Dealer Test: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

It’s finally here.  The car I have been anticipating since the release of its big brother, the Focus ST.  It’s very unusual for me to hold a car in such high regard, as I have always been a firm proponent of rear wheel drive cars.  I have recently started understanding the value and attraction of a high-performance, front wheel drive hatchback, after being exposed to several small hatchbacks set up for autocross and road racing.  After this much time waiting, I was worried that the car wouldn’t live up to the near-fantasy levels of expectation I attributed to it.  I’m happy to say that it is almost everything I could ever want out of a car like this, which is especially good, as I am in Ford’s target market for this car.  So without further ado, let’s get this started.

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The Looks:

    Well, the ordinary Fiesta is a rather ordinary, but somewhat handsome car to look at, although the front end is a bit busy, and the whole car lacks any particularly exciting design features.  The same things can not be said about the ST version.  To start with the big, obvious part, the front end is totally reworked and cleaned up.  The grille is shaped with much more distinct and aggressive angles, that help to accentuate the striking lines that follow the headlights along the flanks of the vehicle, all the way to the back.  To add to those lines, the Fiesta ST has an aggressive body kit all around, with a sharp, exaggerated chin splitter, wider skirts, and a different rear bumper.  Sitting atop the rear window is a sharp, angular spoiler that lends a sportier profile, as well as better aerodynamics.  The ST sits noticeably lower than the standard hatchback, on ST-specific alloy wheels, and features several colors not available on the standard Fiesta.  Overall, I would give the exterior appearance of the Ford Fiesta ST a 9 out of 10, my only complaint being the wheels are a bit on the boring side for such an aggressively styled car.  Ford’s designers definitely fixed everything I didn’t like about the normal Fiesta in this model.

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The Inside:

     Starting with the dashboard and center console, there really isn’t much to report.  Aside from some subtle touches of perforated leather on the shifter and handbrake, as well as a red-painted shift pattern on top of said shifter, the dashboard and center console are identical to the standard Fiesta.  The layout of the dashboard is attractive to the eye at first glance, and follows the styling of the car.  Worryingly however, after operating the stereo, I began to worry that the interior had been designed with more thought given to form than function.

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Don’t get me wrong, form is important, but you have to remember that everything you are designing is actually going to be used, not just looked at.  After some familiarization, I did get used to the layout and operation of the stereo, but not everything is exactly where you would expect it to be.  My biggest complaint from a functional standpoint is that a huge percentage of the interfaces here are either redundant, or exclusively operated by the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which I will talk about in the Tech section later on.  While this does lend a very clean, uncluttered look to the rest of the dash, I find it more difficult to use while actually behind the wheel, when attention should be on the road, not how to change the radio station.

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   Moving back towards the actual driving aspect of this car, we get to the instrument cluster.  As you can see, the instruments are well lit and distinct, albeit a bit on the small side.  More sign of form over function I’m afraid.  The trip computer is also not the easiest thing to operate, but like the rest of the car, I got used to it in time.  Next come the seats, and this Fiesta was equipped with the optional Recaro package, which came with upgraded, heated seats, heated mirrors, and a handful of other bits that aren’t available unless you buy this package.

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  These seats are UNBELIEVABLY supportive.  They wrap around you like a tight hug, holding you in place through the most aggressive of bends, and their heating elements keep you warm when it is cold out, as it often is in Colorado.  I had no problem with these seats, as I am not a particularly big guy, but some people may find the seats a bit on the snug side.  I also noticed, very occasionally, that the enormous side bolsters would slightly interfere with the shift throw or aggressive steering.  Again, nothing that you can’t get used to, but this would require a very slight adjustment in your driving style.  I also did find myself rubbing arms a bit with my friend in the passenger seat, due to the size of the car.  Leg room in the back is not particularly good, but is acceptable considering the size and class of car.  Aside from the go-fast stuff, it’s a city car, not a big family sedan.  I found the trunk reasonably spacious for this size car, but not exactly something to write home about.  The salesman I spoke with assured me that, with the rear seats folded down, it is possible to fit a mountain bike in the back, though I suspect you would have to take the front wheel off.

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     Overall, as much as I like this car, I am forced to give the interior mediocre marks, sitting at a 6.5 out of 10.  From a driver’s standpoint, it isn’t distracting, the seats are supportive, and the instruments are easy to read for the most part.  From an every day perspective, I worry about struggling a bit with the interface, and running out of room when I have several friends or cargo in the car.

The Muscle:

     Here is where this car indisputably starts to comes into its own.  The Fiesta ST is equipped with a transverse-mounted 1.6 Liter turbocharged inline four cylinder Ecoboost engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.  Producing an awesome 197 horsepower, and 214 foot-pounds of torque, I was in no way lacking for power when driving this car.

