Amongst the current crop of junior hot hatches, the Ford Fiesta ST is the stand-out – not just for punching way above its weight in terms of power outputs, but because it’s by far the most enthralling of the lot to drive. Simple, honest fun, with a menacing soundtrack, predictable behaviour, and mind boggling driving dynamics – all tied together with a playful demeanour. It’ll be a tough act to follow, particularly as a 3-cylinder…
But Ford’s done just that. We had previously speculated that Ford would be eschewing the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine in favour of the 1.5-litre 4-cylinder unit from the face-lifted Focus, primarily to help dodge taxes in China. But whilst the Ford Fiesta ST has lost 100cc as predicted, it’s also taken a shocking turn and lost a cylinder.
The Ford Fiesta ST may have dropped to a 1.5-litre turbo 3-pot, but the outputs are still up on the current model (ST200 aside) at 147kW and 290 Nm. Acceleration improves over the current 132kW version by 0.2 seconds to 6.7 seconds. The performance figures don’t suggest a vast improvement – and despite the current model being so great, the Ford Fiesta ST will need to up its game if this is to be a successful follow-up.
Power is still delivered to the front wheels, via a 6-speed manual gearbox – Ford has listened to those that begged it not to swap to an auto ‘box.
Along with the new engine, the Fiesta ST also comes with several driving modes. No longer a one mode hooligan, the new Fiesta ST offers Normal mode, Sport mode, and Track mode, ramping up the throttle programming, noise levels (via an electronic sound actuator) and EPAS (Electronic Power Assisted Steering) feedback levels, whilst minimising ESC interventions.
In addition to drive modes, the Ford Fiesta ST also gets brake-based torque vectoring – which brakes the inner front wheel during cornering. It’s not exactly a full LSD, but this is a junior hot hatch after all.
In the technology stakes the Ford Fiesta ST is certainly bringing a whole new bag of party tricks – including cylinder de-activation. Under low-load scenarios, the 1.5-litre turbo engine will effectively cut down to a 1.0-litre 2-cylinder turbo motor to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
In terms of styling, the Ford Fiesta ST doesn’t depart radically from the current model. With the new Fiesta using an upgraded version of the current model’s chassis, the design has been upgraded rather than overhauled. Although available in 3 and 5 door styles globally, we’re likely to only receive the 5-door model in SA.
Twin exhausts and a racy roof-mounted spoiler complement new front and rear splitters, and side skirts, whilst 18-inch alloy wheels, and a new Liquid Blue hue up the ante a little bit more.
Inside, a flat bottom steering wheel and aluminium shift lever are paired with Recaro bucket seats. A smattering of ST logos lets you know this isn’t a normal ST. The new Fiesta is said to be going upmarket, and the Ford Fiesta ST follows suit. A new touch screen infotainment system is standard, compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Fiesta ST will also offer an optional Bang & Olufsen sound system to add to the experience.
The Ford Fiesta ST will be launched globally in early 2018 – so expect it to reach South African shores in the first quarter of the year thanks to Ford’s global launch policy.
With big shoes to fill and lots of added tech and complexity, will Ford have another smash hit on their hands? Or will the complexity see the new Fiesta ST crash and burn?