Ford hasn’t missed, flopped or floundered with its go-faster Fiesta since it introduced the first Fiesta ST at the Geneva motor show in 2004 – although, as those with longer memories will recall, the Blue Oval had something of a chequered history with its hot supermini breed before that point.
The original ‘Mk1’ Fiesta XR2 was a triumph. It was a car capable of 60mph from rest in less than ten seconds, and of passing 100mph flat out, on the market in 1981. But the performance versions of the ‘Mk3’ Fiesta (XR2i, RS Turbo) were both notoriously disappointing.
After those two had come and gone, the closest the Fiesta would get to having a range-topping hot hatchback derivative (until the arrival of the original ST) would be the ‘Mk5’ Zetec-S of 2000. So, throughout the early decades of the Fiesta’s life at least, the hot version of the car us Brits have held so dear might have been either great or poor – or simply non-existent.
Thankfully, Ford finally mastered its fast supermini recipe with the original, 2.0-litre ‘Mk6’ Fiesta ST, and perfected it with the 1.6-litre turbocharged ‘Mk7’ of 2013. That car sat pretty at the top of the rankings in our ‘hot supermini’ category from not long after the demise of the old naturally aspirated Renault Clio RS 200 until the Fiesta itself was discontinued last year.
And so for the third-generation Fiesta ST, which undergoes the road test process this week, a job of consolidation is ahead. Few hot Fiestas have combined class-dominant critical acclaim with segment-leading UK sales quite as well as the last one.
The new one, as we’ll go on to explain, has been designed and engineered for even greater mass-market appeal, with a pioneering three-cylinder engine ready to combine performance and efficiency in rare proportions, and suspension tuned for a more balanced, comfortable ride. But might those be hints of a softening of the performance appeal of one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of recent years? Read on to find out.