2014 Ford Fiesta ST
2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos Peter Bleakney

Remember when Tom Cruise jumped up and down like an idiot on Oprah’s couch, professing his love for Katie Holmes? Well, if Oprah were to ask me, “What do you think of the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST?”, I might just do the same.

Having owned a few front-drive enthusiast cars in my day, you could say I have soft spot for the genre. My first was a 1968 Mini Cooper, and since 1983, when the Pennsylvania-built GTI burst on the scene in all its 90 hp glory, I’ve been a serial VW GTI owner.

So it didn’t take but a few corners on my favourite back-road loop to discover that the $24,999 Fiesta ST is the real deal.

Well, more than the real deal actually. The most fun I’ve ever had in a front-wheel-drive car. Period.

Why? Mainly due to the brilliant chassis that doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word understeer. But subject to that, all the other elements of this diminutive hatch support and play along in beautifully sorted harmony.

The steering is direct and communicative, and those Recaro seats hold you in a firm and comfortable embrace, delivering an immediate connection to the car. Granted, these chairs will be pretty snug, if not unusable, for those large of frame. But they fit me like a bespoke Savile Row suit.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST2014 Ford Fiesta ST2014 Ford Fiesta ST
2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Click image to enlarge

The 1.6L turbocharged direct-injection four delivers the goods, too. It is pretty much the same engine as found in the Escape crossover, although some revised engine management calibrations net 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. This power is made in “overboost” mode, which lasts for 20 seconds and doesn’t require your foot to completely hit the floor. So essentially, all the ponies are there when you want them. You really feel the kick when the tach swings past 3,000 rpm in second gear. When not in overboost, the four-pot makes 178 hp.

There’s just a hint of torque steer when really hammering on, but only enough to get your attention. Not like the Mini Cooper S or Fiat Abarth that do their very best to haul you into the rhubarb.

The upgraded four-wheel disc brakes bite firmly at the top of the pedal travel and provide strong and linear deceleration.

A six-speed manual is the only available transmission. Yay. The cogs are well spaced but the shift throws are a little long. Not quite the snickety Honda experience, but that would be my only gripe. And it’s a minor one.

Back to the chassis. This is a world car, developed in Cologne, Germany, and it makes its journey across the big pond uncompromised. The ride is Euro-firm, very firm actually, but it is refined and avoids the crashy harshness of the Mini Cooper S, Fiat Abarth and even big-brother Focus ST.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST2014 Ford Fiesta ST
2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Click image to enlarge

The ST retains the base Fiesta’s front strut, rear twist-beam layout, but revised front architecture increases camber for sharper steering. It also gets a thicker front anti-roll bar, firmer springs and dampers, and the rear twist beam structure is heavily revised.

Sitting 15 mm closer to terra firma, the ST rides on 205/40×17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer tires. Electronic torque vectoring brakes the inside front wheel to help when cornering.

It’s when you tuck into your first corner that you realize the benefit of all these changes. The nose immediately points in, and when carrying a bit of speed the expected understeer ain’t there. Under steady-state cornering the ST adopts a neutral, four-wheel-drifty thing, and darned if you can’t dial in some oversteer by lifting the throttle a bit. Lift off more and the car gently rotates.

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