When you are invited to try out a car with a paint job described as Molten Orange Metallic you pretty much know in advance that it’s not going to be some kind of slothful sedan. And, sure enough, the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST turns out to be a rowdy little hatchback that is as ready for the racetrack as it is for the road.
If you are familiar with the Ford Fiesta, you might think of it mostly as an economical car for the daily commute, for carting a couple of kids around, for never-ending trips to the grocery store, or maybe even for young adults who are off to work or off to college.
That’s all true but there obviously was a car enthusiast or two (or 50) somewhere in the Ford hierarchy who saw something more in the Fiesta — something more exciting, more entertaining, more fun.
Perhaps most important, they likely saw something in the Fiesta ST that would appeal particularly to the youth (make that male youth) market.
So, for the Fiesta to be worthy of the ST designation, they amped up the power, tightened up the suspension, sharpened the steering, beefed up the brakes, installed a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, and gave it an edgy exhaust bark.
The ST, for Sport Technologies, has been described by a number of gear heads as the most driving fun one can have for $25,000. It scored high on Motor Trend’s list of the best-driving cars, a list that includes a Porsche, BMW and Jaguar. Pretty amazing for any front-wheel-drive car, let alone one born of such modest parentage.
But, let me start by saying this is not the car for everyone. It is a hatchback, its ride quality tends toward rough, a manual transmission is the only one available and cargo space is limited.
But all of that can be instantly forgotten by the enthusiast. The Fiesta ST may look pretty much like it’s a member of the commuter corps but it actually is a real sports car — agile and quick with sharp, confidence-inspiring responses.
The Fiesta began life in Europe nearly 40 years ago and is still very popular there. An early version was sold in the United States for a couple of years in the late 1970s. I remember driving one and thought it was tiny but really enjoyable, with a peppy four-cylinder engine, good driving dynamics and a four-speed manual transmission.
The modern Fiesta ST was born in Europe in 2005. It first made an appearance in the United States in 2013.
So, let’s take a closer look at the brash little hatchback, which is obviously aimed at the young and maybe even the young at heart
We’ll start with the engine. While the standard vehicle’s 1.6-liter powerplant produces 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque, the Fiesta ST is fitted with a turbocharged 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder powerplant that generates a maximum of 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque.
Teamed with that manual transmission, it’s enough to propel the 2,742-pound hot hatch from a stop to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds.
Since my time with the Fiesta ST did not include any stoplight drag races or hot laps on a racetrack, I found the power was best enjoyed on public roads when a quick burst of acceleration was needed for passing maneuvers.
What was even more enjoyable in every-day motoring was the fuel consumption. The EPA estimates 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. I averaged 29 mpg in a week of spirited driving on back roads, errand running in and around town, and crawling along for 20 miles in 4 maddening hours during a major traffic jam caused by an accident on a bridge.
With their eyes on the racetrack and the open road, the engineers massaged the suspension — independent in the front, twist-beam in the back — to decrease body lean and improve stability in fast corners. Electric torque vectoring control, which increases power to the outside front wheel in turns, reduces the understeer inherent in front-wheel-drive cars.
Buyers looking for a plush ride will not be satisfied with Fiesta ST. But those who put a premium on a sharp handling car will not find the ride quality objectionable.
The steering has been modified to be more direct and responsive. This was especially noticeable when rounding corners at extra-legal speeds. The large four-wheel disc brakes, vented in the front, made it easy to quickly scrub off speed when needed.
To make the Fiesta ST sound as sporty as it drives, Ford engineers played a little trick with the exhaust system. A sound symposer (whatever that is) feeds the engine sound directly into the passenger cabin. To me, the effect was that of an aggressive bark that accentuated the enjoyment of racing the engine toward its red line.
Although cargo space, accessed through the hatchback, is officially listed as 10.1 cubic feet (including a full-size spare tire and wheel), this is definitely not the car for the family vacation. Folding the rear setbacks forward increases room for luggage, but reduces passenger capacity by two.
Differentiating the ST visually from the standard Fiesta is a larger grille, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and dual exhausts, On the inside, a driver will find alumni sport pedals and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Base price of the Fiesta ST is $21,400 and that includes automatic temperature control, cruise control, a message center with trip computer and a premium audio system with HD radio and satellite radio capability. Also included is the Sync with MY Ford Touch infotainment system.
Test car options, which bring the bottom line to $25,995 including the $795 delivery charge, were the Molten Orange Metallic paint ($595), extra supportive Recaro front bucket seats ($1,995), navigation ($795) and 17-inch premium painted wheels ($375).
Back when I was a kid the car nuts among us, me included, craved and often got a coveted two-seat British roadster. That was a long time ago and times change. If I were I were a kid today, the Ford Fiesta ST would no doubt be one of the cars I would crave.
See complete spécifications on the next page. To get the lowdown on what Buzzard boss John Matras thinks of the Fiesta ST, click here.