Road Test: Party animal

Ford Fiesta ST boogies down

December 4, 2013
by Emily Atkins

Ford’s 2014 Fiesta ST is aptly named. This little car is a party animal. It’s ready for anything, loves to boogie and really has the moves. And it’s a cheap date.

At a Glance: 2014 Fiesta ST

Fuel Economy: Manual: 7.4 city/5.2 highway/6.4 combined

MSRP: $24,999
As tested: $29,577

Body style: 5-door compact hatch

Engine: 1.6L 4-cylinder Eco Boost turbo

Power: 197hp, 202 at 4,200 rpm

Transmission: Manual, 6-speed

As the fast member of the Fiesta family, the ST is endowed with a 1.6L 4-cylinder Turbo engine that makes 197hp and 202ft/lb of torque. It’s got a six speed manual gearbox, and weighing in at only  1,234kg, this car will go fast in any gear. Pickup is phenomenal, and for a powerful front wheeler torque steer is minimal. In fact, the bigger Focus ST required more attention when hard on the gas.

From a style point of view the Fiesta is sharp, but not especially eye-catching. It shares the new Ford grille treatment with the Focus, and also got the long, flat family nose. Hopefully Ford will update the headlight treatment soon—viewed from the front, the long flattened ovals are not in keeping with the car’s pocket-rocket cred.

Inside, the ST has the Recaro seats and two-tone colour scheme. Red and black look great together in this car, and those seats are fantastic for holding you in place through an aggressive corner. The cockpit is a sweet spot to sit. Almost everything you need is in easy reach, and the wheel is equipped with dedicated controls for the booming six-speaker stereo (which is standard in the Fiesta). Nav and touch screen are optional, as is the power moonroof. If you have to pick, take the nav system; Ford does such a good job with this now—it’s easy to use and powerful. This one also had on-board WIFI connectivity.

A couple minor quibbles with the interior. First, and this is common in many Fords, the USB port is buried up close to the front wall of the compartment between the front seats. This means that in normal lighting conditions you cannot see it, and normal human elbows don’t bend the right way to reach it. Second, if your passenger sits with their seat back at all, the blind spot extends the full right side of the car. This is mitigated by the inset mirrors on both sides, but it’s noteworthy in such a compact vehicle. Last, with the driver’s window open, do not activate the wipers. I did, and a minor deluge soaked me, the door and the electric window controls.

On the highway, the Fiesta was remarkably quiet. It is comfortable for distance driving, although some drivers might find the Recaros tiring. Even at high speed the car felt glued to the road, solid, and had power to execute passes.

The Fiesta ST handled superbly over icy roads on summer tires. (Photo: Emily Atkins)

What really made me take notice, however, was the experience of driving the car over the snow- and ice-packed country roads being used for a performance rally. Caught out by an early winter storm, the ST still had its performance summer rubber on. At minus 10 to minus 20C, those tires were rendered pretty hard. What could have been a recipe for disaster became an evangelizing experience as the Fiesta stepped up and showed its handling mettle. The car was so sure-footed, the steering so precise and predictable, the throttle so easy to feather, that the lack of traction was fun rather than frightening.

I fell in love with the car’s handling, and stayed out of the snowbanks. The Fiesta ST offered the most connected driving experience I’ve had in quite a long time, and for a car with a base price of $24,999, that’s quite an accomplishment. This is, without doubt, a car that will delight just about any driving enthusiast.