2014 Ford Fiesta ST Full Test on Edmunds.com

2014 Ford Fiesta ST Full Test

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  • Road Tests (2)
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2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback

(1.6L 4-cyl. Turbo 6-speed Manual)

The Predictably Good Sequel

It's possible, likely even, that's Ford's best driver's cars are five-door hatchbacks with four-cylinder engines powering the front wheels. The Mustang, with the exception of the Boss 302, is not a driver's tool, at least not in the same vein as the ST twins. It's these cars (the Focus ST and the 2014 Fiesta ST) that prove Ford is still in the game when it comes to driver's cars.

Nonsense, you say. Front-drive hatchbacks are converted economy cars, leftovers from an economy-of-scale business plan that happened to throw a bone to the enthusiasts. Not so fast there, hotshot. It's best to reserve judgment until you've actually driven all the contestants.

We've driven the Mustang. We've driven the Focus ST. And now we've driven its little brother, the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.

And it's pretty darned good.

Here's What Makes It Good
That the Fiesta is engaging to drive is relatively unsurprising given the Focus ST's dynamic strengths. That it's still a practical daily driver (with an enthusiast bent, sure) is somewhat more surprising.

Think about it this way: You won't find yourself in a controlled four-wheel drift in any other subcompact, sporting intentions or not. Not in a Mini Cooper S. Not in a Fiat 500 Abarth. And certainly not in Chevy's Sonic RS. It just won't happen. The ability to rotate off-throttle, remain composed and point its drive wheels in the desired direction is a defining component of Ford's ST product line. It's what the Fiesta ST does best. And it's wildly entertaining.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Torque, too, doesn't hurt. If there's ever been a car that lives up to the line about people buying horsepower and driving torque, it's the Fiesta ST, which oozes grunt with every millimeter of throttle travel. This abundant, early yank endows the Fiesta with both usable acceleration and genuine character.

Our Fiesta ST dyno test showed more than 200 pound-feet available until 6,600 rpm. Peaks of 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft arrive at 5,200 and 2,700 rpm, respectively. Ford's official numbers are conservative: 197 hp and 202 lb-ft of torque. Still, it all comes from a direct-injected 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed manual transmission.

Respectably Quick at the Track
All that torque, it turns out, makes the 2014 Ford Fiesta a challenge to launch effectively. Wheelspin is virtually unavoidable during the Fiesta's 7.1-second (6.8 seconds with 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip) 0-60 run. The quarter-mile disappears in 15.1 seconds at 92.3 mph.

These aren't numbers you'll drag out to impress your buddies, but they're enough to surprise the hipster in a Fiat 500 Abarth in the next lane. Our last test of that car yielded the same time to 60 mph and a quarter-mile 0.2 second behind and 3.5 mph slower.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Grip and balance are Fiesta ST strengths. It circled the skid pad at 0.91g and slithered through our 600-foot slalom at 67.7 mph. Though that skid pad performance is a few clicks better than the Abarth (0.88g), the slalom is a few clicks slower (68.8 mph). But, really, there's no comparison between the Fiesta and any of its on-paper competitors when it comes to driving that matters.

Back Road Rock Star
Though no car with 200 hp is going to tear apart a mountain road, the Fiesta ST makes better use of its resources than any other car in the (admittedly small) segment. More importantly, the ST makeover transforms the Fiesta from a rather lifeless subcompact into a genuinely entertaining car.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when the road starts to twist. Take the clock out of the equation and you won't be concerned with the 7 seconds required to hit 60. Rather, you'll be fully engaged by the Fiesta's constant supply of grip, torque and rotation. It's an easy car to drive hard, and with three-mode stability control it's easy to loosen the reins without increasing the risk.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Ultimately, the Fiesta's handling character is very much like the Focus ST. Power in hard, lift, wait for the rotation you want and jump back to the throttle. Speed and lift-throttle aggression both influence how quickly and how far the car rotates. And after adjusting to its rather nuanced handling, a rhythm quickly develops. The result, on a real driving road, is speed.

