For those who don’t know, when I’m not behind the wheel of the E36 at autocross or track days, my daily driver is a 2017 Ford Fiesta ST. I bought it new back in August of 2017 after years of wanting either a Fiesta ST, or it’s larger Focus ST sibling. There were some serious rebates available, and rumor had it 2017 would be one of the last years Ford offered both ST hot hatches in the states. I didn’t need much more convincing, and brought home Ford’s smallest hot hatchback shortly thereafter.
Sold in America since 2014, the Fiesta ST’s last year of production was the 2018 model year. While the next generation lives on in Europe, Ford has announced they will no longer sell any cars in the United States other than the Mustang. Instead, they are focusing their efforts on the much more profitable crossover segment. While this is sad for us enthusiasts, the one silver lining is even bigger rebates on any of the STs still remaining on dealer lots. While mine has a few minor modifications that we’ll cover in future articles, I want to cover what it’s really like to live with a Fiesta ST on a daily basis.
Just a few minutes of poking the throttle reveals just how much torque the Fiesta ST has. The 1.6 liter “EcoBoost” four-cylinder is rated at 200 horsepower and 202 ft-lbs of torque. However, Ford seems to have taken a page from its German rivals and underrated the power figures. People are regularly seeing close to those numbers at the wheels, completely stock. Turbo lag exists, but boost still comes on early, giving you a strong shove around 2500 rpm.
Around town you are constantly in this sweet spot of torque making acceleration feel faster than the car actually is. The gearing hurts this car’s 0-60 times on paper (6.9 seconds), so driving it is a much better experience than the numbers lead you to believe. The only gearbox available is a super-smooth 6-speed manual. While its throws aren’t super short or notchy, it falls into gear with no effort and is still very accurate. The pedal box spacing makes it hard to heel-toe on the street. The gas pedal is much closer to the floor than the brake pedal, therefore you need to be leaning on the brakes pretty hard to make heel-toeing easier. On the other hand, the clutch pedal is delightfully light, making rush hour commutes a breeze.
The single best thing about the Fiesta ST is the way it goes around corners. The steering feel is extremely light, but also very quick (2.3 turns lock-to-lock). You can drive all but the tightest autocross courses and never have to go hand-over-hand. Immediately following the instant turn-in, you feel just how neutral the chassis is. With all stability and traction control off you can induce hilarious lift-off oversteer, and quickly rein it back in with a stab of the throttle. This car wants to oversteer. Every time I see Focus and Fiesta ST’s on the track and at autocross, I’m amazed that Ford got away with making cars that step the rear out so readily… but I’m so happy they did. It does exactly what you ask of it, but If you push too hard it will resort to understeer and wave that inside rear tire in the air.
I felt it was best to follow up the single best thing about the ST with the single worst thing about it. Although Ford just stopped selling the Fiesta ST, the interior feels a generation behind anything else in the segment today. The dash is soft touch, but that’s about it. The optional Recaro seats look fantastic, but are not “a one size fits all” seat – they are something you really need to test out before making the commitment.
There are some redeeming qualities in the cabin, though. Every Fiesta ST from 2016+ comes with Sync 3. For those who care, that means you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As a person who used to not care about the latest infotainment technology, I’m pretty sold on CarPlay. Having that added bit of tech makes an otherwise cheap interior a lot more bearable.
I’d argue the Fiesta ST is the most fun new car you can buy for under $20,000. At that price point you’ll never have a car that does it all, but the Fiesta ST does many things very well. It’s small yet practical, insanely fun around town, and has enough tech and comfort to make long hauls possible. Luckily, aftermarket is plentiful, and I’ve made a few modifications to my own car that we’ll cover in other articles. Regardless of modifications, the little Fiesta is literally a party on wheels. And it is one I cannot recommend enough to those who still care about driving being fun. Jason Cammisa said it best, “Do you want to walk down the street, or do you want to dance?”