The Ford Fiesta ST - a settee cushion with 200bhp
As far as affordable performance goes, the last Fiesta ST offered some of the best bang-per-buck fun you could get hold of.
It was pacey, great to drive, and not completely sensible - in all the right ways, of course.
The better something is, however, the better its successor is expected to be. Second albums, movie sequels etc.
But this isn't the type of sequel you're reluctant to see for fear of it being naff alongside the original. It's the type you wait on for months and jump head first into when it finally lands.
It looks the part, no doubt
The new ST is a bonny thing.
Styling extras don't go far beyond madder alloys, ST badges and twin exhaust pipes, but all together they make it look a different beast to the standard model.
And the new Fiesta's lower, wider stance matches up well with the sporty getup. It doesn't need a huge rear wing to prove its go-fast intent.
Our tester was the top-spec ST-3 with the two-tone, 18-inch alloys and Ford Performance Blue paintwork - no doubt the ST's best shade.
Change can be good, unless it's the sugar tax
Looks aside, there've been some weighty changes to the new model. The biggest of them sits under the bonnet, where the 1.6-litre four-pot has made way for a new three-cylinder 1.5.
And that can drop down to just two cylinders at steady speeds to save fuel - a quirk on a performance model.
But - and this is quite the 'but' - it was a cracking decision.
Somehow Ford Performance has squeezed 197bhp from the engine, a count the last model could only reach on a 20-second power boost.
Such small-input-large-output tactics haven't been seen since Jesus fed the 5,000.
Sensible and mad, but definitely more mad
It’s about as quick as you’d expect from something with the power-to-weight ratio of a honey badger.
So much so that the ST will cover 0-60 in around six and a half seconds, almost putting it on par with the 247bhp Focus ST.
You’d be forgiven for expecting a bit of turbo lag, and although you do get some, it has impressive poke over a wider range than you’d think.
And when you let off the accelerator to shift up the revs don’t tail off too quickly, so you can get straight back on the power after lifting the clutch.
You’ll want to try a few high-rev gearchanges too, because the snaps and pops from the exhaust are worthy of a Rice Krispies ad.
The gearbox is wicked
There’s no automatic option here, which is only a good thing as changing gear in the ST is an absolute joy.
The stick’s range of motion is much shorter than that of a standard car, so you’ll be dropping the clutch and flicking it up a gear like you’re part of a Fast & Furious street-racing sequence. Where the law allows, obviously.
You also have the option of three driving modes; Normal, Sport and Track – the latter of which tweak the setup for a more responsive drive and throws a few more snaps and pops from the exhaust. Never a bad thing.
However, it’s worth adding that Track mode may be a bit too mad for use on anything other than, well, the obvious.
But if you manage to find a stretch of tarmac that doesn’t follow the Highway Code, you can also benefit from the Launch Control that comes with the £925 Performance Pack.
It pegs the revs at a level that’s best for setting off (very) quickly and holds them there while you plant the accelerator, before you lift the clutch and hurtle up the road like something off a stick.
Throw it in
As good as it is in a straight line, this is a car that’d rather be thrown nose-first into a bend.
At most speeds the ST is tidy through the corners but push it further and the rear axle becomes a bit more animated.
That’s even more noticeable with the Quaife limited-slip differential that you also get on the Performance Pack.
What that does is power the front wheels separately depending on which side has better grip, giving you full use of the ST’s power.
There’s nothing quite like coming out the other side of a tight bend and getting on the throttle early. You’ll need a firm grip on the wheel as it wrestles itself straight, but it’s properly satisfying to keep it on that line.
The steering wheel itself is weighty, and ideal for some precise and involved driving.
Improved on the inside
The ST’s main card is clearly its on-the-road ability, but improvements have also been made in the cabin.
It’s much more up to date, with an easy-to-use 8-inch touchscreen and neat use of leather and gloss black panels across the dash.
The ST-3 also has leather Recaro bucket seats – handy if you’re trying out the lively backend I’ve just mentioned.
You can also spec a Bang & Olufsen speaker system, which does sound canny, for an extra £450.
It's a riot
Ford made a bold move by opting for a smaller, more economic engine. And yet it’s even more versatile and potent than their last effort.
Whether you’re a young driver wanting something that’s manageable but fun, or you’re after a second motor to throw about the B roads on a Sunday afternoon, it’ll do the job.
Fuel consumption is also within touching distance of 40mpg – an impressive figure for a car that’s just as capable of going around a corner sideways as it is forwards.
There’ll always be a market for fast, but affordable cars and Ford is one of the go-tos in supplying that demand through the Fiesta and Focus STs.
They could’ve adopted a better-safe-than-sorry approach with this latest model and thrown in any engine around 200bhp, and it would’ve sold.
But instead this is a hot hatch that’s been engineered to save you coin on fuel, whilst also offering the same ridiculous fun that we’ve come to expect from a fast Fiesta.
And it’s right up there as one of, if not the best in its class. If we’re ranking it in terms of solid sequels, the new Fiesta ST is Terminator 2.
Find more on the Ford Fiesta ST, or book your own test drive at lookers.co.uk/ford/new-cars/ford-fiesta