FOR everyone who fell in love with the revised Ford Fiesta ST when it was launched in 2013 – and that was virtually everyone who got behind the wheel – the decision to replace its four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine with a three-cylinder 1.5-litre unit caused some consternation.

Why mess with something which was near-perfection in the hot-hatch class?

Well, Ford thought it could do even better… and it did, coupling the first three-cylinder engine ever to power a Ford performance model with a raft of technologies to enhance its front end grip, traction and suspension.

The new Fiesta ST squeezes the same 197hp out of the engine, still comes with a soundtrack that puts a smile on your face and uses less fuel. And it still drives like a dream.

Not only that, it comes with a starting price tag of under £19,000 and is packed with features to make your ST experience that much easier to live with.

For starters, there are now three selectable drive modes – normal, sport and track – plus a flat-bottomed steering wheel, Recaro seats and sports suspension as standard. Splash out an extra £850 and you can have a performance pack that includes a limited slip differential, launch control and performance shift lights.

But the Fiesta ST has never been purely about performance. Even the entry level ST-1 gets electric, heated door mirrors, Ford’s SYNC3 DAB radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, cruise control, lane-keeping alert and a speed limiter.

But you really need go for the ST-2, tested here, which for £19,995 in three-door guise and £20,645 for the five-door, adds climate control, heated and heavily bolstered Recaro front seats, heated steering wheel, a premium sound system and a larger eight-inch touchscreen as standard.

ST-3 gains 18-inch alloy wheels and red brake calipers, £350 and £75 options, respectively, on ST-2 models, satellite navigation, automatic rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror and driver assistance features including traffic sign recognition, auto high beam and driver alert. The three-door ST-3 is priced from £21,495 while the five-door model starts from £22,145.

My only disappointment with the specification was a £600 optional extra charge for full LED headlamps on ST-2 and ST-3 models.

But let’s get back to that new engine.

Powered by the three-cylinder, 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit, the new Fiesta ST accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds – and that feels very fast in what is a small car - and has a top speed of 144mph.

Yet unless you are being over-enthusiastic with your right foot and falling into the temptation of holding on to lower gears with the six-speed manual transmission you might well achieve the official combined fuel economy figure of 47.1mpg.

Drive Modes will also adjust the Fiesta ST’s electronic sound enhancement technology and active exhaust noise control valve, which amplifies the sound of the engine note and makes it quite addictive.

The new Fiesta ST is the most responsive, engaging and fun-to-drive version ever, featuring a range of innovative sports technologies that enhance power and performance; cornering and agility; and versatility for scenarios from the school run to race track.

Available in three-door and five-door body styles, this is a car that is equally at home on a racetrack or a trip to the supermarket. Its only downside as an everyday mode of transport is the inevitably stiff suspension.

The engine’s three-cylinder architecture delivers naturally high torque at low rpm. Performance is further boosted by a new turbocharger that provides for a more responsive and fun driving experience.

It also features Ford’s industry-first cylinder deactivation system for a three-cylinder engine to further improve fuel efficiency without affecting performance. The technology automatically stops fuel delivery and valve operation for one of the engine’s cylinders in conditions where full capacity is not needed, such as when coasting or cruising with light demand on the engine.

The all-aluminium engine also features an integrated exhaust manifold that improves efficiency by helping the engine reach optimal temperatures faster, and delivers torque more rapidly by minimising the distance exhaust gasses travel between cylinders and turbocharger.

Developed for use on track only, optional launch control enables drivers to achieve test their nerve from fast standing starts. Designed to be simple to use, drivers can select launch control using steering wheel controls, activating a dedicated graphical display in the 4.2-inch instrument cluster. Holding the throttle fully open will instruct the system to build engine rpm and automatically hold at the rev limit – filling an on-screen gauge that indicates when the car is prepared for launch. Releasing the clutch fully then enables an optimised standing start.

Away from the racetrack, there are still plenty of thrills to be had. Even in the normal drive mode there’s a natural responsiveness and a connected feel. In sport mode, engine mapping and throttle pedal response are sharpened, there’s more feedback and finer control for fast road driving. And the active noise control valve opens to intensify the sporty exhaust note.

The Fiesta ST is probably best enjoyed in short bursts, before you tire of that stiff suspension and those bolstered seats. It really is the full package: responsive, exciting, a great steer and mated with a fab gearbox. Try it and you will want one.


Ford Fiesta ST-2 (three-door)

Price: from £20,495 (range from £18,995)

Engine: Three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged EcoBoost petrol, producing 200PS

Transmission: Six-speed manual driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 6.5 seconds; top speed 144mph

Economy: 47.1mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 136g/km


Performance: *****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****