ANN ARBOR, MI – The ’14 Fiesta ST is the latest European-inspired hot hatch to emerge from Ford’s ST performance group and it improves upon the Focus ST that preceded it.  

Although smaller, the Fiesta ST arguably is better suited for the ST performance treatment, as it seems to strike the perfect balance between handling and straight-out acceleration.

Powered by a 1.6L direct-injection turbocharged inline 4-cyl. EcoBoost engine producing 197 hp and 202 lb.-ft. (274 Nm) of torque, the Fiesta ST is outmuscled by the Focus ST’s 247-hp 2.0L EcoBoost mill.

Despite the discrepancy in power, the Fiesta ST has just the right amount, and is 464 lbs. (210 kg) lighter than the Focus ST. No, it won’t out run a Mustang GT, but it’s not designed to. Rather, the Fiesta ST is meant to be a driver’s car, and in it excels in that regard.

At the heart of a true performance car is exceptional handling, and the Fiesta ST delivers with a modified version of the base-model Fiesta’s suspension. Upgrades include new front knuckles for optimized geometry and a quicker steering ratio; a unique rear twistbeam, springs and dampers; and a 0.6 ins. (15-mm) lower ride height that drops the center of gravity.

Coupled with a retuned electric-power steering system, the tweaks provide the Fiesta with spot-on handling, with just the slightest hint of body roll.

The Fiesta ST begs to be driven aggressively. During hard cornering there’s never the feeling you’re about to lose control. Part of that is because of Ford’s patented electronic Torque Vectoring Control, which reduces understeer during hard cornering maneuvers. The car also features 3-mode electronic stability control, which can be set to standard, sport or turned off completely.

But there is a price to pay in ride comfort, as the taut suspension makes for a rough ride, particularly over uneven surfaces.

The Fiesta ST is available only with a 6-speed manual transmission, a risky move in the U.S. market where many young drivers have no idea how to work a clutch pedal. But kudos to Ford for sticking to its guns on this one and delivering an excellent gearbox with short, precise throws that lend further sportiness to the little B-car.

If there’s one gripe, it’s the stiff clutch pedal, which becomes tiring after a few hours navigating the back roads here.

Inside, the Fiesta ST looks a lot like the base model, which means it’s pretty darn good. Ford has been paying extra attention to its interiors lately, and this car is evidence. Fit and finish are top-notch considering the price range. Gauges are easy to read and switchgear positioned well within reach.

There are a few upgrades over the base Fiesta, including optional Recaro sports seats, a special ST steering wheel and gear shifter, alloy-metal pedals and Ford’s “Sound Symposer” system that pumps engine noise into the cabin to create a sporty atmosphere.

The symposer, first introduced on the Focus ST, may annoy some, but it helps to differentiate the Fiesta ST from the base model.

While the standard seats are nice, the heated Recaros clearly are the way to go, offering superior bolstering that holds the driver firmly in place during hard cornering. The Recaro package, which also includes heated mirrors, adds $1,995 to the Fiesta ST’s $21,400 base price.

The back seat is a bit tight, especially for taller passengers. Cargo space is an ample 10.1 sq.-ft. (0.9 sq.-m), expanding to 34.4 sq.-ft. (3.2 sq.-m) with the rear seats folded flat.

There are a number of additions to the car’s exterior, including 17-in. alloy wheels, a body-color rear spoiler, black headlamp and fog-lamp bezels, dual chrome-tipped exhaust, black mesh grille with ST badge, front and rear fascia lower extensions, side-rocker moldings and a rear diffuser.

The body tweaks are tastefully done and make the Fiesta ST look sporty, differentiating it from the base Fiesta.

The Fiesta ST, along with its Focus ST brethren, returns Ford to the hot-hatch segment, which it had abandoned when the SVT Focus was discontinued in 2004. Top competitors such as the Volkswagen GTI and MazdaSpeed3 should be looking in their rear-view mirrors, because Ford has delivered a pair of products that quickly will be closing in on segment leadership.

bpope@wardsauto.com

 

’14 Ford Fiesta ST
Vehicle type 5-seat, 5-door hatchback
Engine 1.6L direct-injected turbocharged 4-cyl.
Power (SAE net) 197 hp @ 6,350 rpm
Torque 202 lb.-ft. (274 Nm) @ 4,200 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 79.0 x 81.4
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase 98.0 ins. (249 cm)
Overall length 160.1 ins. (406.6 cm)
Overall width 67.8 ins. (172.2 cm)
Overall height 57.2 ins. (145.2 cm)
Curb weight 2,742 lbs. (1,244 kg)
Base price $21,400
Fuel economy 26/35 mpg (9.0-6.7 L/100 km)
Competition Volkswagen GTI, Civic Si, MazdaSpeed3
Pros Cons
6-speed manual only transmission available Most people prefer automatic gearboxes
Sound symposer pumps engine noise into cabin Could be annoying to some
Taut suspension May be bothersome on rough roads