2018 Ford Fiesta ST Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Ford Fiesta ST Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL Just what a baby hot-hatch should be. Huge fun for a small price, and you can comfortably use it every day.
2018 Ford Fiesta ST (European spec)
Price Approx $30,000 Warranty three years, 100,000km Engine 1.5l turbo 3cyl Power 147kW at 46000rpm Torque 290Nm at 1600-4000rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Drive front-wheel drive Body 4068mm (l); 1783mm (w exc mirrors); 1941mm (w inc mirrors); 1469mm (h) Turning circle 11.0m Towing weight N/Akg (braked), N/Akg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1283kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 42 litres Spare No Thirst 6.0 l/100km combined cycle Fuel Petrol
AUSTRALIANS DON’T have much love for small hatchbacks, so Ford won’t be bringing in most of the new Fiesta range. But this, the ST, is the exception, because Australians love a fast Ford, and the ST is a great example. Which you might be finding hard to believe when its engine is just three cylinders and 1.5 litres.
What is the Ford Fiesta ST?
If the broad-brush position of the ST hasn’t greatly changed, all the details are different. The whole bodyshell is stronger, the track is wider, the suspension uses all new parts, the interior looks very different and is loaded with Ford’s latest connected infotainment.
Most of all, the engine is new. It’s fallen to the fashion for downsizing. hence the loss of 100cc and a cylinder compared with the old one. One of the cardinal rules of hot cars is that the new one must always be more powerful than the old one. Ford has been confident enough to break that rule. The power output stays where it was on the outgoing limited-edition Fiesta ST200.
The only reasons the new one gets to 100km/h more quickly are stickier tyres and launch control. It shaves 0.2 seconds off the old car’s standing-start time, down now to 6.5 seconds. See, a performance bargain.
The reason for the donkey transplant is of course economy. A small unit should drink less in light running, and this one is especially canny because it has a system to cut off the fuel and airflow through one of the cylinders. If your foot is only lightly on the pedal, it’ll be running on just two. You can’t feel the join.
The engineers swear the new car goes 10 percent further on a litre than the old one, real-world.
If it doesn’t have more power, it does generate more force going round corners and braking. A wider track and newer tyres both mean more grip than before. An easy win, but the engineers obsessed on making sure you don’t feel disconnected from that action. Plus, to quicken the car’s nerves, the steering rack has the most direct ratio on any Ford.
Torque vectoring quells understeer by braking the inside wheel under power. But that’s a negative solution, wasting power. To solve that – optional in Europe but likely standard for Oz – is a true mechanical limited-slip differential from motorsports people Quaife.
For the rear suspension, The ST uses brand-new patent springs, wound asymmetrically with wire of varying thickness. These have the effect of pushing sideways against the car when the wheel rises into the body during cornering load. This added lateral stiffness makes the car steer more precisely, so in compensation the springs and bushes could be made softer, which improves the ride. Extra body bracing also makes the reactions more precise.
One of the significant new complications is a drive mode switch. Cycling from normal to sport to track jigs up the throttle mapping, brings on fiercer engine sound (via an actual exhaust flap and some digital enhancement), weights up the steering a little, loosens the ESP and turns off traction control. Launch control comes with the high-spec models.
What’s the interior like?
It’s like the new base-model Fiesta, but since that car won’t be sold in Oz we’d better elaborate.
Instead of the old button-crazy infotainment system, we now find a big screen running Ford’s excellent Sync3 system. And if you don’t like the Sync OS, it can also do phone mirroring, in Apple or Android flavours.
The driving position is better than before, as you sit lower down, in a clenching Recaro chair that has adjustments for height, cushion angle, backrest and lumbar. the steering wheel tilts and telescopes too. A short gearlever operates though a satisfyingly quick and concise throw. Only issue with all this is a brake pedal that’s a bit high, making it tricky to heel-and-toe your downshifts.
For the ST, there are branded and re-shaped steering wheel, gearknob, aluminium pedal faces, and red-needle clocks. The overall effect is unmistakably hot-hatch vernacular.
