Ford’s latest Fiesta ST has big boots to fill. The old ST was one of the best performance cars Ford has ever made – a car capable of fighting right at the top of its class in terms of performance and driving fun, and excellent value for money, too, with entry-level models undercutting most rivals by thousands.
On paper the new model does the same, with a tempting starting price of £18,995 and performance figures that beat the top ST200 version of the old car. The new 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine matches the old car’s output without resorting to an overboost function and the ST still offers three- and five-door formats (an increasingly rare attribute in modern hatches) and a six-speed manual gearbox.
But the best news is that the new ST doesn’t just look good on paper. While it’s lost a little of the old car’s raw character and feels a little bigger on the road – an unavoidable side-effect of the car being more liveable – it’s still a riot to drive, from the ultra-quick steering to an engaging drivetrain and effervescent character.Ford Fiesta ST in detail
Performance and 0-60 – Quicker than the old car and up at the sharp end for the class, with a 6.5sec 0-62mph time and 144mph top speed. We prefer the old engine’s character, but the new three still impresses.
Engine and gearbox – Three cylinders, 1.5-litres and a turbocharger – all fixed to a six-speed manual gearbox. Engine uses cylinder-deactivation tech for better economy.
Ride and handling – Still one of the best small hot hatchbacks. Sharp steering and great body control give the ST real agility.
MPG and running costs – No more frugal than its predecessor on paper or on the road. Running costs shouldn’t be too high, but keep an eye on those Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Interior and tech – A big improvement over the old car. Grippy Recaro seats are welcome, improved dash and infotainment set-up even more so.
Design – Three- and five-door options, with just enough aggression to mark it out as a performance model. Looks better at the front than the back.Prices, specs and rivals
The Fiesta remains a decent value proposition, though ultimately few will go for the basic £18,995 ST-1 model. Just one per cent, according to Ford’s figures, with 28 per cent opting instead for the £19,995 ST-2 and a full 71 per cent will opt for the £21,495 ST-3. Five-door versions – available on the ST-2 and ST-3 – cost an extra £600, and are expected to account for around a quarter of ST sales. The model itself will account for around a tenth of all Ford Fiesta sales in the UK.
ST-1 models get 17-inch wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, air conditioning, keyless start, cruise control, Recaro seats, halogen headlights and selectable driving modes. ST-2s wear a slightly flashier 17-inch wheel design (with 18-inch optional), with climate control, heated seats, privacy glass, and a larger 8-inch touchscreen, while ST-3 upgrades to 18-inch wheels, navigation, a TFT screen ahead of the driver, a parking camera, leather trim and a heated steering wheel.
To this you can then add various option packages. Most popular by a hair will be the performance pack, with a fifth of buyers spending an extra £850 (on ST-2 and ST-3 only) to get a Quaife limited-slip differential, launch control and shift lights. B&O Play audio is £350 and LED headlamps (ST-2 and ST-3 only) are £600. Most ST buyers will also go for the car’s signature Performance Blue paintwork – a £745 option.
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It’s feasible then that many customers will spend over £24,000 on their STs rather than the headline £18,995, but that’s still in the same ballpark as the relatively few remaining rivals in this class – the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport has recently gone off sale pending emissions upgrades but cost £23,550 when it was on sale.
The current Renault Sport Clio 200 isn’t our favourite hot hatch, but at £20,300 it offers similar performance to the Fiesta (albeit through an auto ’box) for a similar price to the lower-spec STs, while the 220 Trophy is a better effort (though still not as good as it should be…) for £23,000. The Fiesta is currently the class leader, but unfortunately that’s as much down to a lack of competition as it is any inherent talent.
Performance and 0-60
The new ST isn’t short of performance. Make use of the launch control function (engaged via the steering wheel buttons) and keep your right foot pinned as you shift through the gears (thanks to flat-shifting technology) and you should match Ford’s claim of a 6.5sec 0-62mph time and eventually a 144mph top speed.
The three-cylinder engine definitely has a different aural character to the old ‘four. Not an unpleasant one, at that – it’s definitely among the angrier threes we’ve heard, and while Ford uses sound generation to enhance its note inside the cabin, it’s not too artificial – and the active exhaust out back is making a ‘proper’ noise anyway.
Much of the time it doesn’t really sound like a three-cylinder, so different is it from the usual economy car fare, but nor does it sound like a four-pot. We still prefer the raspy, induction-noise-heavy note of the old four-cylinder, but we could definitely get used to the triple.
