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Ford Fiesta ST: Euro-flavored fun

There’s no good reason to want Ford’s new Fiesta ST. Fun is its own good reason.

The ST is a sharply focused, sport-tuned subcompact built by Ford in Spain. It debuted in Europe in 1976 and had a three-year US run, from 1978-80.

In 2010, Ford returned the Fiesta to the States, where it’s available in two body styles; sedan ($14,925, including destination) and five-door hatchback ($15,525).

Refined and well-equipped, the Fiesta is fun to drive and comfortable for two adults, with second-row room for a pair of kids.

This year, Fiesta receives a mild facelift and two new variants. A new 123-hp three-cylinder engine available on the midlevel SE trim is rated at 37 mpg combined (32 city/45 highway). 

The ST is a new stand-alone trim that’s available only as a hatchback. Instead of the 120-hp four that powers most models, it gets a turbocharged 197-hp turbocharged four mated to a six-speed manual.

The ST rides 15 millimeters lower than standard trims and gets a sport-tuned suspension, a quicker steering ratio and more powerful brakes. Electronic Torque Vectoring Control stabilizes handling by over-driving the inside front wheel during cornering. A three-mode electronic stability control system lets the driver choose the degree of skid-preventing electronic intervention. 

Recaro sport seats are available as a $2,000 option. Rational adults (i.e., my driving companion) are likely to find the narrow and heavy bolstered Recaros confining, but I like ‘em.

To say the ST is quick is to damn it with too-obvious praise. It’s more than 2 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the normally aspirated Fiesta (7.1 vs. 9.5) but, as always, balance is key. Torque vectoring keeps the tires planted and neutralizes the erratic handling common to high-powered front-drive cars and the buttoned-down suspension minimizes body roll. Gears two through four are tightly spaced to keep the engine in the heart of its power band, while tall final gearing keeps revs down at highway speeds.

Like Mazda’S MX-5 Miata, the ST can be driven to its limits without pushing the speedo into three-digit territory. It’s great, visceral fun to hear the wicked burble that emanates from the dual exhaust system during a downshift, whether it comes at 45 or 75 mph.

Ride quality is quite good, considering the Fiesta’s short wheelbase, aggressively tuned suspension and low profile tires. The cabin gets noisy at highway speeds and the short wheelbase can mean a choppy ride on some surfaces. The young me would have been happy with the ST as my daily driver but those days have fled.

Standard ST gear includes automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, MyFord Touch, Sony speakers and HD radio. ST-specific cosmetics include cloth sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum-trimmed pedals, floor mats and door sill plates.

EPA estimates for the ST are 29 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway), which amounts to about as much fun per gallon as you’ll find this side of a BMW diesel.

If you like your fun on four wheels and don’t want to break the bank — or don’t have one to break — Ford’s little import might well be the answer to your transportation needs. 

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST
Vehicle base price: $14,130
Trim level base price: $21,400
As tested: $25,995
Options included navigation, heated Recaro seats, heated mirrors, painted 17-inch wheels, Molten Orange tricoat exterior paint.
EPA ratings: 26 city/35 highway/29 combined




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