Smiles per gallon is a term often used by those who enjoy driving. They are typically the type that are willing to trade a few mpg for a bit more excitement in their daily lives, to help offset their mundane commutes. Blame it on whomever or whatever you like, but fun hasn’t been on top of the priority list recently for many automakers, due to many reasons which we will not discuss here. Automakers use “fun” names on their cars to try and show the public that their products are “fun” and provide excitement.
Names such as the “Fit”, “Sonic”, and “Fiesta” all fit in that category of exuding excitement and a break from traditional mature names, but do they actually deliver on the fun? Honda’s Fit does not have an Si version, Chevrolet saw it worthwhile to provide the RS package on the Sonic, but forgot to increase the power, and Ford….well they did it right. Ford dove right in and offered up a hopped up version of the Fiesta and thank God for that.
The Ford Fiesta ST is arguably the most fun hatch back to ever hit our shores. The recipe was simple: take the already fantastic chassis of the Fiesta, drop a more potent engine in it via turbocharging, pair with a 6-speed manual gearbox, do a little suspension tweaking, throw in Recaros, add better brakes, and voila. You now have yourself a party (forgive me on that one). Power comes from an EcoBoost 1.6L 4-cylinder engine that is direct injected and force fed via a tiny, furious-working turbo; the result is a whopping 197 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 202 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm if you are using premium fuel.
Regular gasoline will yield slightly less, but Ford does not yet have figures on those. Don’t worry, the EcoBoost family will run just fine on regular gas too. With an estimated weight of 2,720 lbs, the little EcoBoost provides plenty of thrust to move this featherweight around. Even better news is that with this power to weigh ratio, your fuel economy doesn’t suffer. The EPA estimates peg the Fiesta ST at 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with a combined 29 mpg.
With an estimated weight of 2,720 lbs, the little EcoBoost provides plenty of thrust to move this featherweight around.
The ST’s appearance is that of a regular Fiesta that is angry that the party didn’t go its way. An aggressive tire and wheel package, combined with a boy racer hatch spoiler and a gaping front maw make it look like the younger sibling who couldn’t open the presents at their older sibling’s birthday party. It is cute, but also angry-looking. The interior is a bit more mainstream and what you’d expect in a subcompact car; it is airy and the front Recaro seats allow for plenty of head room and leg room despite lacking lumbar support. The steering wheel will tilt and is telescopic to provide the best driving position possible. The rear seats, however, are cramped with very little leg room, and with the front seats adjusted to my comfort level, ingress into the rear was difficult and not recommended for full size adults, at least not on long trips.
With the rear legroom stated to be 31.2”, down a full 11” from the fronts, it is easy to see why. Ingress is further constricted by the swooping roof line but once inside, there is enough head room (37.2”), so your noggin won’t be hitting the headliner over any bumps. The rear bench is fairly flat which allows a little movement, except for when there are three passengers stuck in there. Cargo room is rather copious at 25.4 cu. ft. behind the first row, but it loses 4.8 cu. ft. behind the second row when compared to the non ST hatchback. The rear seats don’t fold flat and have an inclination to them, partly because the rear seat bottoms cannot be folded forward to allow for more useable space.
The heated Recaro bucket seats in the front are very snug, even for my tastes, and they are not very accommodating for larger people. The thigh bolsters keep your leg movements to a minimum, and the side bolsters on the seat keep your torso locked in place. Adding to the rigidity are the headrests which are cantered forward which can be a little uncomfortable and takes some getting used to. The seats do a tremendous job of keeping you in place which is what they are for but as far as comfort goes on long trips, it’s a swing and a miss – the same complaint I had in the Focus ST.
However, I will admit that the seating position livens up the experience as you are forced into a racing bucket seat. Trips to the grocery store and even simple in town runs are an experience. With the exception of the MyFord Touch touch screen display centrally located atop the dash, everything is easy to reach and within your fingertips. The HVAC controls are very simple and the temperature and fan speed dials can be committed to memory as they are close to the shifter; with one hand on the shifter, reaching for the HVAC controls a simple task.
Trips to the grocery store and even simple in town runs are an experience.
I may be in the minority, but I find MyFord Touch to be incredibly easy to use and navigate. The voice commands are simple and straight forward, and the system picks up inputs rather well. I’ve experienced the occasional misunderstanding of my commands from the system, but it was far from frustrating. The system prompts and responses are rather immediate and there isn’t a long gap in response time to your voice inputs. For newbies, MFT takes some time getting used to and I do recommend reading up on the system information that comes with the vehicles in order to get a better understanding of how to use it.
Given the small size of the Fiesta, front and side visibility is excellent, and blind spots are virtually nonexistent. The mirrors are large and come equipped with a pair of blind spot mirrors in place of a blind spot monitoring system, which I found to be a hindrance because they take away the view given by the side mirrors. Rearward visibility is hampered by the sloping roof line and small rear window, and no manner of adjustability allowed for any greater view of what’s behind you.
