A drive on the wild side - but mad money for hot Fiesta ST hatch
I tend to not bother much with 'hot hatches'. I think they are irrelevant to, and an impossible price for, most people. I also believe there's a lot of petrol-head myopia around them: showing off by reciting power outputs, 0-100kmh times, oohs and aaahs at top speeds etc.
I retain a deep cynicism, I'm afraid. I mean what are you going to do if you buy one? Gobble up all your speeding penalty points in the first week of ownership?
Or potter around like you're behind the wheel of an ordinary hatch? Which, of course, negates the purpose of buying one in the first place.
I've kept my distance from reviewing one for some time now but like 46A buses, three recently came along at much the same time and I took the opportunity to sample.
Did they reinforce my prejudices? Well, yes and no. Nothing will stop me from shouting 'mad money' but in the case of the Fiesta ST reviewed this week it would take great insensitivity (of which I am well capable) to dismiss it out of hand.
First of all, it doesn't look too 'mad' though you know it is different. (Neither, by the way does a key rival, the Volkswagen Polo GTi, look outrageously 'hot' - more of which in the near future). It has a rear spoiler, red-brake callipers, Recaro performance seats and a stunning blue Performance paint.
It was easy to find my driving position, easy to sort everything through the interactive screen so there was nothing for me to do but strap in and head off.
When my aunt, Lord rest her, used to need something in a real hurry, she'd jokingly order us: "Don't be there til you're back." After my first few kilometres in this Fiesta ST, I think I might have been able to do her bidding. This had blistering pace. I adjusted to it and cooled down a bit; it would run away with you if you asked, or let, it.
No wonder. There was a 200PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine under its small bonnet. Such enormous power in a frame of this stature must put unbelievable strain and stress on a car.
But you'd never guess it from where I was sitting. What a chassis. The ST refused to be put off by lumps out of, or on, the roads; it made cornering, sharp or long bends, so enjoyable I kept driving when I should have been somewhere else. Engrossing to sense the ability of the machine - and the quick stab of acceleration.
The more twists and turns I came across on narrow Offaly and Westmeath roads, the more fun I had.
The sense of grip and true line was extraordinary. So I nudged from Normal drive mode to the more raucous Sport. I was barely dipping my toes in its hot waters but I got the message. It begged to be unleashed.
This was not just quick but brilliant at dealing with everything I could legally throw at it without a hint of trouble. I moved it into RaceTrack mode (why not?) for a few kilometres, the engine noise reflecting another grade of performance.
I was right about one thing. You'd be mad to drive this even half way to its potential on a public road. I barely tickled the lion's nose and got a roaring reception.
There's no doubting its 0-100kmh time of 6.5 seconds either. I would not dare attempt to establish the accuracy of the 232kmh top speed and I fear my driving (mostly in low gears at medium speeds) consumed more than the official 6.0l/100km.
I could go and on but it would only be more of the same.
Suffice to say, it brought a smile to my old face and an appreciation that there were seriously high levels of technological accomplishment harnessed within its small hatchback body.
I can see why they make cars like this, despite the crazy prices. Among other things, it sends out a signal that they are pushing boundaries, that they're cutting edge and lots of what they are doing in the ST will be absorbed into everyday cars over time.
It was impossible not to really like the ST. But I say that with the caveat that if I had €30,000 to spend, I wouldn't buy one under any circumstances.
I'm not that way inclined, nor I suspect are the vast majority of drivers.
Yet just because practicalities get in our way, we should not be blinded to what Ford have achieved with this car.
I still think it's mad, mad money but I mightn't take as long to drive a hot hatch in future.
Facts & Figures
- Ford Fiesta ST3, 1.5 200PS petrol, 3 cyl, 6spd, 5dr, 0/100kmh 6.5 secs, 232kmh top speed, 6.0l/100km, €280 tax, 136g/100km.
- Recaro seats, 18ins alloys, spoiler, rear-view camera/parking sensors, auto wipers, performance pack (inc Launch Control), B&O audio/SYNC 3 Nav system (8ins t/screen, 10 speakers).
- ST3 from €30,270. With options: €31,660 Fiesta range: from €16,650.