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Driven: Ford braces for Fiesta ST sales onslaught

ST sting: The fastest-ever Fiesta has Polo GTI, Peugeot 208 GTi and Fabia RS in its sights.

Stocks at the ready as Ford Fiesta returns to hot hatch market with all guns blazing

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Ford logo29 Aug 2013

FORD says it is prepared for an avalanche of orders if the new Fiesta ST hot hatch proves to be a bigger-than-anticipated hit in Australia, with ready access to extra stock if needed.

This is despite admitting that – for the time being at least – only 100 vehicles are arriving in local dealerships this year.

On sale from September 1 from an incredibly sharp $25,990 plus on-road costs, the high-performance B-segment three-door hatch has already sold out its first-year allocation in the United Kingdom within three months of launching.

To help meet the growing number of orders (stretching well beyond three months in some markets), Ford of Europe announced earlier in August that it would boost Fiesta ST production by 15 per cent, to 60 vehicles per day, at the company’s Cologne factory in Germany.

“We are good for supply,” said Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald at the Fiesta ST launch in Melbourne this week.

“Production has already ramped up in Europe to cope with the car’s popularity, so we don’t see an issue with getting stock at any time soon.” The long-anticipated replacement for the well-received WQ-series Fiesta XR4, which was discontinued at the end of 2008, the WZ-series ST (for Sport Technologies) is the only European-sourced model in the facelifted range – for now.

Compared to its Thai-built brethren, the newcomer looks, feels and drives differently, benefiting from a comprehensive makeover from Ford Team RS, the Blue Oval department that has also developed the Focus ST as well as the lauded Mk2 Focus RS and XR5 Turbo, among other models.

The changes include torque vectoring control that applies the brakes to the inside front wheel when cornering for improved handling, a new three-mode electronic stability control system including partial-off or full-off choices, a modified front steering knuckle, altered rear torsion beam suspension components, unique springs and dampers front and rear, and the inclusion of rear discs as part of a beefed-up braking set-up with a larger master cylinder.

Though still electronically powered, the rack and pinion steering employs a sharper 13.69:1 ratio and shorter arms for better response and feedback.

Falling under the new ‘MyKey’ system, the 220km/h-plus ST is the first Ford vehicle in Australia with an owner-programmable electronic speed and audio volume limiter (among other safeguards) designed to provide parental restriction of the vehicle. For instance, top speed can be capped at 140km/h.

A separate feature is Emergency Assistance that uses a Bluetooth-connected phone to call ‘000’ in the event of an impact involving airbag deployment or electronic fuel cut-off.

Brandishing its own front-end styling that includes a honeycomb grille, LED daytime running lights, unique bumpers and foglights, the 1197kg ST sits 15mm lower to the ground on Bridgestone Potenza 205/40-section tyres wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels. (A space-saver spare wheel is used.) A bodykit, rear spoiler and dual chrome exhaust pipes complete the visuals.

The ST introduces a forced-induction petrol engine to the series for the first time – a Euro 5 emissions-rated 1.6-litre twin-cam direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost unit delivering 132kW of power at 5750rpm and 240Nm of torque between 1500 and 5000rpm.

An overboost function increases those outputs to 147kW and 290Nm for a brief period (20 seconds), channelled to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox calibrated especially for its pocket-rocket role.

No Australian-spec performance figures are published, but in Europe the same vehicle reaches 100km/h from standstill in 6.4 seconds.

On the flipside, the official average combined-cycle fuel consumption figure is 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres, for a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 145 grams per kilometre. Figures are run on 95 RON premium unleaded.

No automatic transmission is available, putting the ST in an increasingly exclusive club (alongside the 147kW/275Nm Peugeot 208 GTi) now that the 132kW/250Nm Polo and Fabia, as well as next year’s 140kW/240Nm Clio IV RS are going it alone with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Ford says the Fiesta ST accumulated 7500km of actual racetrack testing – and 5000km of high-speed testing – on top of the WZ range’s 850,000km of durability testing.

Being a German rather than Thai-built Fiesta (which shares more components with the existing Mazda2), the ST offers a soft-touch dash panel and a tilt/telescopic steering column.

Other standard goodies include a ‘Sound Symposer’ that channels the engine note into the interior, Recaro front seats, ambient lighting, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, power windows, hill-start assist, perimeter alarm, cruise control, MyKey with push-button start, an eight-speaker Sony sound system and automatic headlights/wipers.

As well as ESC, safety equipment fitted standard on the ST includes seven airbags and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.

It is also backed by a five-star European NCAP crash-test rating, while owners are given further peace of mind with benefits such as capped-price servicing for up to seven years or 105,000km (whichever comes first).

Five colours are available – blue, red, white, black and orange – with the latter being a specific ST hue.

Though a five-door ST is offered in America (based on the North American-built Fiesta), the Cologne plant is only geared up to offer the three-door hatch version.

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