When the first media drives for the current Ford Fiesta ST happened, we didn’t know how much it would cost. At the time, it was rumoured to be just under £20,000 - considering everyone who got behind the wheel (rightly) thought it was the vehicular equivalent of the second coming of Christ, that seemed like a ludicrous bargain.
Imagine our delight, then, when Ford said it would start at £18,995. Suddenly, the similarly priced and underwhelming Suzuki Swift Sport looked awfully silly. Fast forward a few years, though, and you’re looking at one that costs £27,075, perilously close to the starting price of the Toyota GR Yaris which has taken the Fiesta’s place as the best current hot hatch.
Said £27k car is the Fiesta ST Edition, and that headline-grabbing figure isn’t as daft as it seems. Compared to the well-equipped ST-3 this is based on, the premium is £2500. For that, you’re getting manually-adjustable coilovers, some gorgeous 10-spoke ‘flow-formed’ alloy wheels that reduce the unsprung mass by 8kg, unique (and very lovely) Azure Blue paintwork, and some black detailing.
This seems like a great deal, so long as the new dampers haven’t mucked things up. The handling of the stock ST is so close to perfection that any fiddling of the suspension should raise alarm bells. The changes are significant, too - it’s 15mm lower at the front, 10mm at the back, and you get 16 clicks rebound and 12 compression settings to fiddle with.
The extra low is immediately clear on first glance. It’s rare you get a production car with such petite arch gaps. There’s something almost salacious about it. Like the engineers snuck it past the suits when they weren’t looking.
The last road car I drove with manually-adjustable coilovers was (of all things) a Volvo V60 Engineered by Polestar, which hand neat strut top-mount adjusters, with the rear settings accessed by jacking the car up. In the ST Edition, unfortunately, the process is a little more involved. For the front, all of the shuttle trim has to be removed before you can adjust anything, while at the back, you have to take out a load of boot trim.
With that in mind, we left the car as delivered, with the compression and rebound in their “recommended settings”. And straight away, the increase in firmness is obvious. The low-speed ride is choppy, with any potholes or speed bumps in your way requiring extra care.
Go a little faster, and the ride feels more compliant, even if it never truly settles. This might become a little annoying on a long motorway drive, but the payoff is huge when you get to a decent bit of road. Damn, this thing is good.
The new suspension brings an extra layer of feedback to the fast steering, which is head and shoulders above almost everything else out there right now in terms of feel. Although there’s less give in the dampers, the setup isn’t taken too far, with the ST tracking the road well and never feeling nervous.
The standard ST is known for its lift-off oversteer antics, and in this tweaked setting, the car is even keener to get its arse out. It feels feisty and exciting, and although the wayward rear is initially unnerving, it’s predictable enough to quickly get on terms with. On a cold, damp winter day when the front end is struggling, it’s a hilariously fun way to tweak your line.
The 1.5-litre triple hasn’t been altered, leaving you with 197bhp and 214lb ft of torque to play with. With such a beefy mid-range, the ST often feels quicker than those figures would suggest, particularly with the more active ride giving an extra sense of speed. Changing gear with the six-speed manual remains a joy, with well-spaced pedals making for easy heel-and-toe downshifts.
Ford has also had a go at tweaking the cabin, which gets some not-carbon fibre details, blue stitching, and a new steering Ford Performance wheel complete with a Sport mode shortcut button. It livens up proceedings nicely, but the cabin is still one of the ST’s few weak points. It’s not awful in there, but it is low rent compared to the inside of a VW Polo GTI or Mini JCW.
The extra £2500 Ford is expecting you to stump up does seem more than worth it, even if you’ll only very occasionally play around with the damper settings. It’s disappointing that making the adjustments in the first place is such a faff, but who knows, as the end-user, perhaps you’ll find it adds to the experience.
Beyond the improved drive, it’s just a nice ‘thing’. The wheels and the unique colour make it feel special, and with those welcome handling tweaks in with the deal, we can see those 300 UK-bound Editions being snapped up quickly.