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There’s little difference in the way the new engine delivers its power, either, with good throttle response from low revs all the way to the upper reaches of the rev counter. It doesn’t quite cover the last 1000rpm or so with the verve of the old car, though flick through the gears quickly enough and there’s sufficient torque to chirp the tyres even on the change to third.
This much power in a small car still feels ever so slightly unhinged, too, making the ST feel exciting before you’ve even reached a corner. The limited-slip diff can make the steering a little fighty from low speeds, and particularly on bumpy surfaces, but that’s all part of the thrill of a compact hot hatch like this. Thankfully, the brakes are up to the task of shedding all that speed, and while they began grumbling after a few hot laps around the Goodwood race circuit, actual braking performance remained fairly consistent.Engine and gearbo
Engine and gearbox
It’s out with the old 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine and in with a new 1.5-litre turbocharged triple for the new ST. It’s definitely a step forward in terms of cleanliness and economy, at least on paper, with the new unit allowing you to travel an extra mile on every gallon of fuel and using a petrol particulate filter to meet the latest Euro 6.2 standards.
The engine also uses cylinder deactivation technology – the first on a three-pot – with cylinder one shutting down at low revs and low loads to the benefit of economy, firing back up in 14 milliseconds when more torque is required. It’s imperceptible to the driver, and ST owners are less likely to experience it anyway than their counterparts in less sporty Ford Focuses using the same powerplant…
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In numeric terms the new ST develops 197bhp and 214lb ft of torque, both of which shade the ST’s standard predecessor, though there’s less of a difference to the ST200 and various Mountune-fettled STs.
To this new three-pot Ford attaches a six-speed manual transmission, with the option of a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential to handle drive to the front wheels. STs feature both electronic sound generation inside the cabin and an active exhaust, and the behaviour of both varies depending on the driving mode (Normal, Sport and Track) selected.
Ride and handling
Handling was always the old ST’s strongest point and it remains so with the latest model. It’s one of the most entertaining hatches on sale, pairing agility with interactivity and feeling as approachable when you first start exploring its abilities as it is capable when you’re more familiar.
Steering first. It’s sharp – Ford says it has the fastest rack of any Ford Performance model (around 14 per cent faster than the old car’s set-up) and you get a reaction from the car the instant you steer off the straight ahead. Yet it’s not nervous – just responsive and well-tuned to the rest of the chassis.
There’s good weighting, too, increasing progressively through the different driving modes, though there’s not much feel until you’re really putting some loads through the tyres, at which point you’re probably travelling rather quickly. If there’s a demerit it’s that the steering is so quick you don’t really feel like you’re having to actually do much to navigate most corners, which takes away some interactivity and enjoyment on all but the twistiest of roads.
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You’ll spend some time fighting the limited-slip diff on rougher surfaces too, but the Fiesta otherwise seems relatively untroubled by cambers and ruts in the road. The diff isn’t as aggressive as some, but it’s satisfying to get on the gas early out of a corner and feel your line tightening rather than washing wide – and the ST’s rear axle always feels willing to help out by slipping just enough to minimise understeer from turn-in all the way to corner exit.
The ride? Well, that’s still pretty firm – to the point of annoyance on some surfaces, though it’s not as punishing as the old model, and to the ST’s credit it never feels like it’s being shaken apart even on rougher roads. Just like the old model, the firmness bleeds off as speeds rise, the frequency selective passive dampers seemingly happier dealing with greater loads. Body control is excellent, and with minimal roll you can quickly find and then exploit the front-end grip available.
MPG and running costs
Manufacturers have several reasons for downsizing engines, from fuel economy to economies of scale, but if it’s the former then the new engine gains nothing over its predecessor. In fact, it loses slightly, at 47.1mpg combined compared to 47.9mpg for the old car.
Economy in the real world is unlikely to be better, either – our old long-term Fiesta ST had averaged 38.1mpg during our tenure, and in mixed driving we saw high-30s in the latest model, too. If you opt to take your ST on a track – a not unreasonable scenario, given how entertaining the new car is when freed from the constraints of road driving – then you’ll need to keep a beady eye on the gauge, too, as the car we tried burned through over half a tank in a few short sessions around the Goodwood circuit. We’d estimate economy in the low teens in such a situation.
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It’s difficult to estimate other costs at this stage, though all STs wear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, and burning through a set of those will cost around £120 per corner (delivered from Blackcircles) for the cars on 205/45 R17s, and about £150 a corner for the ST-3 on its 205/40 R18 wheel and tyre set-up.
The ST’s 136g/km of CO2 means a first-year VED rate of £205, and then £140 a year thereafter. In terms of BIK for those lucky enough to have an ST as a company car, all three models sit in the 28 per cent bracket.
