A couple of years ago I proclaimed that the current generation Fiesta ST was the best modern hot hatch I’d ever driven. It had character, speed and a superb balance of ride and handling. Fast forward to 2016 and my opinion hasn’t changed. It was looking good for the limited-run ST200, built to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Fiesta. So how does the Fiesta ST200 differ from the normal ST? On the outside you get the unique Storm Grey paint, only available on this model and machined matte black alloy wheels. Several ST200 badges also remind you that this isn’t any normal ST.
Under the bonnet sits the same 1.6L Ecoboost engine as before but with 10 percent more power and 20 percent more torque. This means 200hp and 290Nm of torque. Like the standard ST, the ST200 also features something called transient overboost, giving an additional 15hp and 30Nm for up to 20 seconds during hard acceleration. Ford have also fettled the gearbox in the ST200 to allow better in gear acceleration and a 0-62 time of 6.7 seconds. Revisions to the suspension and steering complete the raft of changes.
The original ST was certainly no slouch and as a result neither is the ST200. It pulls hard in every gear and accelerates with the gusto befitting of a fast Ford. It’s hard to say that the ST200 is significantly faster than the standard car but it does feel keener and acceleration seems more immediate.
There is more than enough performance to put a big smile on your face and fire you out of corners at quite a rate. Unfortunately, the noise the ST200 makes doesn’t match the performance. The engine noise is piped into the cabin and as result sounds rather artificial. It isn’t a deal breaker but it is a shame the car doesn’t sound a little better naturally and to an audience other than yourself.
The ST200 has been tuned to have a sportier ride compared to the standard car which means at slow speeds it can feel a little fidgety. Luckily when you are leaning on the car on a good road, the ST200 is still brilliant. It turns in keenly and provides plenty of confidence for you to push hard through the corner and then slingshot out the other side.
Back off the pace and the ST200 is very usable. It’s not necessarily a smooth ride but it’s not bad by hot hatch standards on most roads. Bumpy B-Roads can become a little unforgiving though thanks to the slightly stiffer set-up. The Fiesta remains planted and stable under heavy braking despite my attempts to unsettle it. Like the standard car it gives you the confidence to push hard and really get the most from it.
The ST200 isn’t actually any different on the outside compared to the standard car but the paint is available only on this limited run car. They grey won’t be to everyone tastes but for me it suits the car well and easily distinguishes it on the road. The matte black alloys with their machined edges look superb. They work well against the light grey of the paint.
This shape Fiesta has been around for some time now and is starting to look a little dated. That being said it still is more handsome that most of its rivals with a stance that makes it look fast even when it is not moving.
Inside is the usual Fast Ford recipe, just enough to make it feel sportier but not different enough to make it expensive. Ford seem to spend the money where it counts, on the chassis and drivetrain. Most of the interior is standard Fiesta but the seats on the ST200 are made by Recaro and look great as well as hugging you tight. You’ll also find a few ST200 badges inside to remind you that you bought the rarer car. The build is solid as you would expect from Ford but some of the plastics do feel cheap to the touch. The steering wheel feels good in the hands but for me the gearknob feels cumbersome and cheap. All in all the interior suits the car well, it isn’t a premium product and therefore doesn’t need to feel like one.
We were lucky enough to be testing the ST200 the day before the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so Ford invited us to drive the ST200 up the famous Goodwood Hill. I had never driven the hill before and as a result was almost giddy with the prospect of taking anything up the hill. The ST200 seemed the perfect companion for this first time. Fast, fun but forgiving. The last thing I wanted to do was to end up wedged into a stack of hay bales in front of the huge crowds. We left the start line with haste but it was no racing start. Into the first corner I took it easy, savouring the sight of Lord March’s house as it passed by on my left. Through the following Chicane the route opened up allowing a little more speed before slowing down for the fearsome Molcombe Corner, made worse by someone spreading mud across the racing line from a previous run. Next up was the famous wall. I was told during my run that no one has ever hit it which given the speed that some of the drivers carry though there, is almost unbelievable. The final sections of the run flashed by very quickly and before I knew I was on the finishing straight staring at the evocative black and white finish line. It was quite an experience and one I hope to repeat one day.
The ST200 is a great hot hatch and the upgrades have not done anything to upset the feel and balance that made the standard car so well loved. Those who want the uniqueness and exclusivity of this limited edition model will be very very happy but for me the Standard car is still the one to have. Especially given the price difference. The ST200 is better but not by a huge margin.
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