Ford's Low-Cost Way of Going Fast
Both the ST models lack a real limited-slip differential and rely instead on brake application to the inside front wheel to drive torque to the outside wheel. Applying the brakes to go faster isn't the most effective approach, but it is the cheapest. Ford calls it Torque Vectoring Control, but don't let the name fool you: There's no active torque management going on. It's coupled with the ability to individually apply the inside rear brake to enhance rotation. And as much as our mind prefers a direct-acting differential distributing the power, it's hard to argue with the result. There's a level of control available here we wouldn't have thought possible.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST was developed at Ford's Lommel proving ground in Belgium by people who clearly understand the proper way to make a front-drive car both fun and rapid. Ultimately, because of its twist-beam rear axle, the Fiesta lacks the level of control offered in the Focus, but you'll need a fairly rough road to discern those differences. Plus, its smaller dimensions offer more latitude to place it where you choose.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The final component of the ST's character is sound. And it is good. Like the Mustang and Focus ST, the Fiesta utilizes a sound symposer, which is basically a tube tuned to pump the good intake sounds into the cockpit. At wide-open throttle the honk is better than it should be from a 1.6-liter four.

Compromised but Still Practical
Functionally, the ST's interior is the same as a standard Fiesta save one major difference: the optional Recaro seats. Though being critical of seats that locate the driver and passenger this well is admittedly nitpicky, these are large, unwieldy things that demand comment.

Their bolsters are too big, especially in a car as small as the Fiesta. Certainly they offer ample lateral support, but the huge side bolsters interfere with our elbows during steering and ingress/egress. Having supportive seats in a car that deserves them is a must, but having them interfere with driving and utility isn't. There are seats that serve both camps well and these aren't them.

A leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob are standard on the ST. Otherwise, this is the same relatively functional interior we like in the standard Fiesta. Sync comes with a smaller 6.5-inch touchscreen here and offers the same benefits and frustrations it does in other Ford products.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The rear seats don't fold completely flat, but we still found enough room in the cargo area to stuff a mountain bike with its front tire removed. It's not big, but the Fiesta, as with most subcompacts, uses its space efficiently.

Ford claims 29 mpg combined. Our tester produced 25.5 mpg during almost 800 miles of mixed driving — none of which was performed with an eye toward fuel economy.

Cost/Benefit Analysis
With a base price of $22,195 including destination, the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST stands as one of the best performance values on offer today. Our car, equipped with the $1,995 Recaros and $795 navigation system stickered for $24,445.

Ironically, the Fiesta's biggest competition comes from within. The Focus ST, which can be had for $24,910 without options, is temptingly close. A stripped Fiat 500 Abarth (a very different car, and one that's not as good in many ways) can be had for $22,800.

It comes down to what you want. And if what you want is five-door utility packaged in one of the most entertaining driver's cars sold today, you'll not find it for less anywhere else.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.



  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Kudos for giving this car some adjustability in the handling but the Ford method of using the brakes as an LSD just makes me cringe. What are the chances of an aftermarket Quaife or Torsen diff with a flash to disable the Ford cop-out software?

  • boff_ boff_ Posts:

    The difference between the Boss 302 and the track pack-equipped Mustang GT amounts essentially to shock and spring selection, different brake lines, exhaust and engine tune, and a fake suede wheel. Yet the Boss is a driver's tool and the GT is not. Okay, then. Perhaps it's the stripes!

  • boff_ boff_ Posts:

    Good question, agentorange. The Ford system makes for a fun street driver, but forget about taking your torque-vectoring hot hatch to the track, where the brakes will be cooked into oblivion within a few laps.

  • This site's focus on SPEED is inversely proportional to the size of their PENISes.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    are the stock seats the same as a stock fiestas? i would presume so. how about a $500 upgrade to no name sport seats more suited to this car? it doesn't need recaros...

