Parkers overall rating: 4.8 out of 5 4.8
  • 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine
  • Punchy power delivery
  • Rorty sound from twin tailpipes

We were huge fans of the previous Fiesta ST and would have been perfectly happy if Ford had just tidied up the interior a bit and put a bigger screen on the dash.

However, along with those much-needed styling updates the Blue Oval has also made some wholesale changes – shock horror – under the bonnet. The previous four-cylinder engine, a peaky and characterful 1.6, is replaced by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre unit in this car. 

It’s a simpler unit in some ways and more complicated in others. The old Fiesta ST had a stepped output that initially made it seem much less powerful than its rivals, but it could temporarily deliver more horsepower and torque when you were flooring it. 

This time around you’ve got 200hp and 290Nm of torque, meaning a 0-62mph dash in just 6.5 seconds, two tenths quicker than the old ST200. Top speed weighs in at 144mph, which – for a supermini – is impressive.

Ford Fiesta ST driving front

Although performance is the order of the day, when you’re not using the Fiesta ST’s full potential, the engine shuts down one if its cylinders to save fuel and emissions. Like most modern cylinder-on-demand systems we didn’t notice this working – so it was either broken or (more likely) very effective.

The old car wasn’t exactly a slouch but you needed to work the gearbox hard to keep the engine within the reach of its turbocharger. No such problem here, oddly, given the smaller displacement and missing cylinder. There’s plenty of power low down and the delivery is less spiky – which arguably makes it marginally less exciting, but no less urgent. Make no mistake, this is a fast car.

It even sounds good – with the rally-car aping exhaust note we’ve come to expect from fast Fords and a not-unwelcome augmented sound generator in the cabin lending a tone almost six-cylinder in nature. Cars like the Fiesta ST major on providing a sensation of speed, and noise is a huge part of that, so this is very welcome news.

Ford Fiesta ST Sport mode 2018

There are three drive modes available ranging from Normal, Sport and Track. Switch to Sport and this is the sweet spot of the three as this livens up the Fiesta by sharpening up the throttle response, weightens up the steering and keeps the exhaust in its loudest setting, while retaining the safety net of keeping the electronic stability control on. This will switch off the start-stop system, however.

Overall the engine in the Ford Fiesta ST is extremely effective at propelling this little car along at a staggering rate, but regardless of its size and layout, it will always play second fiddle to the way it handles.

How does it handle?

  • Pinpoint handling, incredible agility
  • Some of the most fun you can have in four wheels
  • Optional Performance Pack worth the money

The Ford Fiesta ST has come to represent not just one of the best handling hot hatches you can buy, but one of the most fun cars full stop. That’s why we named it our favourite Thrill Seekers car for 2019, and awarded it with our prestigious Car of the Year, too

Why? Well, some fast cars are very precise and can join the dots on your favourite road like a doctor stitching a wound, while others feel like alive and alert, and must be wrestled from corner to corner. The Ford Fiesta ST does both.

Ford Fiesta ST driving rear

It is both approachable and playful in equal measure, rewarding an exacting driver with near- unflappable grip, while entertaining your inner yob with a chassis that is only too happy to allow the rear end to slide, given the right provocation. It's so much fun in fact, that we took our Fiesta ST long-termer on a road trip to the beautiful winding roads of Scotland, where the car excelled in more ways than one.

Ford Fiesta ST Performance Pack: worth it?

Those attributes have been suitably enhanced by the optional Performance Pack, which adds (among other things, including Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres) a Quaife limited-slip differential to enhance front-end grip and driver confidence.

This allows you to get back on the power after a corner much earlier, rather than having to wait until the road and wheels have fully straightened out. Normal cars would simply wash wide at the slightest hint of throttle at this point.

That matters because the previous car was always very good at being controllably wayward, but fell apart slightly in the precision stakes at the limit, especially when compared with diff-equipped rivals like the Peugeot 208 GTi.

This time around the Performance Pack car just adds another dimension – not only is the Fiesta ST an absolute barrel of laughs to drive, it’s now much more capable when you want to get serious too.

Performance Edition comes with adjustable front suspension

Opt for the limited-run Performance Edition and this comes with coilover suspension that lowers this particular Fiesta ST by 15mm up front and 10mm at the rear. What you’re really paying for though, is the ability to adjust this front suspension by yourself, manually, with 12 bump settings and 16 rebound settings.

This, in short, alters the firmness of the suspension, and while this gives a large degree of adjustment to owners, we think it also gives them the chance to mess it up. For us, the setting of our vehicle didn’t feel that much different to the standard model, albeit with more high-speed grip up front and providing better stability.

This is worth the extra cash if you are willing to invest the time to find a setting that suits you, but we reckon the standard model is already well-judged as it is for driving fun and everyday comfort.