Fiesta ST: Our Full Review – The World’s Hottest Hatch?

Ford took the US hatchback market by storm when they released the Focus ST, and Fiesta ST. Enthusiasts overseas have enjoyed the Fiesta ST since 2008, but in America, we had to wait until 2013. Ford wants the Fiesta ST to be the perfect blend of performance and practicality. Every review you find online gives the Fiesta ST nothing but praise. But, does it really live up to all the hype?

Powertrain

Luckily Ford didn’t use the standard little engine in the ST model. Ford equipped the Fiesta ST with a 1.6L EcoBoost that outputs 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque. But, these numbers are pretty conservative. Many dyno tests show the Fiesta ST making around 180 whp and 220 wtq (210 hp and 250 lb-ft). However, the important part here is that the Fiesta ST makes peak torque at 2,500 RPM.

This is enough to propel the ST from 0 to 60 in about 7 seconds. I know what you’re thinking, 7 seconds in slow as hell. The BRZ/GT86 also does the same 0 to 60 in 7 seconds, but those cars feel slow. The Fiesta ST feels really fast from the driver’s seat. You can punch the throttle in almost any gear at any RPM and the torque will kick in immediately. That’s what makes the little Fiesta feel so incredibly fast.

The Fiesta ST feels like a proper sports car from the driver’s seat. The way it pulls out of corners feels makes it feel like it has 400 horsepower. It’s the perfect power level for having fun but not getting in trouble with the law. Getting on the gas in the Fiesta ST will make any occupants grin because of how fast it feels.

Of course, as car guys we always want more, so a “Stage 3” kit might be in the future. For the average Joe, the stock power level on the Fiesta ST is more than enough to have a great time with. We feel the Fiesta’s powertrain deserves a 9/10.

Suspension/Handling

Ford’s ST team did an excellent job making the Fiesta handle like a real sports car. It handles better than many rear-wheel drive sports cars on the market today. Most of this is due to the suspension tuning. Ford also added a powerful high-end performance technology to make the Fiesta ST handle like a dream.

Often times to make a front-wheel drive car handle well you need to have a super stiff rear sway bar. You can tell that Ford used this design philosophy because the Fiesta ST loves to lift the inside rear wheel mid-corner.

Unfortunately, Ford improperly tuned the shocks which results in horrible ride quality. Seriously sometimes it feels like my 1985 Suburban on a 4″ lift would’ve ridden better. Many suspension companies are claiming their coil-overs improve ride quality without sacrificing the handling.

Ford didn’t just use suspension tuning to make the Fiesta ST go fast. Expensive AWD sports cars like the Mitsubishi EVO use a highly advanced torque vectoring system. Torque vectoring send power to the outside wheels to help to car rotate in the direction you’re turning. The only problem is that a torque vectoring system is very expensive. The cheaper alternative is to brake the inside wheels, instead of powering the outside wheels. That’s all brake vectoring really is.

This system allows the Fiesta ST to out corner most high-end sports cars. The system, however, eats brake pads like crazy. If you plan on going to the track don’t expect much more than 20k miles out of your brakes pads. For some people, this could be a deal breaker. This doesn’t bother me a huge amount just because of the massive performance benefits.

All of these things combined make the Fiesta ST a great little canyon carver or weekend track toy. You can rotate the Fiesta mid-corner just by modulating the throttle. This makes it very easy for beginners to drive fast. If you’re brave enough you can begin to master 4-wheel drifting the ST through a corner. The over-steer is very predictable and requires no steering input to correct, just throttle input. We think the Fiesta ST deserves a solid 9/10 in this category.

Practicality

Ford advertises the Fiesta ST to get 26 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. I’ve found that quite a few people are complaining that the ST actually gets horrible gas mileage. I think it’s fair to attribute this to the ST’s fun to drive nature. It’s pretty hard to get good gas mileage when you’re going fast.

Initially, when I bought the Fiesta ST I was averaging 25 MPG combined. I thought the claims that Ford lied about its fuel economy might’ve been true. But, after driving it for a week I started to drive less aggressive. Once I drove like a normal person average fuel economy jumped up to 31 MPG. Keep in mind that I rarely drive on the highway. If you keep your foot out of the throttle the little Fiesta will seriously impress you with its fuel mileage.

The trunk might be small for some people, but for my purposes it’s just fine. The only things I put back there are tools, a backpack, and a 12″ subwoofer. If you need a larger trunk you should look at the Focus ST. We rate the practicality 9/10.

Exterior Styling

The standard Ford Fiesta is what most people wouldn’t consider a good looking car. It just looks like another small car designed for commuting and nothing else. This is especially true with the Fiesta sedan which, quite frankly, is a really ugly car. Ford solved this issue with a simple body kit, which completely transforms the outside of the Fiesta.

The body kit of the ST uses a new front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, and wing. The front bumper uses a giant fish-like grill to help with cooling, and the lower redesign helps it cool the intercooler. The side skirts make it looks lower and more aggressive, as does the rear bumper. The rear wing makes it look like a proper little rally car, and it’s also functional at providing downforce!