The gauge cluster is easy and clear to read with white numbering, and the “computer” that displays your odometer and trip calculator, as well as fuel economy readouts and a shift indicator, is a simple LCD cluster. The LCD screen and the rest of the interior buttons and switches are lit up in green. The ST also comes with mood lighting as standard equipment which illuminates the foot wells, cup holders, and the dash tray to whatever color the driver or passenger wants. The LED illumination can be too bright on some colors but all things considered, it is a neat touch.
Given the small size of the Fiesta, front and side visibility is excellent, and blind spots are virtually nonexistent.
The Fiesta ST is one of the easiest cars I’ve driven. For beginners, it is very easy to shift into gear and the clutch engagement and action is buttery smooth so as to prevent stalling. Even on inclines, you will find that you don’t need fancy footwork to get the car moving, as it slowly inches forward by itself. To further assist in inclines is a hill hold feature that is quite common in manual transmission equipped cars, which will prevent your car from rolling backwards once you release the brake. That said, the shifting action of the gear lever is sloppy and downright vague in engagement.
The steering is numb on center and is very stiff just a few degrees off center but lightens up past that point. Turn in is quick and precise but there is no feedback given through the steering feel as to what is going on with the front tires. The brakes are highly sensitive and even the slightest touch will give you whiplash. Torque steer is mitigated via torque vectoring using the brakes and the steering rack to keep things civil, but that was okay with me. The sloppy shifting can be forgiven because it does makes the car easier to drive, especially for those who are learning or are not experienced with manual gearboxes.
The chassis is simply fantastic, and the driving experience is accompanied with sounds of wastegate actuators, turbo spool, and full engine wail.
The touchy brakes can be overlooked because they bring all the fun down to a screeching halt in a blink of an eye. The vague steering can be forgiven because, let’s face it, we’re talking about a subcompact here. And the torque vectoring can be forgiven because, again, it is a subcompact and ease of driving is most important. Why am I able to overlook all of this? Because the chassis is simply fantastic, and the driving experience is accompanied with sounds of wastegate actuators, turbo spool, and full engine wail.
This little Ford is a menace on a tight country back road, and its athleticism shines brightly in tight twists and corner exit. The MacPherson Strut front suspension does a good job of keeping the tires stuck to the road and the rear Twist Beam helps the rear follow suite. The rear suspension does tend to get upset on some mid-corner bumps, but it doesn’t upset the chassis too much. On smoother roads and tight turns, the rear almost feels like the car is rear-wheel drive in that it will swing out wide, allowing you to take deeper cuts. The only way to really drive this car is with all the safety gizmos turned off: press the traction control button once and the car is put into Sport mode.
Hold it down for a few seconds until everything is turned off, and find out what you can really do with a car like this. The Fiesta ST is one of those cars that, not unlike the Miata, helps you become a better driver. This is a car that you can drive 9/10ths or even 10/10ths and not mess up (assuming you know what you are doing . . . and don’t forget to drive legally). It is easily controllable and responds to every input, and thus never leaves you feeling nervous. The lack of information from the front tires in the rain will make for interesting drives, but the car’s limits are easy to reach which in turn is what makes it just that much fun.
Ever hear of that saying, “it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow”? The Fiesta is just that car. Sure, the little turbo motor has some lag when the rpm drops below 2500 rpm; sure it isn’t the fastest car on the road; and sure it isn’t a real head turner. But you’ll find that you won’t care, because it is just that exciting to drive. The car is, understandably, very easy to place given the size of it, so you have plenty of room for error on just about any road. Pick a line, no matter how asinine it is, and the Fiesta will take it without any complaint.
The Fiesta ST is one of those cars that, not unlike the Miata, helps you become a better driver.
When you wish to keep things civil, the Fiesta ST will happily oblige and act like its non-turbo counterparts. Keep the shifts below 2000 rpm and you will see a rather easy 36-37 mpg on the highway. On my way to Boston with a family member and some bags, the car was a fuel miser with light throttle input at speeds of around 70mph give or take a few digits. On the trip back, however, the fuel economy dropped to a 34.6 mpg in rainy conditions, partly due to the use of the defroster, more boost to get away from drivers who seem to have never driven in rain, and my wanting to just get my butt home. In town, commuting and abuse brought fuel economy down to high 20’s and low 30’s which is more than acceptable given the amount of fun I was having with this car.
If you are fresh out of college or if you are in need of a fun vehicle and need some flair and excitement yet still retain practicality, this is worthy of serious consideration. The Fiesta ST is quite possibly the most fun little go-getter available in the US for the moment and can be had well-equipped like my tester was for $25,610. The only options on the ST were the Green Envy Clearcoat at $595, the Recaro Package for $1,995, and the Navigation System for $795. Add in the delivery and destination charge of $825 to the base price of $21,400 and you have our grand total.
The Fiesta ST is worth every damn penny.
Personally, I would forgo the green paintjob and maybe even the navigation system, but the packaging is hard to compete against. When I first heard the pricing of the Fiesta ST I was a little skeptical as to whether or not this subcompact would be worth the money that it is commanding, but I stand here now and say that you simply cannot put a price on fun, and if you can….the Fiesta ST is worth every damn penny.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2014 Garry Gulledge / Car Fanatics Blog