Interior and tech
The interior of Ford’s previous Fiesta wasn’t great even from the start, with a dashboard that looked like it’d been cribbed from an old Nokia, and as the competition quickly improved (particularly in terms of infotainment) the Ford trailed even further behind. ST models had great seats, but they always felt like they were mounted a little too high.
No such issues in the latest car. Its cabin won’t be remembered as a design classic, and isn’t as ruthlessly ordered as that of a Polo or as imaginative as a Mini – it does the job and no more – but it’s such a huge improvement on its predecessor that owners will have very little to complain about.
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The ST still gets great seats, too, though those of larger frame may find themselves a little pinched – the Recaros feel like they’ve been developed for a racing driver’s physique. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and wheel, though, and you sit a little lower, for a cosier feel than before. The steering wheel is perhaps both a little too large in diameter and a little too thick in profile – the trend for fat wheel rims shows no sign of diminishing – but overall this is a good driving position, with decently placed pedals and a snappy gearlever a relatively short movement away from the wheel.
It’s a big improvement technologically, too. On the infotainment side a 6.5-inch screen is standard with Ford’s SYNC 3 operating system, with an 8-inch screen with navigation optional. A B&O Play audio system is also optional, while ST-3 models get a 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster which conveys more information than the simpler clusters in the ST-1 and ST-2. Various safety systems are also included, while on the performance front you get technologies such as launch control, flat-shift gearchanges, and three driver modes – Normal, Sport and Track – with varying levels of steering weight, throttle response, exhaust noise and stability control intervention.
The Fiesta ST uses much the same ingredients as other cars in this class, but throws a few herbs and spices into the mix to give the car its own flavour.
Thus you get a fairly conventional chassis set-up: steel monocoque with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear, with electrically assisted rack and pinion steering.
But you also get Ford’s patented ‘force vectoring springs’ – directionally-wound and non-interchangeable coil springs as an alternative to the Watt’s linkage. The aim is the same – improving lateral location of the axle – though the ability of the springs alone to apply vector forces to the suspension save the 10kg that Ford says a Watt’s linkage would add.
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The dampers use frequency-selective damping (a technology developed by Koni, and also used on some Mercedes-Benz and Jeep models) which offers some of the benefits of active dampers without the complication of electronics – an ability to deal with high-frequency bumps and high-amplitude undulations without too great a compromise on either ride quality or body control.
In terms of styling, the ST is more conventional. You get three- or five-door options and it looks like… well, a Fiesta. The front end is a little smoother than before and the rear a little blander to our eyes, but ST models do get a subtle body kit and some less subtle 17-inch and 18-inch wheel designs to differentiate them from regular Fiestas.13 Jul 2018
The Ferrari F12 was hardly short of firepower, but you don’t get ahead by standing still, so it came as no surprise that the Italian brand now has an even faster flagship. Designed to humble the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador S and McLaren 720S, the Ferrari 812 Superfast (yes really) goes it’s own, front-engined way in the pursuit of ultimate road car performance.
Essentially a heavily revised F12 that incorporates many of the lessons learned with the fearsome TdF, the 812 packs a 789bhp (that’s seven hundred and eighty nine!) development of the incredible V12 that can trace its routes back to the Enzo. It also features a more advanced chassis with four-wheel steering, plenty of active aerodynamics and the latest suite of driver aids. The result says Ferrari, is the most exciting yet approachable supercar it’s ever made.
Is it right? We’ll come to the answers in more detail in a moment, for now you can take it as read that the Superfast is an almighty piece of work on Ferrari’s behalf. It is monumentally fast, sounds absolutely out of this world, has a gear change – and, more to the point, a new shorter set of gear ratios – that will fray the outer edges of your imagination with its brilliance, and its chassis has mostly been improved to create a deeply seminal range of abilities – on both road and track.
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But there are caveats, albeit highly subjective ones. One, to our eyes it no longer looks as classically beautiful as the F12, thanks mainly to the new aerodynamic elements along its flanks and at the back. Second, its new electronic power steering is more hyper-active than ever in its response, thanks in part to a new rear-wheel steering system that improves turn in, yes, but which also takes time to warm to because of the way it behaves. All up, though, the Superfast is a quite extraordinary car. Here’s why.
Performance and 0-60 time: Explosive yet exploitable acceleration makes the 812 mind-blowingly fast when you want, but docile when you don’t.
Engine and gearbox: The 6.5-litre V12 is a work of internal combustion art, delivering searing pace and a symphonic soundtrack.
