July 27, 2021

Keeping Warm in a Hot Hatch: Gavin Drives a Fiesta ST

Words by Gavin Pouquette, photos by Gavin Pouquette, Andrew Jackson, Jensen Litke.

Dear Ford Motor Company,


You were killing the game with great, fun cars in every price range that put the other two American car companies to shaaaaame! I used to be rooting for you from the sidelines, cheering you on; BUUUUT NOOOOOOO. This move to kill all but two cars in your lineup is downright shameful, and shows that all you are after is the cheap and easy way out. Crossovers. And I don’t want to hear about “bhUt thEy MaKe thE eeEedge ESSS TEEEE!” It’s not at all the same. But you, the reader, saw a photo of a Fiesta ST and assumed this is a review on said car. And as the upstanding opinion-ist that I am, I will give that to you.

For those that have been sleeping under a rock for the past 5 years, the first (and only) generation of the Fiesta ST to come to the USA is small hot-hatch that is powered by a 1.6L Ecoboost motor, making 197 bhp at 6,000 rpm and a solid 200 torques at 4,200 rpm. That power and torque are sent through to the front wheels via a profoundly slick 6-speed manual transmission that is an absolute dream to row though. Like… Seriously slick. Imagine yourself driving a car with a manual gearbox in a dream of yours. It’s slicker than that! Those who complain about gearboxes feeling too notchy, FEAR NO MORE! Notches are almost non-existent with the Fiesta ST. However, I am one to like notches when shifting. It’s why I drive a manual Subaru. With that said, I don’t think that the feel in the gearbox is missing anything. It has its own character that way. Ratios are adequately spaced and fall exactly where you expect them to be.

The maximum torque may, in fact, be at 5,000 rpm, but 2,700 rpm is really the figure to look at while flying through a canyon or your favorite twisty side road. That’s where boost likes to open the door, come in, and say hi. You get a small tidal wave from 2,700 rpm that carries you all the way to 5,500 rpm. But that’s not the end of the story here. Unlike other hot hatches from abroad, (cough cough VW GTI) the sound and the character of the engine doesn’t die when the boost stops. Oh no! The engine still makes pleasant and happy noises up top, all the way past 6,000 rpm, and still has some grunt all the way to its 6,300 rpm redline. I’m not calling it a Miata per se, but it definitely carries over certain traits from our beloved Japanese roadster.

One of my favorite attributes of the Fiesta ST is how it goes around corners. Body roll is nonexistent, so the car corners oh so very flat. I was pushing quite a bit through my favorite canyon roads and kept cars I passed in the far corners of my rearview. Unlike other FWD hot hatches I’ve had experience within the past, understeer isn’t really a phenomenon that ever happens in the Fiesta ST. When carrying speed, you actually need to keep the rear end in check. Although the nice thing is, if that were to happen, it’s fairly easy to catch and sort out with the front wheels being the ones putting the power down.

It’s been often discussed that the optimal amount of power to send to only the front wheels is right around 200 bhp. This is one of the very few downfalls of the car. When really stomping on the throttle there is a little bit of tug through the steering wheel, but it’s not something that a driver that is paying attention can’t negotiate. But other than that, torque steer isn’t really an issue. However, this is where the electronic LSD in the GTI beats the differential in the Fiesta ST.

Another field in which the GTI beats the Fiesta ST, the interior. Yes, you can option the car with heated Recaro seats and change the mood lighting until you’re blue in the face (I just turned it to red and kept it there). But at the end of the day, it’s still a Fiesta on the inside. For a base car, you get Bluetooth and a well-balanced stereo. You get a multimedia display, but no Sat Nav. Which is fine because I wouldn’t use it anyway. If the car came with Android Auto, that would be a different case, but these cars never came with it. Plus, I wouldn’t expect them to. They are a subcompact car after all.

One more point against the ST: For being a driver’s car, you would expect that they would nail the pedal placement for solid heel-toe action… Right? Well…. Not really. The spacing of the pedals was fine for my Size 9 ½ feet, but the brake pedal starts far too high to initiate a heel-toe. The only place I can possibly conceive laying down a solid heel-toe rev match would be on track coming down from a high rate of speed and burying the brakes harder than a racist family member.

All in all, I was floored by the Fiesta ST. It balances peppy get-up with its small turbo motor with fun and quirky suspension and fantastic handling. Along with great brakes and shifter feel. Mark my words, acquiring one is now a definite goal of mine. Not saying it’ll happen tomorrow, but God damn I need this car in my life. I’ve already started looking for one in Ford’s Kona Blue and plan to put a nice set of white Fifteen52 Tarmac wheels along with a few bolt-ons and call it a day. It’s really a shame that Ford Motor Company has decided to axe all Fiestas as well as Focus and the Fusion. At least we’ll still have the Mustang though, right?

This particular Fiesta ST is owned by a gentleman named Peter who lives up in Layton, Utah and I cannot recommend him and his car enough. As this article is being written, the car is on Turo and can be yours for $37/day with 500 miles included. Honestly, I can’t really think of a better way to spend my money on a car. Well, maybe if I actually bought the thing I wouldn’t have to give it back.

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