One of my personal favourite roads is doing one lap around Lake Geneva. It’s a mix of driving through scenic roads, little towns and villages, as well as the occasional open and empty stretches. You basically start from Geneva and head to Montreux, then into France and onto Evian, then back into Geneva again. In total it’s around 172km, and considering that I haven’t done this wonderful route in years, I was very thrilled to be able to do it in the highly-praised Ford Fiesta ST.
Looking at this “Race Red” Ford Fiesta ST, it’s definitely a car that’s eye-catching. Its 17-inch wheels, low stance and roof spoiler add to that sporty look too. Despite the bright colour, it doesn’t make the driver seem like a desperate attention seeker, and it shouldn’t bring the driver any shame if they were to pull up at a dinner reception or posh restaurant. It’s also the kind of car that seems at home everywhere, whether it’s in a millionaire’s garage or a street parking outside a waiter’s apartment.
On paper, the little Fiesta ST looks like it’s ready to offer a good blend of good performance and fuel economy. Being a modern hot hatch, the Fiesta ST has a turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection – a 1.6-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine producing 182hp and 240Nm of torque, sending power exclusively through a six-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. The turbocharger produces 1 bar/14.5 psi of boost (1.4 bar/20 psi on overboost). Combine the powerplant with a low weight of about 1,100kg, and the car can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 223km/h. As for fuel economy, Ford claims that the Fiesta ST will average 5.9l/100km on the combined cycle and emit 138g/km of CO2.
The Fiesta ST as a hot hatch
Before going on my lap around the lake, I first had to find out how the Fiesta ST behaves on a twisty mountain road – the road between Nyon and St. Cergue would give me the answers. Although this car isn’t as fast and agile as Ken Block’s Gymkhana car, driving the Fiesta ST will make you understand why he chose it as a base. Guide the car around one of this road’s hairpin bends, and it pivots nicely around the inside front wheel. Grip levels are quite decent too, despite the fact that this car was wearing Pirelli winter tyres. The torque doesn’t overwhelm the front wheels either, and although there is some torque steer, it’s not as noticeable as in the bigger Focus ST.
While the Fiesta ST doesn’t have a mechanical limited-slip differential ensuring proper distribution of power between the front wheels, its eTVC (enhanced Torque Vectoring Control) system is a good substitute – braking a spinning inside wheel and diverting power to the other wheel for better traction. The gear-change action is light yet mechanical and precise – it feels fantastic. This car also has the same Recaro bucket seats found in the Focus ST, and again they’re brilliant, providing a great balance between comfort and holding you firmly in place while cornering.
Having experienced the car on a twisty mountain road, we can finally see how it behaves on the more open roads found around Lake Geneva. The Fiesta ST is a firm-riding car, actually more so than the Focus ST. Its stiffness helps keep the car planted when you up the pace, but there is some sacrifice in comfort as a result. The steering is nicely weighted and it guides the car exactly where you want it. Many motoring journalists complain that electric power-steering systems aren’t as good as hydraulic systems, but this is a good system as far as electric units are concerned. The engine is definitely one of the standout features of the Fiesta ST, having so much available grunt pretty much throughout the rev range. Yes, you will feel some turbo lag if you’re in a high gear and going at low speeds, but the turbo does spool up quickly.
While the Fiesta ST has Ford’s “Sound Symposer” – essentially a tube that channels engine noise in to the cabin – the engine note isn’t that great. The Sound Symposer is also found in the bigger Focus ST, and in that car the engine sounds brilliant, sounding like a highly-tuned naturally-aspirated engine. In the Fiesta ST, all you get is more engine noise. However, if you pay attention, you will hear a nice turbo whistle as well as the wastegate dumping excess air when you let go of the gas pedal.
The Fiesta ST as an everyday car
Take the car on to the highway, and you realise just how gutsy the engine is. You never have to take it out of sixth gear at any speed over 70km/h, as the car will pull convincingly all the way to the Swiss 120km/h national speed limit (and beyond). There’s not much wind or tyre roar either, but bumpy sections of the highway are more noticeable due to the firm suspension.
Apart from the firm ride and strong engine, the Fiesta ST is just as easy to drive around town as any other small hatchback. The steering is very light at manoeuvring speed and weights up when you start gathering pace. Parking is easy, and its turning circle is a lot better than the Focus ST’s. It’s also got some decent space in the back too. Four adults can fit comfortably in the three-door ST, but I managed to seat five passengers without much fuss. Mind you the rear passengers were one average-sized man and two thin women – if you tried fitting three rugby players it might be a different story
Pricing and equipment
At CHF 27,590, the Fiesta ST is probably one of the most well-priced performance cars you can buy. However, if you want a car as well-equipped as this press car you will have to pay CHF 29,160. For the extra money you get: Performance Pack I, which includes “Rado Grey” 17-inch wheels, red-painted brake callipers, and illuminated door sills; Tempomat cruise control; and a Sony satellite navigation system with DAB+. You do get a lot of features as standard, such as: climate control, keyless entry and push-button ignition, heated Recaro bucket seats, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, as well as an auxiliary input jack. The Fiesta ST is definitely a nice place to sit in, only the nasty-looking plastic surrounding the gear lever and climate control is unwelcome.
In the UK, buyers can opt for a Mountune performance pack which gives the Fiesta ST 215hp. Ford of Switzerland has confirmed that the Mountune pack will be available for Swiss buyers in the near future, but they aren’t saying when exactly. While the Fiesta ST is offered as a five-door car in the United States, there are no plans to make it available in Europe.
The standout factor
The Ford Fiesta ST definitely is one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven, but its firm ride doesn’t make it as good an all-rounder as the bigger Focus ST. With that said, the Fiesta ST is slightly more engaging to drive when the roads get twisty, and despite being less powerful than a Focus ST, it doesn’t feel that much slower. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fiesta ST would be more than able to keep up with a Focus ST on twisty roads, with both being driven by expert drivers. But, what’s really compelling about the Fiesta ST is that the performance is available at a very decent price.
By Alex Kisiri