Ride and handling: Traditional front-engine rear-wheel drive layout results in brilliant balance and involvement, while ride is surprisingly comfortable in the softest setting.
Interior and tech: Some of the plastics feel a bit ‘Fiat’, but sense of occasion is unrivalled. It’s packed with kit too.
Design: Some of the F12’s elegance has been lost in pursuit of aero efficiency, but brutal ‘form follows function’ looks aren’t without appeal.Prices, specs and rivals
The Superfast actually looks like pretty decent value at £253,004, and its intended market would certainly seem to agree; the car is sold out for the next two and a half years now, although whether it will be a Ferrari that goes up in value in the longer terms is far from a sure thing.
Rivals are few and far between at this level, the Aventador S at £271,146 probably being its most obvious competition. Elsewhere the Ford GT at £450k looks expensive considering it has over 140bhp less and just isn’t as accelerative as the 812, even if it has a higher top speed. Possibly the keenest rival for the Superfast is the McLaren 720S, which at £210,355 undercuts the Ferrari by some £40,000 – although at this rarefied end of the market that’s pocket change.It’s not as powerful as the Superfast, but we’d be lying if we said there was much between the two for real world performance. Both cars pack masses of visual drama and are a hoot to drive, until you get serious when both demand all your concentration and skill. Only the McLaren’s slightly charmless engine noise lets it down in the final reckoning.Performance and 0-60 time
As ever with a Ferrari it’s the sound that hooks you first, and the higher you rev the 812, the more magnificent it gets. But the pure performance of the Superfast in a straight line, and the traction it somehow manages to generate, even on quite bumpy roads, is what leaves you with the deepest impression of all. It feels nothing short of rabid in a straight line, with the kind of throttle response that only ever comes from a big, atmospheric engine that revs high and hits hard, everywhere. Even at 4000rpm in third gear it feels pretty much ready to take off. And at 8500rpm in second gear it’s actually hard to describe how fast it feels, how loud it sounds, how utterly fantastic it just is. And the way the gearbox slices through the ratios, up or down, is very much integral to the experience. I think this is surely the best dual-clutch gearbox there has ever been in a road car.
In many respects the raw statistics don’t really do it justice. Like many superheated two-wheel drive machines the Ferrari can’t defy the laws of physics, so it’s 0-60mph time of 2.9 seconds is almost identical to the likes of the McLaren 720S. Yet once the 812 is rolling it gathers speed with a ferocity that borders on the manic. Keep your foot in and, where conditions allow, you can keep going all the way to 211mph.Engine and gearbox
The Superfast is powered by a 6496cc V12 that is 75 per cent new. It’s essentially the F12’s 6.2-litre V12 but has a longer 78mm stroke that stretches capacity, plus a compression ratio of, deep breath, 13.64:1. As a result of this, plus numerous other internal upgrades – predominantly to the intake system to maximise the efficiency of the combustion process and help it breathe better, basically – the new V12 produces 789bhp at 8500rpm, 529lb ft at 7000rpm (although 80 percent of this is available from 3500rpm) and revs to a quite magnificent 8900rpm before the limiter intrudes.
The shape of both the power and torque curves are quite different from those of the F12, in which the torque fell away towards the top end. In the 812, however, torque is stronger from the word go and builds to a crescendo until the rev limiter comes into play, pretty much mirroring the power curve. And this, says Ferrari, provides the 812 with a subjectively more exciting form of power delivery; one that builds very quickly as the revs rise, becoming stronger and more visceral the faster the engine spins.
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The exhaust features a six into one manifold that is, again, a fair bit more efficient than the system used in the F12, says Ferrari, allowing the engine to breathe better both in and out. And the sound it allows the V12 to emit over the last 3000rpm needs to be experienced to be believed.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels via the familiar seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, which has been tweaked with shorter gear ratios and shifts that are 30 per cent faster on the way up the ‘box, and 40 percent quicker on the way down. The electronically controlled rear differential also incorporates the F1-TRAC technology and the fifth iteration of the brand’s Slide Slip Control.Ride and handling
All Ferraris feature steering that’s unusually light and unusually fast in its response, but in the 812 it’s perhaps a touch heavier than before, which is good, but is also even faster in its responses, which to begin with at least, is not so good. The same is true of the glassy feel off the straight-ahead, which keeps your fingertips just one step removed from the action.
That said, you do eventually get used to the way the 812 hyper-reacts to your inputs at the wheel, and after a while it does then get close to becoming intuitive, at which point you start to guide the car more with your brain than with your hands, which is of course Ferrari’s intention. So strong is the front end grip and so good the feel through the seat of your pants, that you learn to trust that the steering will point the car just where you want, meaning you don’t miss the feedback through the rim as much as you’d think.
