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Malcolm Wilson's rally team sprinkles some M-Sport fairy dust on the Fiesta ST, with spectacular results

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta ST
Can the Fiesta ST be one of the great fast Fords?

The popular hatchback gets the hot ‘ST’ treatment

9 March 2016

What is it?

Just possibly the Fiesta RS Ford seems unwilling to give us, having seemingly satisfied itself with the ST200 announced at Geneva. And who better to build it than Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport, well-versed in unleashing the rally potential in Fords with its WRC-spec Focuses and Fiestas. Bringing this experience to the road, the M-Sport Fiesta is sold as a complete car and comes with upgrades sourced from the firm's motorsport partners.

The £21,600 entry-level car is based on a £17,645 Fiesta ST-1 in either Frozen White or, for an additional £245, Spirit Blue. It comes fitted with the fully warrantied Mountune upgrade kit that boosts power from the standard 'steady state' 179bhp to 197bhp; on overboost, this increases from 197bhp to 212bhp. Included in the package is a Quaife limited-slip differential similar to the one fitted to the original Focus RS.

You also get 17in OZ Superturismo wheels, a prominent WRC-style rear wing, an M-Sport graphics package and a selection of branded interior trim including steering wheel, seats, mats and gearknob. Look under the sun visor and you'll see Malcolm Wilson's signature, the man himself ready to put his name to the car.

Not enough? Further options include a handling kit based on Eibach springs and custom-tuned Bilstein dampers and an Alcon brake kit with Goodridge hoses. You can also upgrade to a Pipercross/M-Sport induction kit (no performance gains claimed but it sounds good) and a louder backbox built by Chris Tullett Exhausts, the same company that supplies exhaust systems for M-Sport's WRC cars.

What's it like?

Like a Fiesta ST but more so - which can only be a good thing.

M-Sport's close relationship with Ford means it understands the Fiesta better than most, so the modifications are sympathetic to the car's spirit and enhance it without losing the character we already love so much. Our test car was fitted with the optional Bilstein/Eibach handling kit, the springs lowering the car by around 20mm.

Around town it's not shy, but then nor is the standard car. Where the investment shows is at higher speeds and on lumpy roads where M-Sport's rally experience begins to tell. Where the standard dampers can get a little ragged in extreme situations, the Bilsteins control rebound much more effectively, keeping the wheels planted on the ground without dialling out that trademark agility.

Meanwhile, the Quaife differential is only too keen to make the most of that celebrated keenness. With the tyres' contact patch more constant, there's improved traction, the M-Sport encouraging earlier and earlier throttle application and pulling itself through the turn, where the standard car scrabbles and relies on its electronic aids.

Unlike some powerful diff-equipped front-wheel drive cars, the Fiesta's pretty civilised under hard, straight-line acceleration too, with just the gentlest tug of the wheel over split-grip surfaces. Fun and confidence-inspiring up to the limit and exploitable and adjustable for those willing to drive slightly beyond it, M-Sport simply unleashes more of what we like in an already stellar package.

Should I buy one?

One of the most appealing qualities of the Fiesta ST package is its affordability, the £17,645 starting price for the ST-1 undercuts most rivals by a couple of thousand pounds, and it's also more fun and involving to drive. The £21,600 price of the M-Sport car puts it on equal terms with the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport (also equipped with a limited-slip diff) and much-improved Clio Renaultsport Trophy, which comes with a standard-fit double-clutch automatic gearbox.

Depending on how you crunch your numbers you could consider this a 'free' upgrade compared with rivals; the resulting Fiesta is a much more potent car, although perhaps a little more basic inside. The kind of enthusiasts attracted to this car will care more about the driving experience, though, and in that sense the M-Sport makes good on its rally breeding, combining old-school hot hatch thrills with modern safety, performance and usability.

The more in-your-face elements of the styling and interior package have a whiff of aftermarket about them, but in terms of the way it drives the M-Sport Fiesta has the feel of a factory product. If you love your fast Fords, it has performance, and provenance, that no other tuner can match.

Dan Trent

Ford Fiesta ST M-Sport Edition

Location Lake District; On Sale Now; Price £21,600 (M-Sport package based on Fiesta ST-1 Mountune before options); Engine 4-cyl 1,595cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 212bhp* at 6000rpm; Torque 236lb ft* at 3000rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual; Kerb weight 1163kg; Top speed 137mph; 0-62mph 6.4sec; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 22%

*On temporary overboost

Join the debate

Comments
7

9 March 2016
Before BMW closes down the project for copyright infringement. M Sport? Hmmm. Should have asked Legal before going with that name.

10 March 2016
Clearly you are out of touch and should research before posting. M Sport is the rightful name of a legit business, it is owned by British rallying boss Malcolm Wilson which runs the Ford Fiesta WRC team.

10 March 2016
You misunderstand copyright and passing off law. In the 90s BMW shut down Mercedes-Benz calling their new SUV the M-Class as it was too close to M Sport and M3/5 etc. As a result it came to market as the ML-Class. Not because it directly breached copyright held by BMW but because it could have passed off as a BMW product. Just saying.

10 March 2016
Makes sense for Ford to sell this car through a specialist outlet. This probably saves the time, money and effort needed to gain homologation and market a car that would only sell in very small numbers. Just noticed that the fuel / CO2 figures quoted are the same as the standard car. Clearly this isn't right; it is unlikely that this car would have been officially tested. As an aftermarket conversion, it probably escapes test requirements for emissions, drive-by noise etc.

10 March 2016
You are correct, note the emissions and consumption stats for the official Ford Mountune Fiesta and Focus. They are identical too. The law requires that the data be generated for new cars as built by the factory. These are not, they are cars modified after production, and so do not require extra testing. Using an after-production upgrade such as this is a cunning method used by several manufacturers to produce a higher performance version of their vehicles, without any taxation or (usually) insurance penalty, and retaining the full warranty. No matter how good the car, people will instantly judge it on how it looks. Remove the stupid vinyls and the value of the car would go up considerably. What on earth were they thinking? They instantly turns a B-road stormer into a council estate chavwagon.

10 March 2016
Yeah,just a shame the looks aren't mean enough,a bit show biz for me.

Peter Cavellini.

10 March 2016
Agree re comments on 'vynyls'. Terrible amateurish design as to cheapen and devalue the car. 'Chavwagon' is spot-on! Conversely intereor touches are stylish and in keeping with such a scarce, premium offering being pleasingly subtle and restrained. Wheels are a vast improvement over Fords o/e 'forged from real baked bean cans' efforts. Otherwise subject to a drive, on-paper package, specs/price etc initially looks promising?

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