  • socal_eric socal_eric Posts:

    It's probably a good bet you'll be able to get a Quiafe for it within the next year. As for disabling the electronics, there wouldn't be a need to as they should complement the mechanical diff and it wouldn't be very likely to do since the algorithms live in the ABS controller and not the engine controller. The market to reserve engineer that controller just isn't very likely. --------------- Speaking of the electronics, yes they use the braking system and if you track the car may need upgraded (probably pads and fluid at a minimum), but electronics are being used on quite a few cars these days to include rear and all-wheel drive for torque transfer and you're going to see it more and more. It allows the manufacturer to tune the chassis as a whole and get it to do things that would otherwise be difficult… like making a nose heavy front driver easy to rotate and control on the street. --------------- A mechanical limited slip in the Fiesta and Focus ST would help put power down better without increasing thermal load on the brakes as much, but if you disabled the electronics and some of algorithms such as the active torque vectoring and curve control (understeer mitigation) it would quite dramatically change the character of the car (you can test this for yourself on the ST by disconnecting an ABS wheel speed sensor to disable it while leaving electronic brake force distribution active).

  • skeezix4me skeezix4me Posts:

    I was able to drive a Fiesta ST last month and came away very impressed. Aside from the absurdly-bolstered Recaro seats, this little hatch is quite impressive. I’m guessing Ford won’t have a hard time selling as many of these as they can make. With so many of the ‘sport-compacts’ going large (Focus), soft (GTI), bland (Civic Si), or away (Sentra SE-R) it’s nice to see a car like this coming to market that harkens back to the original GTI’s I grew up with. I agree it’s not perfect (back seats that don’t fold flat, and the Recaros reducing rear seat leg space), but for a daily driver that small, fun, and affordable, I think Ford got it right.

  • ebg1222 ebg1222 Posts:

    Hey Edmunds, are you guys planning to get one of these little rockets for your long-term test cars? i hope so.

  • explorerx4 explorerx4 Posts:

    My mom has a Fiesta SES and it can fit 3 adults, so it's pretty practical. ST sounds a bit too hardcore for me. How about a GT version with a 1.5 and a 6 speed?

  • Every front-wheel-drive performance car deserves a helical limited slip differential to maximize performance and complete the overall package. With that said, I am very disappointed with the availability of helical differentials. Car manufacturers only offer them as OEM equipment very rarely. Aftermarket manufacturers (Quaife, Wavetrac, Torsen, etc.) only offer a limited selection of available differentials for certain cars. You would think that with modern technology and computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM), a differential manufacturer should be able to produce a single helical differential "made to order" for a specific customer based on the make, model and specifications of the customer's car for a reasonable price. Instead, differential manufacturers only make helical differentials in large "batches" for a select few car models in order to maximize profitability. With modern technology, I think that manufacturers should be able to do better.

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    @engineer_mba just because you can't buy one at a store doesent mean you can't buy one give the company a call most of the big name brands will do a special order (eaton is one of them) it will cost 3x as much for the part but if it's that important to yo

  • bassrockerx - Thanks for the tip. I will see what I can find.

  • socal_eric socal_eric Posts:

    The transaxle used and the volume from many different market make it pretty likely we'll see some different options if you're specifically looking at a Fiesta ST. It would be great if you could easily buy helical gear, automatic torque biasing diffs or other types for all cars but the machining of the carrier (which isn't too difficult) isn't so much a problem as having to research, develop and cut/machine the custom ring gear, bearing and race design to mate up to each transmission, and also possibly alter the pinions and internal gears to fit a specific carrier as well as any changes in the design to alter the torque transfer characteristics for each specific application.------------- I'd agree that it would be nice for more cars to have them, especially high power front drivers, but from the automaker's standpoint the investment and uptake rate unfortunately aren't high enough to justify it in most cases (especially in this end of the segment although luxury cars like higher end BMWs are turning to electronics solutions instead of mechanical as well). At least with time the ABS, braking, electronics and tuning abilities should improve like all technologies but could still complement a mechanical solution for the best of both worlds.

  • rob204 rob204 Posts:

    This is kinda old now, but having looked it over, KUDOS to Ford for this car. It's too small for me, but if you want a new corner carver on the cheap, this thing costs literally about 8 thousand less than a Miata and while it has no removable top, it makes the Miata look like a Matchbox car for real in terms of technology. Mazda is supposedly finally doing a new one. Also, I saw the comment on Mustang GT Track Pack vs BOSS and I can tell everyone, the differences are IMMENSE overall This isn't the place to debate it, but please, just look them up and study for a few minutes. They're very, very different overall.

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