The Ford Fiesta ST is the default sub-£20k hot-hatchback because it is the very best way of going very fast for very little in something very sensible.
So a limited-edition version with 197bhp (200PS in metric-speak, hence the name) and 214lb/ft of torque, up from an already very reasonable 180bhp and 177lb/ft, must be even better, no?
Yes, of course. More power is almost always better in fast cars, even if the law of diminishing returns does kick in eventually. So a Fiesta with 10% more power and, more importantly, 20% more torque is always going to be a winning recipe and when you also dial in a better ride (one of the original Fiesta ST’s few weaknesses was a somewhat choppy ride that was an inevitable consequence of a short wheelbase suspended by springs and dampers that were optimised for handling rather than comfort) the result is very impressive indeed.
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Purposeful, not pretty
The interior is much the same as every other Fiesta ST save for some rather nice part-leather Recaro seats and a smattering of minor trim details and badges. That’s OK; the interior was never the Fiesta’s strongest suit but then it wasn’t its weakest, either.
On the outside, every Fiesta ST200 will be finished in Storm Grey and sit on 17-inch black alloy wheels that are unique to the model. It looks purposeful rather than pretty, but it does have presence and I guess that’s the name of the game when you’re playing Top Trumps.
Speaking of which, its purposeful looks are backed up with some impressive figures: 0-62mph now takes 6.7 seconds, which might be 0.2 seconds faster than the standard ST on paper but let’s be honest, no one is going to be able to tell the difference on the road.
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To see what all the fuss is about we need to turn to the shorter final-drive gearing and the EcoBoost’s transient overboost, which allows the turbocharged engine to deliver up to 236lb/ft of torque and 212bhp for short periods. This enables you to conjure up the sort of in-gear acceleration that is essential for safe overtaking manoeuvres that might otherwise be marginal; mid-range acceleration is now utterly astonishing for a car of this type, which is exactly what you need to make very rapid progress on busy roads.
The chassis is on your side too. Enhanced Torque Vectoring Control or eTVC, brakes an inside front wheel to help kill understeer and sharpen the car’s initial turn-in when cornering. It’s a passive system – as opposed to the Ford Focus RS’s more proactive, aggressive solution – but it works and it works well.
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How limited is limited edition?
Ford is currently celebrating the Fiesta’s 40th birthday having sold well over 4,000,000 in the United Kingdom since 1976. It’s also been Britain’s best selling car every year since 2008 but despite all the celebrations no one at Ford would tell me how many cars will comprise the limited edition production run, mainly, I suspect, because no one knows.
My guess is that Ford will take orders for another couple of months before turning off the supply, so if you want one you’re going to have to be quick.
Should you buy one? The ST200’s power is on a par with supercars of thirty years ago and the delivery is surprisingly benign given that it is all being channeled through the two front wheels, so it is a very fast car, make no mistake.
Yet limited edition run cars can be something of a mixed blessing: if the number had been strictly limited to, say, 200 cars then I’d have no hesitation in recommending it as a future classic.
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Should you invest?
As it is, I might be tempted to put my money into a standard car with a £599 Mountune conversion (plus one hour’s fitting time at your local Ford dealership) where the resulting power output would be broadly on a par with the ST200’s. And because a Mountune conversion is sanctioned by Ford, you’ll keep your car’s factory warranty too.
Best of all, the canny driver could buy a 2016-year Fiesta ST3 for £14,000 and have it upgraded for under a thousand pounds. Yes, you’ll be stuck with the older model’s slightly crashy suspension, but I’m sure Mountune could fix that for you too…
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Best-in-class – The Ford Fiesta ST is the very best in its class and if you need the best-of-the-best, then you’ll probably have already written the cheque.
The best of the rest – The Suzuki Swift Sport is much slower, much cheaper but very nearly as much fun.
Left-field alternative – Buy a nearly new Fiesta ST and get Mountune to tweak it. Then spend the £7,500 you’ve saved on putting something classic in your garage before sitting back to savour the fact you’ve beaten the system.
Buying a secondhand Ford Fiesta ST200
The old Ford Fiesta ST was, by a wide margin, the very best small hot-hatch you could buy.
It sparkled on the road and its only shortcoming was a sub-par interior, something the new model has comprehensively addressed.
And yet, if you can live with the old car’s interior then you can save around £5,500 by buying a 2017MY car against the new, 2018MY version, which should hit the UK later this year at an estimated cost of £18,500.
Sure, you won’t be getting the latest and greatest incarnation but you’re saving enough to pay for the holiday of a lifetime - and you’ll still own one of the all-time greats.