2020 Ford Fiesta ST review
FORD’S FIESTA ST is one of the benchmark hot hatches of the last decade. Given a chance to drive the new-generation ST here in Australia, we were more than keen to see if it will carry the baton into the 2020s.
IN A NUTSHELL: The new Fiesta ST is a cracking good hot hatch and should be considered by any enthusiast looking for a new pocket rocket.
THE GOOD: Driver’s seating position is better than ever, lovely triple turbo motor, handling remains playful yet immensely capable.
THE BAD: Could look hotter, we miss the three-door body, some will want auto rev-matching.
Blimey, what has Ford done to the Fiesta ST? It’s now grown bigger, added a couple of doors and lost a cylinder. Has the ultimate bang-for-bucks hot hatch lost its panache?
Ford Australia likely moved heaven and earth to get this car onto our shores, so despite receiving just the one specification and body type unlike the UK’s myriad options, we should be darn thankful we’ve got one at all. And after just one drive, we are.
Anyone with even a cursory interest in hot hatches over the last five years would know that the Fiesta ST racked up more awards at publications the world over than it could fit in its boot, and so naturally it has a faithful tribe of enthusiastic followers. Now, to wipe any fear that this new-gen model doesn’t live up to the heights of its predecessor – and causing premature collectability of the old three-door – we can tell you this: it’s a ripper of a car. Though it doesn’t come without a few minor considerations.
What is the Ford Fiesta ST?
The third Fiesta ST (Sports Technologies) from Ford, this new model is a snippet of DNA from an even longer lineage of sporty Fiestas, beginning in 1981 with the Fiesta XR2. More recently, it replaces the ST based on the sixth-generation Fiesta (which left Aussie showrooms in 2018) and will be the only seventh-generation Fiesta sold down under.
So we have this thrummy little three-pot hatch soon to hit dealers, now with five-doors (a three-door variant won’t be offered) and in just the one guise. Interestingly, colonial Australia takes all of the good bits from the three variants on offer in the UK and puts it on our one model, which it needs to because the price has jumped out of the attractive sub-$30k bracket.
What does the Ford Fiesta ST cost and what do you get?
What turned the previous Fiesta ST from honey to gold was that despite its cracking performance you could pick one up brand new from $27,490 plus on-road costs. Times have changed, unfortunately, and the new model is priced at $31,990 plus on-roads with only two options – a sunroof ($2500), and metallic paint ($650).
But you do get some good gear. There are 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, partial leather Recaro sports seats, climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, B&O 10-speaker sound system, infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-appointed gear shift and steering wheel, automatic headlights and wipers, power-folding door mirrors, and keyless entry and start. You can also bank on plenty of safety equipment except for adaptive cruise control. And then added to all of that are parts reserved for the Performance Pack overseas that we get standard; a Quaife limited-slip differential, launch control and a shift light.
The thing is, that new price puts it far above the Suzuki Swift Sport at $25,490, and almost bang on with the VW Polo GTI and Renault Clio R.S, three competent competitors in the field, though servicing is offered fixed for four-years/60,000km at $299 for A and B visits.
What’s the Ford Fiesta ST interior like?
Thanks to Ford ditching its plastic-fantastic interior of yesteryear, all new-gen product from the blue oval celebrates a much cleaner cabin and dash layout. Central to the dash in the Fiesta is an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Sync3 software, which means you have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB+ radio, two USB ports (in the centre console), Bluetooth and satellite maps (built-in).
It’s a much nicer unit than the old-gen car and matched to the 10-speaker B&O sound system we found it was more than enough to rattle the door panels (which are mostly plastic but accented with some nice sporty trims). Mores the pity that run-of-the-mill Fiestas with much the same interior makeup won’t make it here.
The seats are comfortable (more on this in the section below) and feature three-way heating to match the heated steering wheel – both premium appointments in a relatively lightweight hot hatch. Climate control is single-zone.
Elsewhere there is a nice ST shifter for the manual transmission, small-diameter steering wheel with red stitching and leather wrap, and a triplet of aluminium pedals on the floor. These key touchpoints all feel nice to operate, including the spacing of the pedals.
How much space is there in the Ford Fiesta ST?
