2014 Ford Fiesta ST First Drive

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2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback

(1.6L 4-cyl. 5-speed Manual)
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta ST - Action Front 3/4

    2014 Ford Fiesta ST - Action Front 3/4

    Smaller and lighter than the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST still lives up to the name. | February 28, 2013

22 Photos

Hottest Hatch, Smallest Cash

It's easy to be dismissive of the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST. When you think of all the great fast Fords of the past, not many of them are tiny hatchbacks with four-cylinder engines driving the front wheels. If within the genre of sporting automobiles there were a polar opposite to a Shelby Mustang, without a doubt you'd be looking at it right now.

But don't be too quick to judge. If the car can cash the check written by those two little letters after its name, the Fiesta ST may yet be a force to be reckoned with. ST stands for Sport Technologies and on all cars to which it has so far been fitted (recently the Focus ST in the U.S. and European Focus, Fiestas and Mondeos for many years) it has produced startling results.

A giant of a car it is clearly not, although a giant killer it may yet be. It should also be said here that while the pictures are of European-specification three-door cars, all U.S. STs will have five-door bodywork.

Punching Above Its Weight
Don't spend too long looking at other heated-up hatchbacks in this category in the hope of getting a sense of what the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST might have to offer. A Chevy Sonic RS has a mere 138 horsepower and even that mighty mouse the Mini Cooper S offers just 181 hp. Instead the Fiesta ST's 1.6-liter EcoBoost motor is just 3 hp short of the magic 200-hp mark, a figure backed by an even more impressive 214 pound-feet of torque. Indeed it has the same torque at 1,600 rpm (177 lb-ft) as the Cooper S offers in total, yet Ford says it should hit 34 mpg combined, compared to the Mini's 29 mpg.

Unsurprisingly, Ford has modified the rest of the car to suit and not just with the usual cosmetic applications of flared wheel arches, a rear wing, chin spoiler, twin pipes and big 17-inch rims. The suspension is lowered by 15mm and substantially stiffened — twice as much at the back as at the front. The front struts also have been modified to provide more accurate wheel control under large cornering forces. A quicker steering rack has been fitted, as has three-stage ESP that allows no slip, some slip or all the slip in the world depending on which setting you choose. Torque vectoring, which can brake an inside front wheel midcorner to improve cornering balance, is also present.

Inside you'll find chunky Recaro seats, ST badging, a thick leather wheel and gearshifter. Ford also now offers a 6.5-inch LCD touchscreen in place of the unlovable Sony push-button infotainment system. Programmable MyKey options allow the owner to limit the car's speed and audio volume for when others are driving. Finally the ST specification includes a mechanical sound symposer for enhancing the sound of desirable engine noises in the cabin.

As Good as It Sounds?
Those Recaros really make a difference. Not only do they look good, but the way they hug your body almost like a race seat instantly tells you that, contrary to what you can see in a cabin that's little changed from standard, this experience is going to be different.

There's no fire and brimstone from the engine as it starts: It sounds like any other smooth, well-balanced Ford four. But as soon as you're moving and without your having to stomp the throttle, the ST starts establishing its credentials.

It's the steering you notice first. It's not just more direct, it's more positive, too, answering your inputs more swiftly and accurately. The ride is clearly stiffer, too, but it's appropriate for this kind of car. It's firm enough to offer control and composure but not threaten your dental work. The gearbox is good and six manual gears are all that's available. Despite its class-leading power, the ST is not about how fast you can go, but how much fun you can have going fast. For that you need to feel the connection to the machine provided by a quick gearbox with close ratios and a pleasantly mechanical feel.

The engine feels every bit as strong as its numbers suggest, particularly if you gas it at medium revs. Even so, there is some lag. And despite the symposer, its voice is more pleasant than inspirational. In Europe it's claimed to reach 62 mph in 6.9 seconds and it easily feels that quick. Still, this engine is not much more than a delivery mechanism for the real fun this car has to offer.

Let's Twist Again
String a decent set of corners together in the ST and the first thing you'll want to do is turn the car around and try them the other way. We first saw Ford's highly unorthodox approach to hot hatchback chassis tuning with the oversteer-adoring Focus ST. Its little brother now confirms this was more a product of policy than accident.

It's best to find out about it first with the ESP set to allow some slip rather than disengaged altogether. There's nothing inherently treacherous about the ST's chassis. Indeed, it is the very immediacy with which it executes your instructions that might take you by surprise. If you go powering into a bend and cut the gas halfway around, it's going to assume you want to tighten your line and tighten it will — right up to the point where all understeer has been killed stone dead. Then the electronics will chime in to stop it from getting any looser. You could, of course, do it yourself using the throttle, but Ford correctly assumes most drivers won't know what to do in this scenario and safely steps in with the electronics.

Remove all the electronic safety nets and it'll wag its tail like a live-axle muscle car on a wet road thanks to the decision to increase stiffness at the back by twice as much as the front. Few of us associate small front-drive hatchbacks with armfuls of countersteer, but if you want it, the Fiesta ST is here to provide it.

