The ST badge has had a bit of an absence on the Fiesta recently, and don't we just know it. As racy as the Zetec S looks – and as good as it is to drive – we bet we weren't the only ones pining for a proper hot Fiesta.
Thankfully, now some five years into the current shape Fiesta, Ford has introduced a full-fat meaty version. Does it live up to the high expectations? AOL Cars headed to Southern France to find out.
What is it?
The eagerly anticipated Fiesta ST – Ford's hottest supermini yet. It's got a bit of a reputation to live up to, as well, with Ford very keen to compare it to the fast Fiestas of yesteryear that proved fun didn't have to come with a silly pricetag.
And so they should: at £16,995 on the road it's significantly cheaper than rivals like the RenaultSport Clio, and Ford has already received 900 orders before the cars have even appeared in dealerships to be drooled over.
What's under the bonnet?
A version of the 1.6-litre 'Ecoboost' engine you'll also find in the Focus, C-Max and Mondeo – a rather good little turbocharged thing with 180bhp on tap. Ford says it's fiddled about with its settings to make it a bit feistier than in those, though, and it seems to have paid off.
What's the spec like?
Pretty good. There's two versions – ST and ST-2 – both of which have a DAB radio with SYNC, air conditioning, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, 17-inch alloys and a pair of lovely figure-hugging Recaro seats.
Pay a £1,000 premium for the ST-2 and you'll also be given LED daytime running lights, heated partial-leather versions of the Recaros, Keyless Start and a posher Sony-branded stereo. That's on top of all the other usual Fiesta bits and pieces, including MyKey and a QuickClear heated windscreen.
It's easy to spot against the standard car, too. Along with the standard Fiesta paint options (excluding the metallic, uh... brown) there's a range of three new choices: Race Red, Molten Orange and Spirit Blue – all of which look rather good. We fancy the blue, personally.
Ford reckons the forthcoming 208 GTI and recently-launched RenaultSport Clio are the main competitors, but there's also the Polo GTI, Ibiza Cupra and Fabia VRS to think about – all of which, bar the 208, come with a paddle-shift gearbox of some type or another.
There's also the Citroen DS3, though that's a little down on power and, to be honest, feels more like a normal hatchback with a quick engine stuffed under the bonnet than a car designed to be driven quickly.
Is it any good?
Good? It's fantastic. We'll admit that we love our hot hatches in the AOL Cars office, but the ST really is superb. For a start, it's amazingly easy – and fun – to drive quickly. The front end just grips and grips regardless of how hard you push, and everything from the gear change to the weight of the steering feels just right.
It's quick, but it's no monster either – there's a sense that it's been given just enough power to be good fun, but not so much as to turn it into a torque-steering loon. It's no hardcore track-day machine, the ST, and frankly we think that's a good thing.
What it is though, is a snorty, lively little hatch that feels bang on the money in terms of handling, pace and noise. A sound 'symposer' (effectively a big pipe that carries sound from the back of the engine) located behind the dash, combined with a sports exhaust give a superb soundtrack as you're barreling along – and it's a pairing that really works.
The icing on the cake? When you're tired of thrashing around and settle down into Sunday driving mode, the Fiesta turns into a very refined car. Because the boomy soundtrack only enters the cabin when the throttle is pushed about half way down (or more), cruising along gently is absolutely painless.
The AOL Cars verdict
It's easy to wax lyrical about what a brilliantly executed package the Fiesta ST is, but that's not without good reason. The Fiesta itself is already an excellent car, and with 180bhp under the bonnet that fact becomes even more clear.
It's sharp to drive, quick enough to be enjoyable, and from behind the wheel everything feels just right. On top of that it's got plenty of kit, looks great and shouldn't be all that expensive to run.
In short, we can't think of anything else we'd want more for £17,000.
Model: Ford Fiesta ST
Engine: 1.6-litre, turbo
Power: 180bhp, 290Nm of torque
Max speed: 137mph
MPG: 47.9mpg (comb'd)
Emissions: 138g/km CO2