Ford created something of a legend with the last Fiesta ST. It’s one of the best small hot hatches ever, which means improving upon it with a new car is a tough task. However, now we’ve been for a passenger ride in the 2018 Fiesta ST and, on first acquaintance, the firm seems to have delivered the goods.
Firstly, director of Ford performance for Ford of Europe, Leo Roeks, explained its technical details and improvements.
The biggest is the 197bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. The EcoBoost family (including the 1.0) gets cylinder deactivation thanks to camshaft tech that can shut down the valves on cylinder number one. It’s a world-first for a three-cylinder and it offers up to a six per cent improvement in efficiency.
Of more importance is the 290Nm of torque (there’s also an overboost feature, as on past STs). A Quaife limited-slip differential and launch control are optional, while standard kit includes torque vectoring, a short-shift gearlever and sticky dual-compound Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
The 0-62mph time stands at 6.5 seconds, while the ST’s top speed is 144mph. To match the new powertrain, Roeks and his team have gone to town with the chassis. The front track is a huge 48mm wider than on the previous ST, and torsional rigidity is up by eight per cent. There’s also some chassis bracing underneath for a more “connected feel”, according to Roeks, plus a thicker torsion-beam rear axle and some clever force vectoring spring and frequency-dependent damper technology.
Those springs direct some of the sideways force generated in a corner, which allows for softer rear axle bushes for a more compliant ride when you’re not after maximum performance.
They’re teamed with frequency-selective suspension dampers; these open up to deliver a higher level of comfort over harsher bumps, and close under harder driving to deliver more damping and support, better body control and more precise steering responses. Ford has obsessed over the steering calibration and the low-friction set-up, too. We’re assured the car will be sweet to drive, and from the passenger seat at least, the culmination of all this tech and development is tangible.
Grip levels have increased; the Fiesta changes direction with an alert, agile feeling, and with the Quaife diff fitted, traction was good. You can sense the control from the chassis and the same smirk-inducing characteristics that defined the last ST, only now they’re available at a higher overall level without, seemingly, sacrificing engagement.
The engine pulls strongly and revs hard to 6,000rpm. The three-cylinder’s noise sounds suitably potent, helped by Electronic Sound Enhancement and an active exhaust control valve that ramps up the sound, adding some pops and burbles as you move from the Normal driving mode to the Sport and Track settings (another first for the Fiesta ST) which offer progressively less ESC intervention to increase involvement.