There is a reason why cereal companies put toys in their cereal boxes. They know that kids don’t care what they eat, but they also know that little Jimmy won’t be leaving Wegman’s quietly until he gets his Iron Man action figure, and if his mom knows what’s good for her, she will pony up the cash for the cereal while her basic human dignity is still intact.
Of course, the kid will rip open the cereal box and dig out the action figure right away, but in the days after, he or she will be exposed to the cereal itself, the real product, and that will leave an impression that lasts long after Iron Man gets chewed up by the dog, and left in scattered bits around the yard.
The same fundamental factor is of paramount importance in the world of hot hatchbacks. Let’s call it “tangible excitement,” something you can point to and say, “Wow that’s really cool! I want one of those!”
Look at this Ford Fiesta ST and you will see what I mean. The basic Fiesta is a very good, but very boring economy car. Ford couldn’t just put a better engine and suspension in it and expect the ST version to sell. No, they knew it was important to put on a show. Give it an aggressive body kit, bright-colored paint with sweet Recaro racing seats, and put it out in front of the dealership for all to see. People will be pulling U-turns to come find out what it is, and if they can afford one.
And afford one they can, because the Fiesta ST’s pricing starts at just $21,400! That might seem a lot for a car with no “Go” behind its “Show,” but that’s the Fiesta ST’s ace in the hole — it is a fantastic car to drive, even when held to the highest standards.
I’ll just come out and say it: I like the Fiesta ST better than the Focus ST. With 500lbs less weight, the Fiesta feels more lively when attacking corners. The weight savings also almost entirely negates the 50hp difference between the two cars because their power to weight ratios wind up being very close.
The Fiesta ST is a lot faster than you might think. Overboost kicks in when you floor it, delivering around 200hp and a lot more torque than Ford officially claims. Real world dyno tests have shown that around 185hp and 230 ft/bs of torque make it to the front wheels, and that means the engine is producing more in the neighborhood of 205hp (versus 197hp) and 255ft/lbs of torque (versus 214 ft/lbs).
What really makes the Fiesta ST a rocket in the real world is its wide powerband thanks to its torquey 1.6L Ecoboost (turbocharged) engine. It delivers a substantial punch anywhere between 2000rpm and its 6500rpm redline. That means it is always easy to access the car’s performance, and that you will find yourself going way too fast on curvy roads quite often. Just a little nudge coming out of a corner in 4th gear, and (whoops!) you’re going 70.
Traction can be a bit of an issue in first and second gear, but if you’re smooth on the throttle, the car will put its power down effectively. I like a well balanced car, myself, and in all honesty, I’m not sure I’d want any more horsepower in a Fiesta ST without some wider tires. There’s no use in having more power if you can’t use it, and it’s a really well set up car as-is.
If horsepower and speed are pleasant surprises in the Fiesta ST, its handling prowess is an expected strong-suit. Like the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST has razor sharp steering that gives it a spritely, on-edge sort of feeling. The chassis is extremely tight, and the car feels eager to change directions with vigor! Many have even found that this front-drive missile has a propensity for oversteer, though I didn’t attempt any of that on public roads.
Braking was also very solid in the Fiesta ST. There isn’t much car to be stopped, but keep in mind that the basic Fiesta still has drum brakes in the rear, so the disc brakes at each wheel of the ST are a much-needed upgrade. The brakes engaged right near the top of the pedal, and bit progressively harder the more I pushed. Nothing to complain about here.
The clutch is grabby enough to provide a solid, confident feel, but light enough that it won’t piss you off in a traffic jam. The gear-throw is medium length, but is very accurate and precise. Going through the gears in the Fiesta ST will surely better your day.
The ride quality was a lot better than I had expected from such a small, cheap car. While surely on the sporty end of things, the Fiesta ST had a refinement to its chassis that I would compare to a Mini Cooper S. It felt very European, and that’s because it is European, like most of Ford’s post-economic-meltdown range of cars.
For around $25,000, you can have any number of boring A to B appliances that will never add anything but more mediocrity to your life. Or, for the same $25,000, you can light your pants on fire and have bright Molten Orange Fiesta ST like this one.
This isn’t a car for the “play it safe” types, it is a car for people who want to wring every ounce of excitement they can out of their short existence on this planet. Cars are a big expense, so why spend your money something mundane that won’t make your life any better?
You see, the Fiesta ST doesn’t really make many practical compromises. It can get pretty damn good fuel economy (mid-30 MPG range) if you can find a way to remove your right foot from the gas pedal. It also has seats for 5 (if you’re willing to squeeze) and a decent enough trunk in the back. The Fiesta ST is just as useable as a standard Fiesta, but with all of the fun bits added on top.
