Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

2014 Ford Fiesta ST front 3/4

No one can argue that go-karts are fun to drive. They're tiny, they turn on a dime, but typically aren't very fast. I often refer to my Yaris as a go-kart. Small, nimble, but fairly pokey. But perhaps you’re familiar with high-performance of shifter karts. These multi-speed go-karts are much higher performance than the beat-up single-speed lawnmower-powered karts at your local go-kart place. They’re tuned, high-performance screamers that are capable of speeds in excess of 100 MPH.

Like my Yaris, I would say regular Ford Fiestas are definitely go-kart like. They’re small, they handle well, they’re fun to drive, but aren’t exactly rocketships. However, the turbocharged Ford Fiesta ST—that’s the shifter kart of the Fiesta lineup. And much like a shifter kart, it’s a pint-sized screamer.

Ford Fiesta EcoBoost engine
The Fiesta ST is all about going faster and handling better than the normally aspirated Fiesta. For starters, the car gets a 1.6-liter direct-injected, turbocharged EcoBoost engine making 197 horsepower and a healthy 202 ft./lbs. of torque. The engine is mated to a solid-shifting six-speed manual gearbox—thankfully, the only option. The car weighs 2,742 lbs., which isn’t too bad, although it isn’t a featherweight. Fire up the engine and it’s rather quiet; quieter than I expected. Clutch uptake is a bit on the vague side, but not as vague as the Chevrolet Sonic with the 1.4-liter turbo, and the transmission feels precise, solid, and well-engineered. At wide-open throttle, the intake sounds are abundant, although the exhaust could use a bit more note, as it’s very quiet—too quiet for a sporty hatchback. Of course, the aftermarket will remedy that, but I kept thinking about how much fun the Fiat 500 Abarth was due to its exhaust system that pops, backfires, and spits like a pissed-off miniature Ferrari. That exhaust note added gobs or character to the 500. Regardless of the Fiesta ST’s rumblings, or lack thereof, the car has ample grunt for just about every situation, and the car is very entertaining to drive. Do note, there’s a fair amount of torque steer, so be sure to hold on tight.

Despite its sporting nature and powerful little engine, the Fiesta ST impresses with its fuel economy. Rated at 26 city, 29 combined, and 35 MPG on the highway, I got a bona-fide 29 MPG during my week with the hot hatchback. I’m sure in day-to-day circumstances (vs. a week of me “testing” the car), it could regularly surpass the 30 MPG mark. And while the car will run on regular 87 octane fuel, premium is recommended for the best performance.

Ford Fiesta ST rear 3/4

The handling feels extremely well balanced. I’m sure the Fiesta ST would be a blast at a track day. The car boasts a unique sport suspension system that is far stiffer than other Fiesta models. In fact, some might find it too stiff for daily driving; it’s really taught. It also has quite a bit of road noise, especially on rough aggregate. However, its reflexes are the reward for the rough ride, and reflexes it has in spades. Our Fiesta ST came with optional painted 17-inch alloy wheels rapped in summer-only 205/40/17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires with plenty of grip. Add to it a torque-vectoring system that mimics a limited-slip differential and most people will be extremely satisfied with the way the Fiesta ST moves at a full-on boogie (I was). Like the suspension, the steering is also very tight and quick with a steering ratio of 13.6:1 (vs. 14.3:1 on regular Fiestas). It should also be noted that traction control can be disabled putting the car into a sport mode. When it’s time to decelerate, the four-wheel disc brakes also have a just-right feeling, bringing the car to a stop quickly and without any surprises.

Without a doubt, the Fiesta ST is a blast to drive, but it also looks great. I’m a freak about the optional $595 Molten Orange Metallic Tricoat paint. With flecks of yellow-gold, it looks amazing, especially in the sun. Undoubtedly, this would be the color of my Fiesta ST. Though I’m not a big fan of the standard Fiesta’s recently redone Aston-Martin-style front fascia, the ST’s grille is unique to this model and looks appropriate. I also really dig the rear spoiler and those aforementioned wheels are attractive. Ford has really embodied the hot-hatch formula with this car, and I love that.

Ford Fiesta ST front Recaro seats

Inside our hopped-up Fiesta is the optional Recaro seat package, which will run buyers about $2,000. These highly-bolstered seats are heated and have an orange-and-black motif which looks awesome. They are, however, narrow—and I’m a scrawny 148 lbs. soaking wet. But, like most Recaro seats, they keep your ass firmly planted in the seat. Being that this is a Fiesta, the rear seating is tight; tighter than most other subcompacts these days, sans the Mazda2, which shares a chassis with the Fiesta. Plus, that back seat does not fold perfectly flat. If it helps, the stereo is quite good, as is the optional navigation ($795), and SYNC system.

So yes, the Ford Fiesta ST is a step above go-kart grade. It’s more like a shifter kart with Recaro seats and a great stereo status, and frankly, I love it. Our tester has a sticker price of $25,160, which includes the optional Recaro seats, navigation, gorgeous orange-metallic paint, and painted 17-inch wheels. The next question is: Fiesta ST or step up to the Focus ST? Both are about as entertaining as you can get in a front-drive hatchback. While the Fiesta ST starts at $22,195, the Focus ST starts at $24,450. According to Road & Track, the Fiesta ST is only 0.6 seconds slower 0-60 and 0.5 seconds slower in the ¼ mile than its bigger brother. Personally, I think I prefer the more tossable, smaller Fiesta ST. (Shocking, I know.)

2014 Ford Fiesta ST rear

This car is a classic example of a car that comes together so well. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, although its parts are pretty good. And so long as you’re OK with the smallish back seat, the car is truly a gem in all of its turbocharged go-kartyness. And while the MINI Cooper S and Fiat 500 Abarth are both pint-size go-kart-like pocket rockets, they only come in three-door models and are less practical. All three cars pack unique personalities and great attributes, but those looking for five-doors will no doubt be shouting the F-word: Fiesta.

Ford Fiesta dashboard

Ford Fiesta door sill

Ford Fiesta ST Recaro Seat

Ford Fiesta ST alloy wheel

Ford Fiesta ST back seat

No comments: