What is it?
How can you improve on perfection? Simple, you can’t, or so the theory goes. Only in the exuberant, make-believe world of X-Factor does 110% exist; for the rest of us, 100% is as good as it gets. And the Fiesta ST is near-as-damn-it 100% perfect in driving terms. So, beyond its grey paint and matt-black alloys, can the Ford Fiesta ST200 really be any better?
Of course, there’s more to it than just fancy paint. It has 197bhp where the standard ST has 180bhp. There's also more torque from the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine - 214lb ft of it. If that’s not enough, in the words of Irish jokester Jimmy Cricket, "There's more."
It's that oh-so-common overboost magic that gives you another 15bhp and 22lb ft for 20secs on full throttle. If you think about it, rarely is your foot down in one gear for more than 20secs, so you have the overboost pretty much whenever you need it and if you're worried about running out of the extra puff just lift off and put your foot down again.
There’s been fettling elsewhere, too. To compliment the extra power the final-drive ratio is shorter, giving more in-gear zip. The front anti-roll bar and rear twist-beam are stiffer to tighten body control, while the damping force has been reduced to give a smoother ride – arguably one bone of contention with the standard car.
Finally, tweaked ESP software and a revised steering knuckle aim to improve steering feel, particularly around the straight-ahead.
What's it like?
Without jumping immediately from one to the other, it’s tricky to say if the extra pace is that noticeable over the regular ST. What’s not in doubt is that the ST200 certainly feels pokey.
The power delivery is exponential; it starts pulling from 2000rpm, gets more excitable between 3000-4000rpm, then just when the guilt of churning through all those hydrocarbons makes you think about changing up a gear, it offers up an extra burst over the final furlong. This keeps your foot planted until the rev-limiter cuts in.
The engine’s note is partly manufactured and pumped through the speakers, but don’t be sad: it’s not overtly digital and has a rowdy edge that suits this little car’s boisterous personality.
Perhaps more than the engine, it’s the tinkering elsewhere that’s most laudable. Take the steering; it still has an appetite for willful self-centring, but the terrier-like turn-in is a delight. The Fiesta’s no porker by any stretch, but the way you can fling it left and right gives the impression the panels are made of polystyrene.
These softer dampers allow a bit more fluidity across scraggy roads, too, while still managing the rebound over peaks and troughs. And all that delicious throttle-adjustability remains, allowing you to neatly trim your line, and even enjoy some lift-off oversteer.
It’s still firm, but the secondary ride is unquestionably improved. The ferreting about that could become irksome has lessened, making the ST200’s commuter credentials that bit stronger.
Should I buy one?
This is a finely balanced decision. My esteemed colleague Nic Cackett, driving the car on its international launch in Nice, came out in favour of the ST200 over the standard ST. I am going to be contrary, and say that the standard car is all you need.
The ST200 is a truly lovely thing, be in no doubt, but this is all about you forking out your hard-earned, and there's a curveball to factor in.
Crucially, you get all the ST200’s steering and suspension upgrades if you order the standard ST. So for the £3000 premium over the ST-3, it’s mainly the added power you are paying for.
Personally, I’ve always thought the standard ST was quick enough, but if you get bored you can always spend £599 on a Mountune kit. It won’t affect your warranty and doesn’t rely on overboost to match the ST200’s peak of 212bhp and 236lb ft.
There is no right or wrong decision here. Whether you buy the ST200 because you like the extra poke, exclusive paint job and black alloys – which look great, by the way – or the standard car, you can't lose: you will be sitting behind the wheel of one of the greatest hot-hatches of all time. So go on and enjoy yourself.
Ford Fiesta ST200
Location Sussex; On sale Now; Price £22,745; Engine 4 cyls, 1596cc, turbo, petrol; Power 197bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 213lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1163kg; Top speed 143mph; 0-62mph 6.7sec; Economy 46.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 140g/km, 25%