It’s actually the seats themselves that are the biggest step forward inside. One annoyance with the old ST was that the Recaro sports seats had no height adjustment and compromised driving position. Thankfully, this has been completely fixed with four-way manual adjustment on the Fiesta ST’s pews that can find a nice, low seating position. Add in a good amount of movement from the tiller and you’ll have a great setup for track days. We can’t speak for the sunroofed model (though likely much the same) but we chucked our tin on in the version without one and it was fine for a six-foot-tall driver.
One thing to know with the sunroof option ticked though is that the spare wheel is replaced with an inflator kit due to balancing out the weight for emissions testing. Regardless, the boot offers 311-litres space and 1093L with the 60:40 split-fold seats down. Not a massive boot but handy enough.
What engine is in the Ford Fiesta ST?
The new motor is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo with 499cc swept displacement in each cylinder. Small and lightweight, it offers keen fuel efficiency (6.3L/100km claimed) with the ability to deactivate a single cylinder when cruising, though there’s no shortage of power, developing 147kW at 6000rpm and 290Nm of torque from 1600 to 4000rpm.
In straight-line antics, Ford claims the ST will finishing the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds, which is quick enough though not earth-shattering for the segment (the real fun is in corners anyway). However, launch control and a shift light equip the driver with a couple of aids to get the best chance of a perfect standing start.
This particular three-cylinder has a terrific character and produces a nicer soundtrack than the previous 1.6-litre ever did. The exhaust rumble is enhanced inside the cabin, but the genuine soundtrack erupts with proper pops and crackles outside (right on about 4200rpm), delivering a thrummy, vibrant note to redline that’s just brilliant when you’re getting up it. The six-speed isn’t as lubricious as the Honda Civic Type-R’s ‘box, but it’s quick and slick through the gate.
Is the Ford Fiesta ST good to drive?
It’s bloody brilliant. Yes, it’s a bit firm on some bumps and roads for every day, but it’s doubtless any owners will care.
Once you’re turning into a corner with speed the body moves instantly, transitioning weight on its feet but laterally rigid and composed, the 205mm-wide Michelin Pilot Sport 4S resisting the temptation to squeal. The Quaife limited-slip diff is the masterpiece in eliciting extra grip from the front with a dabble of throttle, though it will equally-well reappoint itself with lift-off oversteer and pivot the rear as it tippy toes on the rear tyres. It’s a lot of fun and easily accessible, though there’s a depth to its abilities that will surely be explored at track day outings. Some of those will be in Track mode, which we didn’t have the best chance to use as it reduces things like traction and stability control. Sport mode was our go-to – in fact, it should be the car’s default – as it sharpens the mapping, throttle, brake and steering response and adds crackles on overrun that Normal setting never delivers.
Remembering that the Fiesta ST weighs a light 1217kg and has a more rigid body construction, it’s no wonder it makes good of a sophisticated interpretation of a basic torsion beam rear suspension setup. A version of Ford’s Focus RS-developed force vectoring springs makes their way into the back with Tenneco RC1 dampers and toe-correcting bushes, providing 1400Nm per degree of roll resistance, the firmest of any Ford product. This is complemented by a traditional MacPherson strut front with twin-tube RC1 dampers and 22.5mm anti-roll bar. Add in the 12:1 ratio steering rack and you have a very lively steering response that’s reactive but precise to input.
The brakes are also gooduns, biting quickly and strong via ventilated 278mm front and solid 253mm rear discs. Perhaps the only blight is that there’s no automatic rev-matching when the clutch is disengaged – something once a gimmick and now a standard in many manual sports cars. For our feet, we quite enjoyed the old way of heel and toe on the Fiesta’s pedal layout, but some prefer to be lazy.
How safe is the Ford Fiesta ST?
The seventh-generation Fiesta ST has not been crash-tested by ANCAP.
It comes equipped with driver front, driver side, passenger front, passenger side, and two curtain airbags. Standard safety assistance technology includes AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adjustable speed limited, lane-keeping assist with departure warning, reversing camera, parking sensors and traffic sign recognition.
What are the Ford Fiesta ST alternatives?
There’s the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Renault Clio R.S, Peugeot 206 GTI and Suzuki Swift Sport.
2020 Ford Fiesta ST pricing and spec