25 February 2004

Ford is reviving the spirit of the original XR2 with this new Fiesta ST, the Blue Oval’s hottest supermini for a generation. It aims to turn the ST moniker - which stands for Sports Technologies - into a latter-day XR badge.

All fast Fords launched from now on will be called ST, dropping the power outputs that are attached to today’s Focus ST 170 and Mondeo ST 220. That still leaves space above the ST for more extreme RS- and Cosworth-badged models.

Accentuated in a similar ‘racing stripes’ script as the Focus RS badge only in red, not blue (see above), the new ST logo signals that this is the first fast Ford supermini since the ’90s Fiesta RS Turbo.

The three-door ST will be unveiled at next week’s Geneva Motor Show and the first right-hand-drive cars are scheduled to roll out at the end of 2004. No price has been determined yet, but expect it to kick off at around £12,500 in November.

Powering the ST will be a 148bhp version of the 2.0-litre Duratec engine, borrowed from the Mondeo. Ford is keeping further technical details under wraps until the car’s official launch, but has let slip enough teaser information to whet the appetite of hot-hatch enthusiasts.

It claims a 0-60mph improvement of ‘more than 2.0sec’ over the existing fastest Fiesta, the 98bhp 1.6-litre model. That puts the ST slap-bang in warm-hatch territory, with 0-60mph expected in the 8.0/8.5sec bracket.

Although not as obviously muscular as the full-blown sports treatment given to the Focus RS, the Fiesta ST is sufficiently different from its mundane siblings. Chunkier bumpers are fitted front and rear and the Fiesta’s snout is now criss-crossed with a mesh-effect grille and air intake under the bumper, flanked by pod-style foglamps.

Body-coloured finish is added to the door handles, rubbing strips and mirrors, while the car rides on chunky 11-spoke 17-inch alloys wearing low-profile Michelin Sport tyres. A roof spoiler and new rear valance complete the visual transformation.

Although Ford hasn’t yet opened up the Fiesta ST, it claims the cabin has been given a suitably sporting makeover, too. Leather trim is added to the beefier front seats and steering wheel, while pedals, handbrake and door handles are chromed.

‘The new Fiesta puts Ford back into the heartland of small-car performance in a great-to-drive package for younger enthusiasts,’ said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s European product development boss.Sitting alongside the ST at Geneva will be the new Fiesta Junior World Rally Car, based on 2002’s concept (right). It won’t be unveiled before next week’s show, but is promised to deliver 212bhp from its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine.

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