But the new suspension does make a difference. Ford says it has been developed at the Nürburgring – sigh, where else? – but our tests around some of the crummier and empty roads in the West Midlands are a more realistic alternative.
And it’s good. I mean, really good. One of the few things that people grumble about Fiesta STs is the comfort, or lack thereof, but I think the Performance Edition is both more comfortable and better tied-down. There are 12 bump and 16 rebound settings and our test car was set somewhere in the middle of both, and body control was superb and the ride firm-but-controlled, in that Ford way it manages so well.
I also wonder if the steering was improved. Has been a while since I last drove an ST so I wouldn’t like to say for sure, but here it’s responsive, quick and accurate, but you can feel it being tugged here and there as the differential hooks up. Not in a harsh way, like the Mk1 Focus RS, which would pull the wheel from your hands, but just a subtle reminder that it’s doing things.
That said, it was really wet when I drove the car, so there was more understeer and wheel slip than usual, so you could feel the tyres scrabbling much more than in the dry. Maybe that’s why the diff was doing more and the steering telling me about it more. But the Fiesta’s inherent balance and agility was still there to be felt, I think. Fords in general, and performance Fords in particular, feel like they’re rotating around their gearstick when you turn – a really central, agile feel and, in the right conditions, they tuck in eagerly, lift a rear wheel and it feels like both ends, not just the front wheels, are helping to corner. In the wet you don’t get the whole experience, but hints are there.
The rest of the ST package is as good as usual, too. It feels well built, the engine’s fine, gearshift terrific, and pedal weights all ‘right’. If there’s a better sorted fast supermini of the moment, we haven’t driven it.