There are twin worlds of involvement to be found at opposite ends of this car. In many of the ST’s £20,000 hot hatch opponents, you feel lucky to strike up a relationship with one axle that’ll keep you coming back for more, corner after corner. But in the Fiesta, you can be at once totally engrossed in the adhesive tenacity of the car’s front wheels and also in the jocular handling adjustability granted by the rear ones – all at the same time.

The Fiesta puts its extra-direct steering to good use, changing direction with real immediacy. Thankfully, it comes partnered with useful steering weight and a fixed ratio, both of which ultimately make it possible to process, albeit also with a hint of elasticity and compliance about the rack’s tactile feel.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Handling is ever-stable under power, becoming livelier on a trailing throttle if you disable the electronic aids. Excellent yaw damping makes it easy to gather up any slide

This is, just as the first Focus RS was, a front-wheel-drive car you can steer on the throttle. Keep your foot into the accelerator travel and it will dive keenly into bends just as you turn away from dead centre, as if an invisible passenger had just given the wheel an extra positive tug.

Leave the car on a balanced throttle and it turns in less aggressively, but still with enormous keenness and good stability. Turn in on a trailing throttle, meanwhile, and you can tease the kind of controllable liftoff oversteer from this car that its predecessors traded on 25 years ago – although doing it takes just a touch more provocation than it did in the last-gen ST.

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You might think that all LSD-equipped hot hatchbacks handle like this, but it’s just not true. The Fiesta ST is something special. And has Ford achieved this handling immediacy and adjustable poise while also toning down the previous ST’s famously antisocial ride? Yes, but with qualified success.

While the new car is considerably more comfortable than the old one was around town, it retains a slightly restive ride on the motorway and has reactive vertical body control over really tough B-road Tarmac that doesn’t quite level out at any speed.

It may be an ST and not an RS fast Ford, but this Fiesta certainly doesn’t want for the sheer grip, traction, power or body control it needs to be taken seriously by the circuit-driving fraternity.

Staying incredibly level and gaining so much added impetus from its outside front wheel when cornering fast and hard, the Fiesta refuses to understeer when most rivals would. Having already turned in to hard-charged corners more keenly than those opponents might have anyway, that allows you to pile on the apex speeds you’d expect to need a more expensive and apparently purposeful driver’s car to hit.

The ST’s not quite as stable at high speeds as the bigger mega-hatches it emulates, of course, and its brakes won’t put up with the natural consequence of its energetic engine and superb chassis indefinitely. But it’d be a dead-cert giantkiller while the fun lasted on a track day and last long enough to savour it too.

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