When it comes to affordable performance, the last Fiesta ST offered some of the best pound-for-pound fun you could get your hands on.
It was quick, great to drive, and not completely composed – in all the good ways, of course.
It’s bittersweet, however, because that means more is now expected of its successor. The sort of expectation that second albums and movie sequels generate.
But the ST isn’t the sort of sequel you’re reluctant to see in fear of it being poor alongside the original. It's the type you anticipate for months and jump feet first into when it finally lands.
It's winning on looks
The new ST is a good-looking machine.
Styling extras don’t extend too far past the upgraded alloys, ST badges and twin exhaust pipes, but together they make it look entirely different to the standard Fiesta.
And the new model’s lower, wider stance lends itself to the sportier trim. There’s no need for a huge rear wing to prove the car’s go-fast intent.
Our model was the range-topping ST-3 ,with the two-tone, 18-inch rims and finished in the Ford Performance Blue shade – no doubt the ST’s most flattering colour.
Change is good, unless we're talking about the sugar tax
Aesthetics aside, there’ve been a few other changes to the new model. The biggest of which sits under the hood, where the four-cylinder 1.6-litre has been replaced by a new 1.5-litre with three cylinders.
And that drops down to just two cylinders at a steady speed to save on fuel – a rarity on performance models.
But – and this is quite a substantial ‘but’ – it was a great decision.
The team at Ford Performance has somehow managed to squeeze 197bhp from the engine, a figure the last model could only hit on a 20-second power boost.
Such molehill-into-mountain tactics haven’t been seen since the feeding of the 5,000.
Sensible and mad, but more of the latter
It’s just as quick as you’d expect from a car with the power-to-weight ratio of a honey badger.
So much so that it’ll reach 60mph from a standstill in about six and a half seconds, putting it very nearly on par with the 247bhp Focus ST.
You could reasonably expect some turbo lag, and although there is some, it has impressive pull over a broader range than you’d first suspect.
And when you lift the accelerator to shift gears the revs don’t fall off too quickly, so you’re able to get back on the power straight after lifting the clutch.
It’s worth trying out a few high-rev gear changes too, because the exhaust’s snaps and pops are Rice Krispies-esque.
The gearbox is spot on
There’s no option of an automatic gearbox here, which is only a positive as gearchanges are a hoot.
The stick’s range of movement is much shorter than you’d get in a standard car, so you’ll be dipping the clutch and knocking it up a gear like you’re involved in your own in Fast & Furious action sequence. Where the law permits, of course.
You also have three driving modes; Normal, Sport and Track – the latter options finetune the setup for a more responsive experience and throw a few more snaps and pops from the exhaust. Always a good thing.
It’s worth adding, however, that the Track mode might be too mad for use on public roads.
But if you do have access to a stretch of road that isn’t ruled by the Highway Code, you can benefit from the Launch Control that’s fitted with the £925 Performance Pack.
It holds the revs at a chosen level, letting you to plant the accelerator pedal and enabling an even quicker setoff. Or in simpler terms, like something unmentionable off a stick.
Throw the front end in
As capable as it is in a straight line, the ST is a car that would rather be thrown grille-first into a corner.
At most speeds it’s neat through the corners, but push it a bit more and the back end becomes somewhat involved.
And that’s emphasised with the Quaife limited-slip differential that comes as part of the Performance Pack.
It powers the front wheels separately depending on which side has the better grip, letting you make full use of the ST’s brilliant engine.
There’s nothing like the novelty of taking a tight bend and getting back on the throttle early. You’ll need a tight hold of the wheel as the front axle rocks about, but it’s rewarding to keep it on that line.
The steering itself is weighty, and is perfect for precise and involved driving.
It’s improved on the inside
The ST’s on-the-road competence is clearly its main card, but there have also been improvements in the cabin.
A clear and easy-to-use 8-inch touchscreen now sits on the centre of the dash, between leather and gloss black panels – it’s much more up to date.
Leather Recaro bucket seats also feature in the ST-3, providing some needed support if you’re trying out the lively rear axle I’ve just mentioned.
Another option is the Bang & Olufsen speaker system, with its uprated sound quality for an extra £450.
The new ST is a riot
Ford made quite the change by opting for a smaller, more economic engine, but it’s a move that’s paid off – the new three cylinder is more versatile and potent than the unit it replaces.
Whether you’re a recently-passed driver looking for something that’s fun but manageable, or you want a second motor to throw about the B roads on a weekend, it’ll suit nicely.
Fuel consumption is also just short of 40mpg – more than solid for a car that’s just as capable of rounding a bend sideways as it is forwards.
There’ll always be demand for powerful, yet affordable cars and Ford is more adept than most in supplying just that, particularly with the Fiesta and Focus STs.
They could’ve adopted a same-old approach and fitted the newer model with any engine in the 200bhp bracket, and it would’ve been a hit to some degree.
But what they’ve done instead is engineer a hot hatch that’ll save you dosh on fuel, whilst still offering the same raucous fun that we’ve come to expect from fast Fiestas.
And it’s come out at the top end of its class, or perhaps even the best. If we’re scoring it in terms of solid movie sequels, the new Fiesta ST is on a level with Terminator 2.
For more on the Ford Fiesta ST, or to book your own test drive, head to lookers.co.uk/ford/new-cars/ford-fiesta