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     During a quick blast down a winding, industrial back road near the dealership, the Fiesta belted out power with no hesitation, providing all the low end torque, smooth and aggressive power, and intoxicating noise I could want.  I was staggered to find that, despite being a turbocharged engine, I could select virtually any gear, plant my foot on the accelerator, and watch the revs climb and climb and climb.  Power delivery is seamless, and allows for easy modulation of the gas pedal in fast corners.  Rolling into the power rewards you with a turbo whistle just noisy enough to be exciting, and a fantastic, throaty growl I did not expect from an engine this small.  I found myself constantly running the car through the gears, just to get more of the fantastic noise it made.  This is, unfortunately, in part to a synthesizer that creates, and feeds noise into the cabin of the car.  I was not able to find out if that feature could be turned off or not.  I have just one concern with the engine: if you aren’t careful, the torque is a bit overwhelming.  Attempting to launch the car from a standing start ended in a substantial amount of the front tires smeared across the pavement.  Following launch, however, the short, fast shifter allows for lightning-fast gear changes, and the communicative clutch make the car very easy to drive in any situation.

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     I have to give the drivetrain in this car a 10 out of 10.  For such a small engine, the way it delivers its power is just intoxicating, and will definitely not leave you wanting for more.  My complaint about too much torque isn’t enough to knock down the rating, as it would only take practice, like any other car, to meter it out in a controlled manner.

The Handling:

     The Fiesta ST continues to shine in this category.  The car comes stock with low-profile summer tires to accentuate the modified performance suspension it has been equipped with.  The car sits just over half an inch lower than the standard Fiesta, and features different springs, shocks, and sway bars.  The front suspension is a modified version of the very capable Fiesta setup, and the rear suspension is Ford’s fantastic “Control-Blade” rear suspension, like what is found on its big brother the Focus ST.  The steering is also faster than the stock Fiesta.   All of these details combine to give an extremely fast, responsive, and capable suspension system.  I hate to use the phrase, but “Drive-by-telepathy” comes to mind.  The car is point and shoot; your hands follow your eyes, the nose of the car follows your hands, the tail follows the nose, every single time.  Understeer is tamed by the traction control system, and, when deactivated, the car simulates a limited-slip differential, by controlled braking of the inside wheel.  The aggressive rear suspension lends an element of tail-happiness that is not common to front wheel drive cars.  It can be a bit of a surprise to the inexperienced, but is definitely nothing you can’t handle.  Even the ride is hardly compromised with the new suspension.  It will be noticeably more firm of a ride, but is still comfortable enough for a daily driver.  10 out of 10.

The Tech:

     Now, back to the every day world.  This car is equipped with heated seats and mirrors (with the Recaro package), and a semi-retro climate control interface that I like very much, using actual dials instead of buttons to adjust the settings.  As can be expected, the car has Traction Control, as well as Anti-lock brakes.  This is all well and good, but not we get to the infotainment system, which I have a few things to say about.  The MyFord Touch system is cluttered.  Operating EVERYTHING inside the car, from climate control to the stereo, to all the settings, and Navigation, there is a lot going on on that little screen.  The touch screen response is reasonably good, but a bit slow, and I did not like trying to navigate it while behind the wheel.  I don’t understand why they needed to put so much data onto that system.  I know it is the trend nowadays to have fancy, high tech touch screen systems, but I much prefer an analog interface where I can actually feel what I am touching before operating it.  If Ford were to clean up the system, and put controls back onto the console, instead of being redundant, I would be much more satisfied.  That being said, I have to give the tech package on this car a 7 out of 10, because it does still have a lot of features.

The Figures:

  • Starting MSRP: $21,400
  • Horsepower: 197
  • Torque: 214 foot-pounds
  • Tires: Potenza RE050A Summer Tires
  • 0 to 60: 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 137 miles per hour

My Rating: 42.5 out of 50 points

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A brief introduction.

Recently I was invited to be an author here, so I figured I would give a brief, to-the-point introduction of myself.  My name is Eric, and, like the others writing here, cars are my thing.  Currently I drive a 1989 BMW 325is with an extremely loud exhaust.  I am hoping to bring a new viewpoint to the reviews on this blog, and that is the viewpoint from the race track.  I am well versed in high-performance driving, and am an instructor for the BMW Car Club of America.  I am also an avid autocrosser, I used to do quite a bit of drag racing, and am getting my wheel-to-wheel racing license this October.  I’m hoping that I can bring an analysis less of practicality and real-life uses, and more of how they perform on the edge.  I will, however, still be dabbling in a few normal reviews as well.  At this point I am also building a Lotus 7 kit car from scratch, and will be posting that as well.  Good reading!