In all other respects, however, it is a quite incredible car to drive. The new seats are hard but clamp you in place behind the new multi-adjustable digital dashboard to perfection. And from that moment onwards the 812 over-delivers on your expectations in just about every department.
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On the track it feels lighter and more agile – and just faster – than you would ever believe possible from a 1630kg front-engined car. And to be honest, the best way to get the most enjoyment out of it is to wind the mannetino all the way to the right and turn everything off, because only then can you revel in the pure balance the 812 displays on the throttle. It goes sideways everywhere, sometimes even in fourth and fifth gear, but at the same time it’s still extraordinarily friendly while doing so. With everything off you can basically drive it like a BMW M3. Which is genuinely extraordinary given that there’s the thick end of 800bhp beneath your right foot.
It’s faster and arguably more “impressive” with the systems switched back in, but if anything the electronics are a bit too keen to take the throttle away from you on the track, even if they do allow a fair bit of slip before the safety net is deployed. And on the road they are very much there to help you keep your quarter million pound 812 Superfast out of the undergrowth, and they do so very well indeed.
On the road, in fact, you never really notice that they are there at all. And on the road, of course, the 812 feels approximately twice as fast as it does on the track – to a point where I can’t really imagine anything else, at any price, with any engine configuration, feeling any faster – or better to drive – than the 812 Superfast. Yet knock the dampers into their Bumpy Road setting and leave the gearbox to its own devices and you’ll find the Ferrari is remarkably docile and comfortable. At a cruise only the constant growl from the exhausts upsets the calm of the cabin.Interior and tech
Sliding behind the wheel of the 812 is a moment to savour. The long arm and short leg driving position is a bit of an Italian throwback, but the low slung layout makes you feel instantly at home. Visibility isn’t too bad either, which is a good thing in a car as wide and low as this.
As with all Ferraris, the steering wheel is chock full of controls, including buttons for the lights, indicators and wipers, plus the trademark mannetino that controls the various driver modes and stability control settings. It’s all very Formula One. Ahead of the driver is a TFT dial pack that houses a giant rev counter and phalanx of configurable minor instruments. As an option you can have a similar screen that sits in front of the passenger, distracting them from the fear induced by the car’s ferocious performance. The rest of the minor controls are laid out on a spar that runs between the front seats.
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You can’t fault the quality of the interior (you’d be surprised if you could given that the car costs as much as it does), but some of the plastics used feel a little, ahem, like they’ve come out of a Fiat. Still, ignore these and take in the beautifully finished carbon fibre inserts and the lovely Alcantara coverings and all is forgiven.
As you’d expect, the 812 has the full gamut of tech, from sat-nav through to Bluetooth and Apple Car Play. The infotainment functions are all grouped on a screen to the left of the main dial pack and are accessed via a fairly intuitive rotary and pushbutton controller.Design
Arguably, the 812 isn’t as classically beautiful as the old F12, Ferrari’s pursuit of aerodynamic advantages giving the car a more aggressive and technical look. In fact the whole exterior and underside of the car is a moving advertisement for the power of the wind tunnel. The aluminium bodywork is covered with slats, scoops, diffusers and turning vanes, while hidden away are various active moveable devices, including a trio of flaps under the rear bumper that can move through an arc of up to 14 degrees. It all adds up to car that can generate the same levels of downforce as the TdF, but with 40 percent less drag.
Highlights under the skin include a new electronic four wheel-steering system that increases stability everywhere, while dramatically improving turn in response and eradicating understeer. Called Virtual Short Wheelbase, it’s a development of the somewhat spikier reacting set-up first seen on the TdF. There’s also a new F1-TRAC electronic differential and a fifth generation version of Ferrari’s side slip control system, which is engaged (or disengaged) via the tradition mannetino switch on the steering wheel.
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At the front there’s a new electric power steering system with variable torque assistance, which sounds a bit weird and indeed is, slightly, to begin with. It’s especially so when you realise that the system is actively designed to help you apply opposite lock when the rear end steps out of line. The brakes are by Brembo and feature vast 398mm carbon ceramic discs at the front and almost as big 360mm CC rotors at the rear. Interestingly, the tyres are regular Pirelli P-Zeros rather than Corsas, Ferrari justifying this choice on the grounds that it wants the 812 to be perceived as a fully usable road car first, not a full-on track weapon that can merely be tolerated on the road.8 Jul 2018