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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Your initial reaction to the stuttering, syrupy three-cylinder thrum made by the Ford Fiesta ST when you listen to its engine spin freely to midway through the rev range might be ambivalence or even concern.

We’ve become so used to soundtracks not unlike this from economy-minded budget models, and that makes the uneven idle and fizzing, saccharine mid-range of a modern turbocharged three-pot strangely hard to accept when it’s coming from a hot hatch. But give it the benefit of the doubt and the Fiesta ST’s engine doesn’t take long to repay your faith.

All that tells you the turbo triple has deactivated its middle cylinder is a very faint roughness to the combustion noise, which disappears again the instant you use more throttle

This is an eyebrow-raisingly fast car, and certainly feels a good deal quicker, through the middle of the rev range particularly, than the previous ST. The electronic launch control works well enough but, by restricting the car’s engine power, doesn’t make for the quickest possible standing start. Without using it, however, it’s hard to gauge how much torque you can deploy without overwhelming the front tyres even in bone-dry conditions.

You certainly can’t use full throttle in total confidence until you hit third gear – an indication of just how much grunt the car’s engine is ready throw at its front tyres. After plenty of attempts, we recorded a best two-way average of 6.6sec from rest to 60mph: very respectable indeed, albeit nothing remarkable.

But look at the ST’s pace from 30-70mph and you get a clearer indication of its real-world speed: 5.7sec is quicker than every direct rival we’ve tested since 2015 except the Toyota Yaris GRMN. And get this, fast Ford fans: from rest to 100mph, the new Fiesta ST is quicker even than the original, epoch-making Ford Focus RS we tested in 2002.

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On the road, the car surges through the mid-range with real force, and a warble distantly reminiscent of Ford’s five-pot Focus ST. It’s an engine to work hard from 3000-5000rpm, but perhaps not to rev beyond 5500rpm too often, when it gets a bit breathy, which seems a shame. But it sounds good enough when working hard, although perhaps not quite as waspish or exciting as you might want it to be.

The controls feel well weighted and metered, with a feelsome brake pedal inspiring plenty of confidence and a short, slick, positive gearchange never leaving you in any doubt when it’s just engaged.

Most testers preferred the calibration of the car’s accelerator pedal when the car’s ‘Normal’ drive mode was selected, with ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ adding a bit too much sensitivity to the top of the pedal’s travel.