops to make sure the latest Fiesta ST can reclaim its crown. There’s a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 197bhp, giving the ST a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds – thanks in part to an overboost feature. Despite this performance, economy is respectable; the car’s engine can shut down one of its three cylinders at lower engine speeds to save fuel while you're cruising, helping it return over 40mpg.
During more spirited driving, the short-shift six-speed manual gearbox can be ‘flatshifted’, meaning you don’t have to take your foot off the throttle when changing gear. Launch control is also included if you specify the optional Performance Pack, along with a limited-slip differential to improve traction and gear shift lights.
Hot hatchbacks aren’t all about straight-line speed though, and the Fiesta ST really comes alive when tackling a twisty road. Fast, accurate, communicative steering and an impressive suspension setup with clever dampers mean the ST feels poised and lively through corners, with plenty of grip. The optional limited-slip differential and standard torque-vectoring make it easy to put power down out of corners, while the car’s electronic stability control system can be backed off gradually via selectable driving modes if you don't want them to intervene prematurely on a race track.
A Performance Edition version is also offered, adding lightweight alloy wheels and coilover suspension that can be adjusted by the owner. It comes in a bright orange paint and costs around £2,500 extra. For most owners, the standard ST is better value but the Performance Edition is the ultimate version of the car from a handling perspective.
The good news is that all of this potential for fun has not come at the expense of day-to-day usability. The Fiesta ST loses none of the standard car’s space and practicality, with the same interior layout and identical boot space. Unlike some rivals, both three and five-door versions are available too. The ST also benefits from the same five-star Euro NCAP safety rating as the standard Fiesta. Provided you can afford the higher running costs, there’s no reason why the Fiesta ST couldn’t serve perfectly well as everyday transport.
The Fiesta ST doesn’t give much cause for complaint, but those who value pliant suspension and relaxed cruising may find it slightly too firm, especially over rougher surfaces. While the car’s sporty suspension actually does a fine job of keeping the driver in control over undulating roads, ride quality does suffer slightly even in the most relaxed driving mode.
If you don’t mind a harder, less relaxed edge to your motoring experience though, the Ford Fiesta ST is one of the best cars in its class. It’s more fun to drive than the Volkswagen Polo GTI, faster and more engaging than the latest Suzuki Swift Sport, and more than a match for the enthusiast-favourite Peugeot 208 GTi.
For a more detailed look at the Ford Fiesta ST, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback - MPG, running costs & CO2
Clever engine technology means the Ford Fiesta ST’s running costs are relatively sensible
Gone are the days when choosing a performance model means taking a massive hit when it comes to running costs. Today’s hot hatches are designed to balance performance with efficiency and the Ford Fiesta ST is no exception. With an engine that can shut down one of its three cylinders when not required (the first time this technology has appeared on a production three-cylinder engine), the ST can return decent fuel economy and emissions figures despite its considerable performance. The 2.0-litre VW Polo GTI is almost as efficient though, presumably because its larger engine isn’t working as hard.
The Ford Fiesta ST’s 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine is powerful, but thanks to some clever technology it manages to be relatively frugal. Between 1,200 and 4,500rpm, or at less than half throttle, the ST’s engine can shut down one of its three cylinders to improve economy by up to 6%, according to Ford. In our experience, the switch between three and two-cylinder drive (and back again) is almost imperceivable.
Ford quotes an average fuel economy figure of 40.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 158g/km. Road tax will cost £150 per year. Company-car users will have to contend with a high Benefit-in-Kind rate. During our time with the car, we averaged just over 38mpg across several hundred miles of motorway and town driving.
It’s worth remembering that although the ST is derived from humble stock, its consumable parts will cost more to replace. Its larger brakes and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport tyres will be more expensive to replace when compared to other Fiesta models.
The ST is the most expensive Fiesta variant to insure, sitting in group 28 out of 50, or group 30 if you buy the Performance Edition.
As with all Fords, the Fiesta ST comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty as standard. This can be extended to a four-year/80,000-mile or a five-year/100,000-mile plan at a price, though it is not yet clear if prices will command a premium over the standard car. As it stands, an extension to four years is quoted as £190 for the standard Fiesta, or £350 for a five-year plan. Roadside assistance is also included for one year.
