Nearly new buying guide: Ford Fiesta ST

23 September 2021 - autocar

Nearly new buying guide: Ford Fiesta ST

Few hot hatches match the Ford Fiesta ST for fun. This latest iteration, launched in 2018, refines the juvenile thrills of the model’s heralded predecessor and gains a heightened level of performance, not to mention a significant improvement in fuel efficiency, interior quality and comfort.

Under the bonnet, a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine is your only option. It is fantastic, mind you. With three cylinders and the ability to run on only two when full power isn’t a priority, it’s wonderfully economical, officially achieving a combined 40.4mpg.

More important, power is plentiful. The Fiesta ST has 197bhp on tap, which is sent to the front wheels via a joyfully slick six-speed manual gearbox. There is no automatic available. The ST will do 0-60mph in 6.5sec and go on to a top speed of 144mph.

Straight-line performance aside, how does it handle? Well, when the road or track gets twisty, this pocket rocket comes into its prime. The best way to describe it is quick and balanced. The steering, although fairly light, is very direct. Grip is strong and the car easily rotates around you, so it’s very playful, too. All this is further improved on by the ST Performance Pack.

We recommend finding an example with this fitted because, among other performance-enhancing goodies, it adds a limited-slip differential, helping the car to really cling onto the road and pull you out of corners at impressive speeds. With ST-3 models, it comes as standard from new.However, with other trims – the ST-1 (discontinued in 2019) and ST-2 (still present) – the ST Performance Pack is an optional extra.

Speaking of spec, let’s talk equipment. At no extra cost from new, STs get 17in alloy wheels, air conditioning, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, keyless start and cruise control. You’ll want to consider at least stepping up to ST-2, though, because that gets you an upgraded sound system, plus climate control and rear privacy glass. ST-3 adds 18in alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, power-folding door mirrors, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and keyless entry.

Inside, the driver has a figure-hugging and very supportive Recaro sports seat. Visibility is good, as is interior quality. And, of course, the ST enjoys the same praiseworthy practicality and space as its standard Fiesta siblings. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is also present, offering sharp-looking graphics, lots of features (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, a DAB radio and Bluetooth) and relatively simple menus.

On the used market, ST-1s are extremely sparse, so it’s best to look towards ST-2 examples for a starting price. The cheapest cars, from 2018/2019 with low to average mileage, are listed at around £15,000. For a 2020 model in ST-3 trim, you will need to increase your budget to £20,000, with year-old STs – and limited-edition cars – often going for more than £24,000.

Need to know

Two limited-run Fiesta STs have been launched to date. The first, released in 2019, is the ST Performance Edition. It sports lighter, 18in alloy wheels, has orange exterior paint and replaces the standard springs and dampers with adjustable coilovers. This drops the front and rear ride height by 10mm and 15mm respectively. Only 600 were produced.

The second limited-run variant is the ST Edition. It has all of the Performance Edition’s upgrades but comes in Azura Blue – a bright colour similar to the Nitrous Blue of the last Focus RS. It arrived in 2020 and just 300 came to the UK.

Buyer beware

Reliability concerns: In the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, the current Fiesta ranked as the least reliable small car (the Fiesta ST was not included as a separate entity, but the low rating of 74.9% is still worth bearing in mind). Most of the problems experienced by owners concerned the suspension, battery, engine, steering, exhaust and interior trim. Ford, as a brand, ranked a lowly 27th out of 30 manufacturers featured in the survey.

Recalls: These aren’t specific to the ST but apply to the current Fiesta range as a whole. A total of 56,864 vehicles are said to be affected by a recall involving the model’s brake vacuum pump, which may cease to provide vacuum assistance. Should this occur, greater brake pedal pressure would be needed and stopping distances may be increased. This can be checked and fixed by a Ford dealer at no cost to owners.

More than 1500 Fiestas have been reported to have had faulty seatbelts. They are said to have a defective low-g locking mechanism. Again, this can be checked by a Ford dealer and rectified where required for free.

Seats: Make sure nothing is broken on the front seats. As they are manually adjustable, the controls can wear and break after heavy use. For example, the previous-generation ST’s seat latches, which move the seats forward to allow easy access to the rear, are not the most reliable items, so ensure it all works properly on any prospective purchase and use cautiously.

Top spec pick: ST-3

Stepping up from ST-2 won’t cost you too much and brings extra kit such as sat-nav, keyless entry and heated seats. Most importantly, you’re guaranteed that awesome Performance Pack.

Our pick: 1.5T

With only the one engine available, it’s the 1.5-litre three-cylinder or nothing. That said, this turbo unit suits the ST to a T. It can excite a keen driver – or reward careful driving with impressive economy.

Wild card: ST Edition

Striking bright blue paint and a limited UK run of 300 cars mean you’ll stand out in this ultimate ST – whose trick suspension makes it even better to drive – but you’ll pay at least £27,000 for the privilege.

Ones we found:

2018 Ford Fiesta ST-2 Performance Pack, 30,000 miles, £15,500

2019 Ford Fiesta ST-3,20,000 miles, £18,495

2020 Ford Fiesta ST Performance Edition, 3500 miles, £25,995

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