I’ve heard a few automotive journalists complain that the styling makes it look larger than it actually is. I have to agree with them because the ST does look like a big car. It’s not until you look directly at the front that you realize the Fiesta ST is very narrow. We think that Ford hit an absolute home run with the styling of the Fiesta ST. We give it 10/10 in the looks department.

Interior

The interior on the Fiesta ST is pretty basic. Ford has seriously increased the quality of their interiors in the last five years. But, the Fiesta ST is still based off of the cheapest car that Ford makes. There are a lot of cheap plastics everywhere, but that parts that you touch feel pretty decent. Our Fiesta ST isn’t equipped with the optional Recaro seats, but the standard seats are somewhat decent. Hopefully, sometime in the future, we will be upgrading to the Recaro seats because they are truly awesome.

My only real problem with the interior is the seating position. I cannot seem to find a position where the wheel is near me, but my legs aren’t scrunched up. I thought the rear leg room would be horrible, but it’s suprisingly good. I’m 6’2 tall and I can fit behind myself, but it’s not very comfortable.

The interior accent lighting is a nice feature and I always have the accent lights on. It really makes the car feel alive at night, looks awesome, and is functional. Overall the interior of the Fiesta ST is pretty darn good for a $20k car. It’s still a cheap car interior at the end of the day, but it’s not bad. The Fiesta ST earns 9/10 for its interior.

Build Quality

Build quality is pretty decent for a $20k car. There aren’t any interior squeaks or rattles and our Fiesta is all the way up to 24k miles now. But the fact that the Fiesta is the cheapest car Ford makes is starting to show itself. The grab handle trim on the door panel moves a tiny bit, and it makes it feel super cheap.

A lot of manual transmissions make a little bit of noise when shifting and this one is no different. The gas peddle hasn’t worn out so well, but you should expect that when racking up a lot of miles. The paint, however, is probably the worst part on the build quality. The paint seriously seems to chip from anything, which is really frustrating.

Other than those few small issues, the build quality of the Fiesta is pretty darn good considering it’s the cheapest car Ford makes. If Ford increased the paint quality it would be a really well-built car. But, with the paint issues, I would consider the Fiesta’s build quality to be pretty average. Build quality is 6/10.

The Things I Don’t Like

The Fiesta isn’t absolutely perfect, and there are a few things about it that bug me. The lumbar support adjuster is on the right side of the driver’s seat. I have heard of a few people hitting their arm on it when the shift, but I don’t seem to have that problem. The seating position is also a little goofy; in order for me to have the wheel close to me, my legs have to be a little scrunched up.

I wish there was a little more interior storage, but that’s a little hard to ask for with a car this small. The center console isn’t very big, it’s just tall. Plus a big chunk of it is dedicated to the USB/Aux/SD Card slots. The front storage compartment in front of the shifter is basically useless. Not only is it small, but anytime you accelerate whatever you put in there will slide out.

Another thing I really don’t like is how small the entertainment display is, and I don’t like where it’s positioned. Once again it’s a little hard to complain about this considering the Fiesta is the cheapest car that Ford makes. But, I wish the entertainment/info display was larger, and a little closer to the driver.

The ST’s suspension allows it to handle awesome, but it rides like a dump truck. Interestingly enough many ST owners are reporting better ride quality when switching to coil overs or lowering springs. I understand why the ST is so stiff, but I feel like Ford could’ve tuned it a little bit better.

Why A Fiesta ST Could Be Right For You

The Fiesta ST could be right for you if you need one car that can do it all. Something that gets amazing fuel economy, can out handle most rear-wheel drive sports cars and is practical for everyday usage. But if you have children you may want to look at the Focus ST for the rear leg room. Since I don’t have any children it made sense for me to buy the Fiesta ST.

Summary

Overall I really enjoy the little Fiesta ST. It’s the perfect blend of a practical city car and a high-performance sports car. Although there are a few minor let downs in the quality, it’s understandable at this price point. With the quality issue aside the Fiesta ST is serious fun to drive and is pretty darn quick. It’s especially quick when the road gets twisty thanks to its suspension tuning and brake vectoring. One day in the future I’ll probably upgrade to a Focus RS, but for now, the Fiesta ST is the perfect car for me. It could be the perfect car for you unless you need room for people or gear.

All things considered, we give the little Fiesta ST 8.6/10 stars.

Edit – Summer 2017

Temperatures in Phoenix are reaching 100* now, and the stock intercooler is showing its limits. What sucks is that it’s only going to get even hotter. Temperatures can easily reach 115* during summer time. The stock intercooler is getting heat soaked pretty bad and the car is noticeably much slower. An upgraded intercooler is definitely coming this summer.

About Bryce Cleveland 222 Articles
Bryce is a die hard car fanatic. When he's not working on his Jeep Cherokee, he's beating it up in the desert. He started Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 and continues to write content for it as much as possible.

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