Customers can choose a Ford Protect Service Plan – a one-off payment plan that covers scheduled servicing, replacement vehicle hire and more. Higher-mileage drivers can opt for Ford Protect Service Plan Plus, which adds additional covered replacement parts, like shock absorbers, exhaust silencers and brake pads.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback - Engines, drive & performance
The Ford Fiesta ST lives up to its reputation; it’s both fast and great fun to drive
Fans of the previous Ford Ford Fiesta ST won’t be disappointed with the latest model, despite its numerous mechanical changes; this is a hot hatch that does everything right. Its smaller engine lacks the character of the four-cylinder found in its predecessor, but there’s still more than enough low-down punch, an eagerness to rev and a suitably sporty exhaust note. Some rivals offer a more traditional four-cylinder engine, but those looking for great performance will not be left wanting by the Ford’s three-cylinder – which itself is lighter and therefore helps towards a better-handling machine.
Add the optional Performance Pack (costing around £900) and you’ll benefit from a limited-slip differential (LSD) made by specialist company Quaife; this helps the ST put its power down more convincingly, especially when exiting corners, limiting excessive wheelspin. Launch control also comes as part of the pack, making fast getaways a breeze, along with shift lights to let you know when best to change gear.
Add the optional Performance Pack (costing around £900) and you’ll benefit from a limited-slip differential made by specialist company Quaife; this helps the ST put its power down more convincingly, especially when exiting corners, limiting excessive wheelspin. Launch control also comes as part of the pack, making fast getaways a breeze, along with shift lights to let you know when best to change gear.
Ford Fiesta ST petrol engine
The Ford Fiesta ST is powered by a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with three cylinders, one turbocharger and plenty of power - 197bhp, plus extra low-down power when the standard overboost feature kicks in. The 0-62mph sprint takes 6.5 seconds and the car’s top speed is 144mph. The engine feels strong, producing a suitably rorty exhaust note that’s helped along by Ford’s Electronic Sound Enhancement, which uses the car’s stereo to further improve the sound. Select Sport or Track modes and the car’s exhaust will pop and crackle when you lift off the accelerator.
The only real drawback of the car’s switchable modes is the location of the switchgear, which is located low down by the gearstick. This can make cycling through the various modes a bit fiddly on the move but it does become easier with practice.
The previous Fiesta ST was more keen to rev to its redline, whereas the new model’s three-cylinder doesn’t feel like it needs to be revved past 5,500rpm – something that owners of the old car might miss. However, keen drivers will enjoy the ST’s delightful short-shift six-speed gearbox, which comes complete with a 'flat-shift' feature. Simply keep your right foot flat to the floor on the accelerator pedal and change gear using the clutch as usual; the car will automatically hold the engine on a limiter between gearchanges. However in our experience the result doesn’t feel too kind to the clutch, so we doubt most owners will use it in practice.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback - Interior & comfort
The Ford Fiesta’s interior gets a sporty makeover, but outright comfort is not a priority
Those familiar with the standard Ford Fiesta will recognise most of the ST’s interior; it’s more or less business as usual, save for a few sporty touches. Chief among these are a set of very supportive Recaro sports seats (with an even more adjustable version as an option), which do a great job of holding you in place during fast cornering. The driving position is excellent, which is more than can be said of some of the Fiesta ST’s closest rivals, which often sit the driver too high up.
The Fiesta ST is more refined than ever before, but don’t expect this hot hatch to be the last word in comfort and relaxed cruising. The car’s sporty setup means that it rides fairly firmly; this can get uncomfortable over particularly rough tarmac at higher speeds, but generally the ST feels poised and controlled rather than pliant and cosseting. The car feels slightly fidgety on some roads, but that edge is exactly what many driving enthusiasts may miss from some of the ST’s rivals.
Ford Fiesta dashboard
The ST’s dashboard is carried over wholesale from the standard Ford Fiesta, albeit with a few small changes. Carbon fibre style trim, a flat-bottomed ST-badged steering wheel and a metallic-finished gearlever all feature, while optional shift lights sit in the dial cluster.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback infotainment display20
Build quality is good and materials are generally of a decent quality but neither are a match for the VW Polo GTI. It's a big improvement on the older model, though, with much more impressive tech. Most of the changes for the Fiesta ST Edition are mechanical but it does get unique blue stitching inside, along with some carbon-fibre-effect trim. There's also a new steering wheel with a shortcut button for the Sport driving mode.