Sure the Recaro Sport Seats may be a bit snug, and yes the ride is a little hard, but those are all bonuses to the sort of person who would want a car like this.
Tired in the morning on the way to work? Forget coffee, just hop in your Fiesta ST, clip some apexes, and get that turbo spooling!
Rough day at the office? Take the long, curvy route home, and you’ll feel all better by the time you pull into your driveway.
Some tool is tailgating you in a BMW X5 again? Take the off-ramp without braking and laugh as they struggle to keep up.
That is where many of the Fiesta ST’s competitors fall short, they don’t give you all of what you really want from a cheap performance car.
When I tested the Honda Civic Si last year, I felt like the car I actually wanted was the Civic Type R from Europe. However, all I got from the Si was a standard Civic with a few negligible improvements. The Civic is a box of mediocre cereal with no toy in it.
There was also no “show” factor with the Civic Si like there is in the Fiesta ST. The aggressive looks and the Recaro seats, all that stuff makes me want the Fiesta in a way that could never want the Civic. But even at a more fundamental level, the Fiesta ST is a far better driver’s car than a Civic Si. So there is no real contest, the Fiesta’s box of cereal both tastes better and has Iron Man!
The case is similar with the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. While I really enjoyed what the Veloster Turbo had to offer, it has nowhere near the level of serious performance that the Fiesta ST brings to the table. So while the Veloster is a valid competitor, more so than the Civic Si, any real driving enthusiast will surely prefer the Fiesta.
As for the Chevy Sonic RS, it is a total and complete joke by comparison to the Fiesta ST. The Sonic is a fun economy car, but it can’t really be considered a serious competitor at this point. GM needs to do a lot better.
This leaves two main rivals for the Ford Fiesta ST, the Fiat 500 Abarth and the Mini Cooper S, both of which also come with toys and taste great, in cereal terms. Dynamically, they are all on the same level, but the Ford has a price advantage over tha Mini, and a practicality advantage over the Fiat.
Many people complain that the USA is only getting the four door Fiesta ST, but it just makes the whole car more user-friendly in my opinion. That is where it holds a distinct, practical advantage over both the Fiat and the Mini. On a day-to-day basis, I’d say that’s significant.
The Fiesta ST definitely has the potential to punch above its price point to a decent extent. While I don’t think a Fiesta ST quite matches up to the level of a all-wheel drive WRX, where things stay two-wheel-drive, the Fiesta still makes a compelling case for itself.
I told you earlier that I would choose a Fiesta ST over a Focus ST because the Fiesta’s lighter weight makes it more fun. However, what about the mighty Volkswagen GTI and everyone’s darling, the Scion FRS/ Subaru BRZ?
Let’s talk dollars and sense here. Prices for both of those cars pick up around $25,000, right around same as the sticker price of this rather loaded Fiesta ST. So for the same amount of money, you can have the Fiesta with all of the toys or the GTI or FRS with none of the toys.
Most buyers of performance cars in the $25,000 range are younger people who will be making payments. Spending a little more on a GTI to have “better build quality” is a bit foolish when the Fiesta ST will do everything else a GTI does for less money. I’m here to tell you that the Ford Fiesta ST will be just as good (maybe even better) to drive, and that the price difference could pay your cable bill every month.
I came so close to buying a Fiesta ST for myself a few months ago. It was surely the favorite pick among sporty options for my daily driver, however, I decided that I wanted more of a luxury car instead, so I bought my Volkswagen CC.
Before driving the Fiesta ST, I had wondered if I would feel any buyer’s remorse. I definitely reinforced my desire to have a Fiesta ST at some point, but I also reassured myself of my decision to go the luxury route for now. The Fiesta ST is a blast of a car, but it would’ve been too similar to my Subaru WRX STi, and I wanted something more relaxed for my daily commute. Had I wanted another sporty car, though, I would have a Fiesta ST in my driveway right now, I assure you.
Overall, there isn’t much that I’d change about the Ford Fiesta ST. I mean, sure, the interior does feel pretty cheap in some places, but you really can’t nit-pick that sort of thing in a performance car that costs under $25,000. Any other gripes I’d have would be similar in their insignificant nature. The Fiesta ST has been done about as well as it could be done for the price Ford is asking for it. That’s all anyone can ever really ask of a car company.
The Ford Fiesta ST gives you exactly what you want in a hot hatch. It has everyday practicality, serious dynamic performance, and all the extra bits that make it feel like something special. So if you are in the market for a fun car under $25,000, the Fiesta ST is probably your best bet.
WoM Score: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Practicality(2) MPG (2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1.5
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9.5/10
PS: A very special thanks to the good people a Bill Marsh Ford in Newtown, PA for granting me access to their Fiesta ST for this review.
Check out their Facebook Page or give them a call at 215-968-3806
-Review by Nick Walker