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Driven: Ford sticks to performance guns with Fiesta ST

Hi-po Fiesta ST to go it alone for Ford as sole offering in light hatch segment

2 Apr 2020

FORD Australia’s new-generation Fiesta light hatch has landed Down Under with a very different look and feel to before, with the Blue Oval brand opting to delete all mainstream variants from the range and instead come out firing with a single-barrelled shotgun: the performance-honed ST.


The single-spec Fiesta ST arrives in Australia priced from $31,990 plus on-road costs, placed competitively against its primary rivals – the Volkswagen Polo GTI (from $32,490) and Renault Clio RS200 Cup ($32,490).


Ford’s decision to drop mainstream variants was influenced by the declining popularity of the light hatch segment, but the image-leading ST will still act as a drawcard and appeal to hot hatch enthusiasts.


Despite the coronavirus crisis ruling out a national media launch, and reducing foot traffic in showrooms across Australia, the Blue Oval brand remains upbeat about the prospects of the ST – and the larger Focus ST which is also due for release soon.


Ford Australia and New Zealand president and CEO Kay Hart told GoAuto: “It was disappointing to cancel the (launch) drive, but we’re excited about the introduction of the Fiesta ST – and Focus ST – and the joy the vehicle brings, and we can’t wait to have customers drive it and experience it.


“It’s a fantastic extension of our Ford Performance line-up, and obviously we have had such great success with models like (Ranger) Raptor etc, so it’s just great to keep extending the Performance line-up here,” she said.


Given the Fiesta ST is not expected to move the needle a huge amount in terms of sales volume, Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy said its primary role will be to complement the line-up of Ford Performance vehicles that includes the Mustang sportscar as well as the Raptor and Focus ST (and RS).


“It’s more about building the Ford Performance brand and adding to Ranger Raptor and the forthcoming ST … it’s not designed to be a massive seller because it is a niche vehicle in what is a small segment these days,” he said.


Mr Smy said the Fiesta would attract younger buyers and enthusiasts, however the move from a three-door model to a five-door in the new generation also increases the practicality of the vehicle which Ford sees being used as a daily driver.


“We see Fiesta ST appealing to enthusiasts who can appreciate really strong driving dynamics,” he said. “It takes a special kind of customer to understand and appreciate what a Fiesta ST is, and they’re highly engaged, involved customers, so we’ve got to get it right.”


He added that he expected a high proportion of buyers to be from a younger demographic.


Underpinning the Fiesta ST is a new all-aluminium 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that develops 147kW of power at 6000rpm and 290Nm of torque from 1600-4000rpm, representing a 15kW/50Nm increase over the outgoing 1.6-litre version.


Power is delivered to the front wheels only via a six-speed manual transmission – the sole transmission option available – which allows for a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.7 seconds.


Mr Smy said the company was happy only offering a three-pedal transmission option, as the Fiesta ST would primarily appeal to enthusiasts who would appreciate focus on a stick-shift.


Globally, the manual is the only transmission option for the Fiesta ST, so an automatic option remains unlikely at this point.


The feisty little turbo-triple’s power output is identical to both the Polo and Clio, while torque is up 30Nm on the Clio’s 1.6-litre unit but down 30Nm on the VW’s 2.0-litre.


That said, all will be trumped by Toyota’s GR Yaris hot hatch when it arrives towards the end of the year with a 1.6-litre engine good for 200kW/370Nm.


Local fuel economy figures for the ST are yet to be provided, however European grades manage 4.8 litres per 100km with the help of cylinder deactivation and a petrol particulate filter.


While the previous Fiesta was only available as a three-door hatch, the new version increases practicality with a five-door design yet retains the sporty hallmarks of the ST badge including its large upper and lower grille with hexagonal mesh design, front lip spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels shod in 205/40 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, rear roof spoiler and twin-exit exhaust pipes.


The sporty touches also go much further than skin deep, with a number of enhancements that improve performance over the regular Fiesta.


Steering feel has been made particularly sharp with a 12:1 steering ratio that the brand claims is quicker than any other Ford Performance model and is 14 per cent sharper than the previous Fiesta ST.


Three driving modes are available – normal, sport and track – which adjust engine response, exhaust note, steering feel and the slipperiness of the traction and stability control systems.


For those wanting to take their Fiesta ST onto the racetrack, stability control can be completely disabled, while a launch control feature is also available.


Stopping power comes courtesy of 278mm front brake discs and 254mm rotors at the rear, while a limited-slip differential on the front axle and torque vectoring system help improve dynamics.


The ST’s basic suspension design comprises MacPherson struts up front and a (lighter, more affordable) torsion beam at the rear, with Ford engineers striving for a balance between dynamic handling and ride comfort with the use of twin-tube Tenneco dampers and, at the rear, directionally wound ‘force vectoring’ springs.


Inside, the Fiesta ST scores an 8.0-inch Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system with DAB+ digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 10-speaker B&O Play sound system, Recaro sports seats with leather and suede upholstery, flat-bottomed leather-clad steering wheel with contrast stitching and select pieces of red and carbon-look trim.


There is 311 litres of storage space in the boot of the Fiesta ST, with a full-sized spare wheel included underneath.


Standard safety kit extends to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic emergency services notification in the event of a crash, and six airbags.


Exterior finishes include Performance Blue, Frozen White, Magnetic, Moondust Silver, Race Red, Shadow Black and Silver Fox, with the metallic paint options incurring a $650 premium.


The sole option offered on the Fiesta ST is a fully opening panoramic sunroof, set at $2500.


The Fiesta nameplate returns to Australia after the previous-generation model phased out of local showrooms last year.

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