There are two trim levels to choose from: ST-2 and ST-3. There's a comprehensive list of standard equipment, including ST-specific styling inside and out, sports suspension, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, cruise control and Ford’s ‘NCAP Pack’, which includes lane-keep assist and a speed limiter.
The ST-2 trim also includes climate control, heated seats, blue seatbelts, a B&O Play stereo and a larger eight-inch infotainment screen are all added. Top-spec ST-3 versions get the largest 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers, sat nav, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a suite of driver assistance systems that includes traffic sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlights and driver alert.
There are a few good-value options available for the Fiesta ST. Enthusiastic drivers would do well to choose the aforementioned Performance Pack for its limited-slip differential, launch control and shift lights for around £900; LED headlights and a Driver Assistance Pack are also good additions for £500 and £550 respectively. A panoramic sunroof costs £700.
Save for its ST-specific drive-mode selection functionality, the SYNC 3 infotainment system featuring in the sportiest Fiesta is as good as ever. The system’s screen positioning may look like a bit of an afterthought but it’s great to use; pinch-and-swipe gestures are recognised and the system’s wide range of functions means there are far fewer buttons than were found inside the previous Fiesta ST.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback - Practicality & boot space
The Ford Fiesta ST’s extra performance hasn’t dented its practical supermini credentials
Put simply, the Fiesta ST is no less practical than the more ‘sensible’ Fiesta models. There’s ample space in both three and five-door models, meaning it’s as family friendly as a car of this type can be – the rear doors on five-door versions open particularly wide too. Boot space is similarly unaffected.
Ford Fiesta ST interior space and storage
Occupants of the front seats get the best deal in the Ford Fiesta ST, as its excellent Recaro sports seats are supportive, adjustable and comfortable. Legroom in the rear is much the same as standard versions, meaning there’s about as much space as you’d find in the back of a Polo GTI. Headroom is still an issue as in other Fiestas; taller passengers are best carried up front.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback boot20
The same array of cubbies features on the ST as on the standard Fiesta; there’s a glovebox that’s 20% bigger than in the old model, while a one-litre storage bin can be found in the centre console. Each door pocket can carry a 500ml water bottle with ease.
The Fiesta ST is exactly the same as other models in the range when it comes to the boot, and that’s no bad thing. There’s a wide tailgate that opens to reveal a 292-litre boot; fold the rear seats and this expands to 1,093 litres. As with other Fiestas, an optional variable boot floor will help you make the most of this extended space or to store smaller items separately.
Ford Fiesta ST hatchback - Reliability & safety
The Ford Fiesta ST is just as safe as the standard car, though reliability is still relatively unknown
Thanks to its fairly recent arrival on the market, there’s precious little ownership data available for the new Ford Fiesta, never mind the sporty ST model. Its impressive safety credentials have been verified, however, with a five-star rating from Euro NCAP.
Ford Fiesta ST reliability
As stated above, the new Fiesta is still a recently launched model, so judging its long-term reliability isn't really possible. However, the standard Fiesta did enter our 2020 Driver Power survey in 71st place, low down in the rankings of the top 75 UK models with 17.3% of owners reporting one or more faults in the first year. It's a worrying result for Ford, suggesting the quality issues of previous years have not yet been fully resolved.
Ford finished in 24th place from 30 car makers in our 2020 brand survey, with owners complaining of poor exterior build quality and that boot capacity could be more generous. It wasn’t all bad news though, with owners praising the ride quality and handling of their cars. Overall, 15.6% of owners reported a fault in the first year of ownership.
The previous generation ST sold well and did not suffer from any particularly serious ailments; hopefully the latest car will continue in the same vein.
The Ford Fiesta ST benefits from the standard Fiesta’s five-star Euro NCAP rating. This was broken down into adult and child occupant protection ratings of 87% and 84% respectively, while a rating of 64% was given for pedestrian protection. The Fiesta’s 60% driver assistance rating is only average, but there are a number of systems that come as standard on certain ST models that don’t feature further down the Fiesta range, including lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and driver alert. Optional LED headlights and a blind-spot monitoring system are options worth adding to make your Fiesta ST as safe as possible.