Christopher Little

Fiesta on Fire: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta is a brilliant little car. It’s the ideal mass market subcompact; well built, efficient, and enjoyable to drive. For an enthusiast, though, the Fiesta doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The hot hatchback market is full of cars that are more exciting to look at and even more exciting to drive. Ford knew this, which lead to the decision to bring some of the ST-tuned offering from Europe to the American market. In shimmering Molten Orange, this ST is a Fiesta on fire.

Fiesta ST 1

Back in September, we were introduced to the new Fiesta ST by Ford Chief Engineer of Global Performance Vehicles, Kerry Baldori. At the same event, we also had the opportunity to drive a pre-production version. If you haven’t already, check out that article here. Even with such a short time behind the wheel, we knew the ST was a good car. More importantly, we knew we wanted more time behind the wheel. After spending a nearly two weeks with it, our opinion has changed slightly…for the better. The Ford Fiesta ST is one of the most entertaining cars we’ve ever driven.

Getting back into the Fiesta ST, still in pre-production form, was a tight hug from an old friend. The Recaro seats, a $1,995 option, are so heavily bolstered that they verge on being unfriendly to Americans. Better start on that New Year’s diet early; you absolutely have to have them. They keep you secured in place so well that the car becomes and extension of you. Even so, you don’t feel trapped or claustrophobic. The large greenhouse provides excellent visibility and an upright seating position that isn’t guaranteed with cars this size. Rear occupants will be pleased in this 5-door Fiesta as well. The back seats are just as comfortable as those in the Ford Escape we tested last week. The ST remains nearly as practical to use every day as a standard Fiesta. The one caveat being that the ST rides on Bridgestone Potenza summer tires. It isn’t the most ideal setup for winter in the Northeast, but the Fiesta fared surprisingly well in both cold temperatures and rain. A dusting of snow overnight proved a more formidable (and entertaining) challenge.

Fiesta ST 5

The drab and dreary grey of early December seemed lessened by the presence of the orange Fiesta. The aggressive body kit is one thing, but adding the Molten Orange package dispenses with all subtlety. The revised suspension hunkers the car down on its 17″ wheels. The trapezoidal front grille, adorned with the ST badge, hides the enlarged intercooler. A larger rear spoiler, split exhaust, and body-color diffuser differentiate the rear of the ST from your ordinary Fiesta. Behind the wheel of the ST, it feels like all eyes are on you. That’s exactly the kind of reaction the Fiesta ST deserves. We didn’t find it ostentatious or garish, but we certainly didn’t blend into the crowd.

There’s a refreshing simplicity to operating the Fiesta ST. No driver aids to interfere, no menu screens to distract you, and no automatic transmission. This doesn’t mean that it’s a bare bones experience. Yes the seats require manual adjustment, but they’re heated. The 6 speed do-it-yourself transmission has a longer throw but is satisfyingly accurate. Our tester also included the optional SYNC system with Sony audio and navigation for a bit of modern convenience. They’re features that prevent the practicality of the Fiesta from being compromised. But when you don’t need to be practical, say for an afternoon drive, then the ST’s true purpose becomes clear. The Fiesta ST is, quite simply, a driver’s car. Drive – that’s all you want to with it.

Fiesta ST 6

The Fiesta ST gets its fire from a 1.6L EcoBoost engine similar to the unit found in the Fusion and Escape. New intake and exhaust allows the engine to handle up to 20psi of boost, making it good for 197 hp and 202 lb-ft torque. The trick to accessing all of that boost is tapping the “ESC Off” button to enable Sport mode. This allows the turbo to spin up to the full 20 psi (instead of its normal 14 psi limit) and scales back the traction control interference. Launching the car off the line results in very little torque steer as the front wheels struggle for grip on the cold pavement. In the dry, the ST’s extra boost can spin the tires in first and second. In the wet, you might even find some wheelspin in third. This is all very exciting and probably sounds irresponsible, but it isn’t. As with most hot hatchbacks, you can keep your foot down well into third and still be within the speed limit. Try doing that in something like a Mistubishi Evo and you won’t have a driver’s license for very long.  Sixty miles per hour comes after 6.7 seconds, but the ST feels and sounds so much quicker behind the wheel. The combination of split exhaust and a sound symposer box balances induction and exhaust noise into a harmonious blend of turbocharged, four cylinder fury.

All the suspension upgrades keep the Fiesta ST firmly planted to the road. As we found on the short drive, the ride borders on being too firm. The hard tires and winter-buckled roads meant that trips over an hour require a break. But when you’re strapped into the Recaro seats on your favorite road, the engineering outweighs the ergonomics. The stiffer front springs and rear twistbeam keep the tall body from rolling. New front knuckles quicken the steering, allowing the ST to dart into corners. They also feature revised geometry to help with typical FWD understeer. Additional aid comes from the Fiesta ST’s Torque Vectoring Control. TVC has the ability to selectively engage the front brakes to further reduce understeer. It isn’t as technical as the Focus ST’s front differential, but it certainly gets the job done. It’s hard to do any wrong behind the wheel.

Fiesta ST 3

The Fiesta ST builds confidence because of its composed nature. The experience is never frenetic or uncertain. After a short time behind the wheel you know exactly how the ST is going to respond. Even if you mange to overcook it, the Fiesta safely scrubs off into understeer. Catch yourself before that point and the solid brakes can bring things down below the limit very quickly. The ST gets rear rotors instead of drums for added stopping power. They don’t look like much, but they’re more effective than the standard Fiesta’s drum brakes at arresting all 2,750lbs of fiery hatchback.

The joy of the Ford Fiesta ST is that you can use 100% of the car 100% of the time. This makes it, in my opinion, the most fun car we’ve driven this year. Sure, there are cars that are faster, have more grip, and inspire more envy. But you aren’t going to have as much fun with them because you can’t use all of the car all of the time. Not all of us have a racetrack in our back yard. All this entertainment isn’t hard on your bank account either. After two weeks of overly enthusiastic driving, the ST turned in a final average of 27.1 mpg. That’s a price we’d gladly pay. We have a general rule not to get too attached to the cars we test, but this week I just couldn’t stop myself. I was genuinely disappointed to relinquish the key to the Fiesta ST. For me, that’s the highest praise a car can receive.
-Christopher Little

2014 Ford Fiesta ST
$21,400
Molten Orange Metallic Tri-Coat $595
SYNC w/ Sony Audio & Navigation $795
ST Recaro Package $1,995
Destination Charges $795
As Tested MSRP $25,580

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