Over the years, ever since the original MK1 VW Golf GTI, there has always been an iconic hot hatch. Every new generation of spruced up hatchbacks has brought with it a new icon; or sometimes, just a new iteration of the original. In recent times, we have seen the Golf V GTI pass the mantle on to the Renault Clio RS, which was by all rights one heck of a driver’s car, but now the time has come for there to be a new king.
To establish the king though, one would need to know the true meaning of what a hot hatch is supposed to be. A real hot hatch, as the original GTI was, was affordable to the young twenty-something year old, had enough power to go fast enough to have fun preferably without dying. Certain characteristics were key, including focused driving ability, huge fun factor, and the ability to take the hatch by the scruff of its neck and throw it around joyfully, leaving the driver with a massive grin on his face. Optional extras were always a nice-to-have, but weren’t key. Now, one such hot hatch has taken over this generation’s mantle, and done so in a big way. I present you, the new king – the Ford Fiesta ST. Yes, Fiesta, not Focus.
The Fiesta is the true definition of a hot hatch, with mildly warm styling, that could’ve been a bit more aggressive in my opinion, and a great foundation, found in the many lower spec iterations of the Fiesta, such as the 1-litre EcoBoost we tested recently.
The base of the Fiesta set the perfect platform for the ST to well accomplished. In this class, there are few hatchbacks that offer fun factor with great ability in the lower echelons of their product range. However, the Fiesta utilises a great chassis, which in the ST is one that comes alive both on the daily grind, and on the racetrack.
So alive is the Fiesta, that it becomes infectious to drive, prompting you to take the long route to work, or avoid highways simply to be able to repeatedly pull off from traffic lights with great gusto. At the heart of the Fiesta ST is a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine, offering up 134Kw and 290Nm on overboost, the later of which is available from as low down as 1600 RPM, a mere smidgen above idle when your throttle is always ready to go.
The EcoBoost heart in 1.6-litre guise just felt right in all areas – it felt responsive, torquey, revvy, and it felt quick, very quick. Claimed 0-100 times are 6.9s, but we managed to eke out a 6.6s time, and have even heard of dyno runs producing sub 6.5. The nature of the engine allows for excellent transfer of power to the front rubber (205/40 R17 shoes are just right for the ST) via the 6-speed manual gearbox, resulting in something that often feels closer to 150kW, purely thanks to the torque available.
The gearbox shifts with athletic ability, slotting between ratios quickly and effectively. The clutch works in tandem with the mind, barely registering as a thought process, it’s so great. Then, to top it all off, the suspension and chassis come together to harness the gearing and the power into one complete unit, lithe and agile, ready to fire at will. The brakes are sharp and highly fade resistant, continually responding in a reliable manner.
The ST jumps to life at your every beck and call, responding with zeal and attitude. Whether in a straight line, or whilst attempting the tightest turns, the ST gives you all it has, and when you go too deep into a corner, too hard, too fast, and you feel like you’ve lost it, the Fiesta reaches deep within itself and gives you more. Understeer is present if you corner too hard, but remarkably, it has the ability to oversteer under sharp turn in, even cocking a wheel like an over-eager Jack Russell, whilst allowing full control via the wheel and throttle.
The ride is always pleasant and communicative, albeit a little hard, but superior dampening makes for a drive that lures one into forgetting the little bumps out of sheer pleasure. The ST is efficient too, and although claimed consumption figures are 5.9l/100km, I couldn’t get below 6.8, but I didn’t really try, I was having too much fun to be frugal. Truth be told, although the ST can be frugal, if you want to save fuel, buy a 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium, it comes just as well kitted, with fuel consumption figures below 5.0l/100km, and 92kW to boot, but if you buy an ST, you’re buying it for fun.
The ST comes kitted to the hilt, with the SYNC multimedia system, with full Bluetooth capability, cloth upholstered Recaro seats, climate control, soft touch dashboard, 3-spoke leather ST steering wheel with matching gear lever, alloy pedals, USB and auxiliary inputs, steering mounted controls, cruise control (which seldom gets used when the ST is such a pleasure to drive), LED daytime running lamps, Halogen headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, and a comprehensive warranty of 4 years/120 000 km. Selling for R254 500, the ST provides a greater kit list than all competitors as standard. It also features a symposer system, which pipes in the induction noise to the cabin for a sportier sound, one that sadly doesn’t come across outside the vehicle, where the 1.6 sounds a bit like a sewing machine.
I’ve always heard the greatest coaches and athletes say that the best of the best will not be better than all competitors, but be able to dig deeper when it matters most. The ST reaches deep within its own soul and yours, finding the best it has to give and then giving you more. It provides pure driving athleticism, combined with affordability, usability, and smiles that can’t be produced from anything in its class. It digs deep, and has rightfully earned its title as the iconic hot hatch of the current generation, a title it bears with pride.
|No. of Cylinders:||
134kW @ 57000RPM
290Nm @ 1600-5000RPM
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|Price (as tested):||
Author: Roger Biermann