Performance Value
Driving like this is not the fastest way from apex to apex but we should remind ourselves that's not how to look at the ST. This is a car that's all about the provision of fun in a small, frugal, usable package. It knows that raw speed is only one ingredient in this complex recipe. It accepts that it is how that performance is harnessed that is the true measure of the machine.

For driving enthusiasts needing a car that's both cheap to buy and run, Ford has added another winner to its ST stable. U.S. pricing has not been announced, but if the strategy follows Focus ST pricing, the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST will come in under the Titanium trim level below $18,000. Its engine could do with more character, its electric steering would be improved by better feedback, but for $5,000 less than a Mini Cooper S, it's hard to think of another car out there that can touch it.

And it definitely lives up to the ST badge.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Comments

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Comments?

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Tiny hot hatches are just great fun, and good value for dollar. And, glad comments are back! I was wondering where everyone was. I felt as if I was checking in on my favorite hole in the wall, and it's closed lunch after lunch... Without explanation...

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I don't get Ford's strategy with the St's. In a world where Ferrari and Porsche both offer DSG's only in their highest performance cars, Ford chooses to not even offer one in the Focus and Fiesta ST's, thereby severely limiting their audience. I like manuals as much as anybody, my regular driver is a '72 MGB-GT. But I would share a new car with my wife, who likes performance, but drives 99% in Chicago traffic and just won't deal with a manual. So when I finally look to replace my MkIV Jetta turbo it will likely be with a GTI or a Veloster Turbo, both of which give me the option for good power AND an automatic.

  • soakee_ soakee_ Posts:

    The worst thing about this car (the U.S. version anyway): two doors too many. Thanks to Ford for offering only a manual shift.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Wrong number of doors in the US and no dual clutch option mark this as a fail for me. Ford are being very brave bringing a this and the Focus ST to market with chassis that will oversteer with the nannies off. Pre-stability control hot hatches in Europe varied from the very good to the nasty in that department. The worst was the Peugeot 205 GTI, a fantastic car to drive right up until the point it tossed you through a hedge backwards at high speed with little or no warning. Then there was the Ford Escort RS Turbo that could made into a killer simply by fitting the wrong tyres. How did I survive the 80s and 90s?

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    The WRX and Evo are both 4 doors, the WRX is a 4-door wagon. Why is it a problem that the Fiesta is a 4 door hatch?

  • soakee_ soakee_ Posts:

    The WRX, Evo, Focus and Fiesta ST are ALL problems with me because they have too many doors. Personally, I don't give a hoot about a dual-clutch as I prefer three pedals.

  • sn91872 sn91872 Posts:

    What's the deal with these small liter turbos with no automatic. Look, if I am going to drive a manual, I want an 8 cylinder or bigger, or at least a turbo'd 6. I'd love to buy this car, but I want an automatic. I don't want to deal with a manual in my daily driving, but I'd love to have the sportiness of this car. I saw this Fiesta and the turbo'd Sonic and the Detroit car show, very nice cars, but I won't buy one because I can't get an automatic. Big fail by Detroit.

  • ed124c ed124c Posts:

    Interesting. However, I would prefer that these types of cars START OUT with manuals only Why? Because the carmaker will see that it isn't selling well. Outcome? The auto is added. If it had started out with the automatic, it never would have got the manual. The sad thing is that manuals are going away and there isn't a lot we can do about it-- especially when I read the above where most of the so-called stick people want the Fiesta ST to come with the automatic. Come on, guys and gals, stick with the stick. I haven't bought an automatic car in 35 years. ( I have purchased seven new cars in the last 35 years.)

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    Automatics suck the life out of these little turbo engines. Want an Auto get a Buick.

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    Oh and 4 doors are often cheaper to insure! What is the big deal about 4 doors?

  • patvw patvw Posts:

    Sounds like a sweet ride. I wanted to get a Focus ST, but we only ever lease, and the lease rates were horrible. $475 pm for a Focus ST? I got a VW Beetle Turbo for $205 pm with the same $3500 down. Granted, the VW is not as sporty, but it is still as fast as the Focus on 0-60 times. Not that I care. It's like a soft GTI, which is good enough for me. Would I have considered the Fiesta ST? Maybe. It is smaller than the bug and Focus and the lease rates are likely horrible. But it sounds like fun.

  • silentwolf silentwolf Posts:

    Some lame comments I'm seeing and we wonder why the US doesnt get the nice cars. Because too many American can't even be bothered to row their own gears. Nothing replaces the control over a car that you have in a manual. Your ears listen for that shift point, while your hand reaches for the gear knob and immediately knows what gear it is in. Your left foot presses the clutch as you quickly shift to the needed gear and tap the gas to rev match the rpms for the next gear. That intimate interaction with driver and car is something that many seem to forget (or never experienced) because they dont want the hassle of alternating clutch and gas during heavy traffic. Regardless of the door numbers, the Fiesta ST comes with a modern 6spd M/T, great power to weight ratio, can be loaded up with more than just groceries, and still gets good mileage. Nuff said! And the ability to oversteer when needed without the nannies, GREAT!

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Ford Fiesta in VA is:

$148 per month*
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