Next year, the Ford Fiesta ST, one of our favorite hot hatchbacks, undergoes a redesign and surgery to remove one of the four cylinders from its engine. Early indications are that this change isn’t reductive: The three-cylinder, 2018 Fiesta ST still will pack the same 197 horsepower as today’s four-cylinder model. Gauging the side effects of the operation must wait until we drive the new car—that is, provided Ford decides to sell it in the United States.
So far, the new ST and its updated Fiesta siblings are confirmed only for European markets. It could be sent here. There’s also a chance we could see a repeat of the disappointing strategy Ford employed on the original Focus, meaning we’d get only a refresh of the current, aging Fiesta while the rest of the world enjoys improved designs. Or we could get no Fiesta and no ST, period. Ford isn’t yet saying. The current Fiesta ST is too good a car to be killed off quietly or to see its life cycle extended long enough to become “old,” and this test of a 2017 model is a clear reminder of why this one-time 10Best-awarded hot hatch deserves a follow-up.
Quite Literally a Party
What makes the Fiesta ST so great? The way the engine, chassis, and lightweight body combine to form a wonderfully balanced performance envelope. There is just enough handling for the power at hand . . . or just enough power for the handling, depending on your point of view. The turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four has quite literally the perfect amount of beans. Its 197 horsepower adds a Fiesta-sized drizzle of accelerative thrills without overwhelming the front-drive ST’s drivability the way the larger Focus ST’s 252-hp engine does.
Torque steer is minimal, and any tugs attempting to make their way through the steering column are mostly quelled by a brake-based, digital imitation of a limited-slip differential. (We’d love to see a mechanical limited-slip added to the next-generation Fiesta ST, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.) If the new ST can match this car’s sprightly 6.9-second rip to 60 mph, great-feeling six-speed shifter, and rorty engine note, we’ll be good.
Ditto the ST’s lowered, firmer suspension relative to regular Fiestas. This setup is capable of incredible grip when paired with the standard Bridgestone Potenza summer tires. We recorded 0.93 g, which places the Fiesta solidly in sports-car territory. Bemoan the Ford’s front-wheel drive all you want, but its grip is on par with the…