AOL Cars' Road Test of the Year: Ford Fiesta ST


AOL Cars' Road Test of the Year: Ford Fiesta ST

In the second installment of our Road Test of the Year, Jon Reay extolls the virtues of our wildcard entrant, the Ford Fiesta ST. Costing just a fraction of the price of everything else here, we initially thought it would be out of its depth. How wrong we were.

There was no getting away from it: I'd been given the short straw. Sitting slap bang in the middle of the M4's most expensive convoy, I suddenly became very aware that I was behind the wheel of not a W12 convertible or flat-six coupe but a 1.6-litre hatchback.

It wasn't long, though, before the flame-roasted-orange Fiesta revealed itself to be something of a secret weapon.

The first benefit became as we arrived at Chieveley Services. While James in the Range Rover Sport and DJ in the M6 both had gritted teeth trying to navigate into what could generously be described as 'spaces', the diddy Fiesta got flung into the nearest one with just a flick of the leather-covered steering wheel.

As for Leon in the Bentley, I was halfway through my Americano before he'd found a suitable mooring for Liberace's yacht - presumably with half of Berkshire as an audience.

It wasn't until we hit deepest, darkest Wales that the Fiesta really started to shine, though. Okay, so it might not have anywhere near the power of half the cars here, but frankly it's all the better for it.

Chasing the Range Rover down a narrow, stone-walled track, it became clear just how hard Batch was having to work - frantically braking, making hundreds of minute adjustments at the steering wheel and barely getting near the throttle at all.

AOL Cars' RTOTY: Ford Fiesta ST

AOL Cars' RTOTY: Ford Fiesta ST

I, meanwhile, could go very nearly flat out – the Fiesta's sticky front tyres eating up the curves, its raunchy engine note filling the cabin like petrolhead incense. Changing down for a slow corner, it occurred to me that I was in one of only two manual cars here too - and very pleased I was for it.

The Fiesta's 'box is one of the sweetest I've used - positive to the touch and with a nice short throw. It's not the only gem in the cabin either: the steering is direct and quick, connecting you straight to the ever-so-keen chassis, all the while a set of really rather good Recaro seats holding you securely.

The engine too is nothing short of brilliant. Fond as I am of hot hatches, you need to rev to death to wring the power out of - the old RenaultSport Clio springs to mind - while the turbocharged Fiesta's point-and-squirt power is fun in a whole different way, and one that's arguably more useable day to day.

That's the thing with the ST - I reckon it's easily the car here that you'd have the most fun with on most days. The F-Type and Cayman are impractical, the M6 and RS6 will see your driving licence torn up, and the Bentley and Range Rover feel like piloting planets.

The ST, meanwhile, will even take you to Tesco on a rainy Tuesday with a grin - and I know which I'd rather have.

Ford Fiesta ST

Price: £18,995 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 178bhp, 290Nm
Max speed: 137mph
0-60mph: 6.9s
MPG (combined): 47.9
Emissions: 138g/km