I drove the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST on track.. and it was insane..
The first thing to remember is that the Fiesta ST is still extremely affordable, an ST-1 model will set you back £18,995. Spend a little more (£19,995) and you'll get an ST-2, the ST-3 sits at £21,495. All of them are equally capable, however it is still a good idea to spec in the ST Performance Pack for £850 as this includes the handy Quaife LSD. This isn't to say the entirely standard version isn't fun.. just that the performance pack adds.. more balanced fun.
On paper the Fiesta is powerful (200PS), throaty (290Nm torque), exhilarating (6.7 seconds to 100kph) and intelligent (1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol engine with seamless cylinder deactivation technology). The cylinder deactivation is so seamless (15ms) that Ford are relatively confident you'll never even notice it even happening. Combine that with the fact that the turning radius is sharper, the brakes more punchy and the steering more responsive.. well you can see where I'm going with this.
On the road you know that you're driving something special. It's comfy, it's quiet, it's easy to drive - but it still gives you a kick and will make you smile every time you drive it. Get in on track though.. and you quickly become aware that you're driving something REALLY special.
Yes, this is the bit I'm really excited to write about, because now I get to tell you about how insane the Fiesta ST is on track..
I've driven multiple track days in hugely expensive cars, but this was more fun.
From the moment you leave the pit lane, you get a sense of being 'at one' with the car. The Recaro seats hold you superbly, while the all round visibility is great - not to mention the engine tone.. the cracks.. the pops.
Corner 1, you enter slowly not knowing what to expect, to realise you could've gone round 50mph faster. Corner 2, braver still you bump up the speed and find the ST lets you know when you're reaching the end of traction / driver ability with ample time to spare. Corner 3.. you're in sync, and you flow round the corner like you were born at one with the Fiesta.
The gearbox has a great feel, good throw and the clutch isn't heavy enough to wear you down while not light enough to feel like you're driving a super-mini. The throttle response is instant, delivering all 200PS/290Nm at the drop of a hat making you feel like you have full control. The turn-in is exact, the steering is so utterly precise it's like you were made to do it by the car.
But the reality is, the new Fiesta ST (especially with the performance pack) is such a superb car, that even a monkey without a driving licence could take it round a tricky track and feel like a professional for a few laps. With a multitude of driver aids, superb driving characteristics, a massive fun factor and a bit of synthetic engine noise thrown into the cabin..
..it's basically the best driving hot hatch Ford have ever made.
A corner which didn't seem doable at 80mph was entirely within reach, without worry. Last minute braking into a tight chicane was effortless, without question. Long sweeping bends which would usually generate some bounce.. just didn't. The car was planted, it was responsive, it was hugely enjoyable - best of all, it was a proper ST.
Impressive is truly an understatement of epic proportions!
My summary is simple. Ford took the hugely established Fiesta ST, made it better in so many ways - but kept the Fiesta charm. While the 4-pot engine is gone, the 3-pot is equally good. The chassis has been fine-tuned, the brakes beefed up, the technology bundled in. The interior is more fined and aesthetically it looks.. just superb. I think Ford are on to a keeper..