Ford has nailed the placement of the ST-Line within the Fiesta range, giving the model just enough sporting prowess to justify its badge but not to the detriment of its overall usability. Such is its flexibility that if you were to only glide about at urban pace, you’d be forgiven for thinking the ST-Line’s changes are only skin-deep.
Truth is, Ford has adjusted the damping to offer a slightly firmer ride than the regular car, but the impact is only really noticeable on cracked surfaces, when the wheels patter along with more enthusiasm. The car still soaks up bumps and ruts well, but it’s slightly more composed during quick direction changes with fewer degrees of lean through corners.
Our ST-Line X, equipped with the 123bhp version of Ford’s effervescent three-cylinder Ecoboost engine, feels gutsier than the numbers suggest. Admittedly, this is partly because of the sharp throttle it’s controlled by, but it's also due to genuinely solid mid-range grunt. It doesn’t rev quite as freely to the redline as the more potent 138bhp three-cylinder, preferring to be rotated a few hundred rpm lower, but it’s by no means strangled if you do explore the upper realms of the rev counter.
The six-speed manual gearbox is rewarding to use, with a quick throw and tight gate making it especially enjoyable to keep the engine turning over in its most energetic rev range. That the engine responds sharply to heel-and-toe inputs makes the process even more pleasurable.
With a humble 123bhp, progress along a road is respectable rather than rapid in the ST-Line X. The car rewards a smooth, flowing driving style that keeps up momentum rather than the more frenetic style spicier hatchbacks can encourage, although the rear can still be mobilised if the car is hustled into a corner on the brakes. Ford claims brake-activated torque vectoring boosts the car’s agility, although – and this is a compliment - you aren’t conscious of it working from behind the wheel and instead the car feels naturally nimble. Standard-fit Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres do a fine job of maximising the bite onto Tarmac.
On a longer run, the road noise generated by our car’s 18in wheels may become tiresome, with the volume so high that it blocks out the tone of the engine almost entirely. The car does, however, feel secure and confident at high speed, reducing the rate of driver fatigue. Inside, the ST-Line X is an easy place to get comfortable, although larger drivers may find the well-bolstered chairs a little snug. Our car’s optional (£300) B&O Play premium surround system is worth mentioning for its excellent depth and clarity, boosting the overall passenger experience.