A B&O Play sound system is optional its sub taking the place of the spare wheel. It has a tight, spacious sound, but the treble is a bit harsh. Twin cupholders nestle alongside the handbrake (a manual one for skidding fun) and they’re prettily lit at night. You get two door bins and power points.
Even for a baby car, rear room isn’t brilliant. Ford hasn’t decided yet whether Oz will get the three-door or five-door. The boot is just under 300 litres.
By the way, while the old ST was three-door, Ford now makes it in three-and five-door formats for Europe. The Australian division hasn’t yet decided which of these it will import.
What’s it like on the road?
We know Ford can do handling. It’s no great spoiler alert to tell you the ST does that stuff brilliantly. So let’s park the detail examination of the chassis, and start with the engine. Are three pistons enough?
The starter button invokes a pattery burble from the tailpipes. Not loud, but interesting and meaningful. It’s followed by easily-found turbo boost, turning up from well below 3000rpm.
From there you can swing through the revs happily. The character of the throttle-on noise isn’t the twitter of most little triples. It has a seriousness and intent. The Sport mode opens an exhaust flap, as well as adding a little electronic amplification of certain harmonics, and it gives you pops on the over-run. But it’s never anti-socially loud.
Pity then that the limiter only a little way beyond 6000, because by then the engine is still goading you to go further. No deal-breaker though, because you can find decent performance without going near the red zone. All in then, a more interesting engine to drive than the old one, as well as more economical. Win.
Corners, then. It rolls more than you might expect, but progressively. And because of those new rear springs, the roll doesn’t kill the precision. You ask, you get. The steering is super-quick, but again the precision means that if you’ve put on the right amount of lock, you can keep it on and the car won’t squidge out of shape beneath you.
There’s loads of grip now – definitely more than the old ST. But this isn’t one of those cars that’s dull to drive unless you’re at its limit. Even going comparatively gently through a corner there’s still feedback through the wheel. It’s playful and alive.
Still, hit a corner like your pants are on fire and it’s impeccable. The inside rear wheel lifts off the surface, the front wheels magnetise themselves to the apex and you swivel around. The limited-slip diff lets you dole out the power absurdly early in the bend and the nose still resists going wide. Lift-off and the tail eases wide, but controllably. This all made me yowl with delight.
Accelerating on a bumpy road, you can sense torque steer, but it’s minor enough to be counted just part of the feedback, rather than something to knock you off course and slow you down.
The ride is taut, of course, and the damping controls undulations and body heave very nicely. But those same dampers are able to loosen their force for sudden sharp impacts, so potholes and gritty surfaces get dispatched with little fuss.
So the ST gives you the stimulants you want – engine noise and cornering feedback. But you don’t get the stuff you don’t want. The ride isn’t too harsh, the tyres aren’t noisy and the wind rush is well subdued. That doesn’t only make it a surprisingly good long-distance car, it also makes it feel a very thoroughly engineered one.
What about safety?
The new-generation Fiesta, which has a stronger body than the 2012 car, has scored a comfortable five stars in the Euro NCAP test – comparable with the Australian test. It also picked up an average 60 percent for the safety assist features, but in fact the ST gets more of those features as standard so would have done better at NCAP. Airbag count is six (front and side for the two people in the front, plus full-length curtain bags) and there are two rear Isofix mounts.
Substantial effort has been piled into the active safety features. Overall the list is about as comprehensive as any other small car. City braking with pedestrian detection system is standard. Other notables are blind-spot warning with cross-traffic detection, driver drowsiness warning and an effective lane keeping aid with an easily accessible on/off switch. Driver assist tech includes adaptive cruise control, speed limiter, active park assist, rear-view camera, and traffic sign recognition. LED headlamps shine bright at night.
So, what do we think?
Great small hatches aren’t just handy for city life. Out on the road they fizz with energy and feedback. They beg to be thrashed, and unlike huge overpowered supercars they can be thrashed without needing wide-open roads and zero speed enforcement. The Fiesta ST is a brilliant example. It gives you a good time, all the time.