Ford Fiesta ST 2023 review – City-sized hot hatch aimed at Polo GTI, 120N and Swift Sport

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The original Ford Fiesta ST from 2013 was a modern classic. The combination of appealing pricing, point-and-shoot driving dynamics and a sweet turbocharged engine ensured it won a legion of fans. 

Its follow-up from 2020 continued that formula and brought with it a refinement missing from the original. But it was just as fun to drive.

Ford has launched a mid-life update for the sprightly hot hatch, introducing upgrades to interior tech and exterior styling, as well as a 30Nm bump in torque.

But given it’s facing a ballsy competitor from Hyundai, has Ford done enough to keep its B-segment hot hatch crown?

Read more about the Ford Fiesta

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

As far as mid-life updates go, the Fiesta ST’s isn’t significant. But the additions bring with it a bump in price. At $34,490, before on-road costs, it is $1200 more expensive than the previous version.

It still represents good value and is only $500 more than its newest rival, the Hyundai i20 N ($32,990 BOC). It’s quite a bit cheaper than the other big gun in the light hot hatch battle, the Volkswagen Polo GTI ($38,750 BOC).

Another offering in this group is the Suzuki Swift Sport which is the price leader, starting from $27,990 BOC.

As far as mid-life updates go, the Fiesta ST’s isn’t significant. (image: Tim Nicholson) As far as mid-life updates go, the Fiesta ST’s isn’t significant. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Ford has specified a lot of standard gear for the price, including some niceties you don’t even get in pricier premium European cars.

It comes with a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, heated front seats, Recaro sports seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated power door mirrors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with digital radio, satellite navigation, ‘Sync 3’ multimedia with voice control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a 10-speaker audio system.

As with the pre-update model, the German-built ST is the only Fiesta variant available in Australia.

The Fiesta ST comes with a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and much more. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Fiesta ST comes with a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and much more. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The styling changes ushered in by the 2022 update are subtle. The Fiesta ST gains a revised front fascia with LED Matrix headlights, a larger grille with a repositioned Ford badge, and restyled bonnet and bumper. 

It gets a fresh 18-inch alloy wheel design and black tail-light surrounds at the rear. It also comes in two new exterior paint colours – ‘Mean Green’ and the ‘Boundless Blue’ of our test car.

It’s a classic hatchback design with a bit of an edge. (image: Tim Nicholson) It’s a classic hatchback design with a bit of an edge. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The current-generation Fiesta ST has an appealing design that represents a clear evolution of its predecessor, and, arguably, it didn’t need much work this time around.

The ST’s sporty bodykit adds a touch of aggression but not in a boy racer sort of way. It’s a classic hatchback design with a bit of an edge. 

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

As part of the update, the Fiesta ST gains new Recaro front sports seats that are firm and hug the body tightly. You feel well supported when cornering. The mix of synthetic leather and suede looks spot-on.

Like a number of sports-focused models, the ST features red stitching throughout the cabin – on the steering wheel, gearbox gaiter and air vent surrounds – and while it’s ubiquitous, it’s still a nice touch.

The chunky perforated leather steering wheel feels nice to touch, as does the metal gear knob. 

Cabin materials are a mix of soft-touch and hard plastics, and there’s carbon-fibre-look inserts on the dash.

The new Recaro front sports seats are firm and hug the body tightly. (image: Tim Nicholson) The new Recaro front sports seats are firm and hug the body tightly. (image: Tim Nicholson)

There’s no denying Ford’s dash design is a huge improvement over the previous-generation Fiesta that ran from 2009, but the current model still lacks the polish of the VW Polo. It’s about on par with the Hyundai i20 N, although the Ford’s layout is a little busier.

In saying that, it’s hard to fault the cabin’s functionality. It has a deep central storage bin, which is larger than most cars in this category, a decent sized glove box, two-and-a-half cupholders in the centre console and storage for narrow bottles in the doors.

There’s a wireless charging dock behind the gear shifter, two USB ports (one in the storage bin and one next to the charger), as well as a 12-volt charger.

It’s nice to see the ST still has a manual park brake, too.

The facelift introduced a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster, and while some may lament the loss of analogue dials, it’s nice to see Ford taking the opportunity to improve the tech.

The rear seats are flat and the Fiesta has outboard ISOFIX points for child seats. (image: Tim Nicholson) The rear seats are flat and the Fiesta has outboard ISOFIX points for child seats. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The multimedia is housed in a smallish 8.0-inch digital screen sitting atop the centre stack and it runs Ford’s Sync 3 system. 

Sync 3 functions well, is hard to fault and the menu layout is easy to navigate, but it is being left behind by competitors with more modern and appealing graphics. The latest version in the new Ranger will no doubt be a major improvement, but we won’t be seeing it in this generation of Fiesta.

The diminutive size of the Fiesta ST is more apparent when sitting in the rear seats. It’s pretty tight behind my 183cm (6ft) driving position, with my knees hitting the rear of the front seats. 

It’s a cramped space that’s not designed for long trips by adults. It has redundant tiny rear-side windows behind the C-pillar, but on the plus side, there’s acres of headroom. 

At 311 litres, it’s a decent sized boot with usable space. (image: Tim Nicholson) At 311 litres, it’s a decent sized boot with usable space. (image: Tim Nicholson)

It lacks rear-seat air vents and the closest USB port is in the front centre storage compartment. Taller bottles won’t fit in the doors and it lacks a centre fold-down armrest, but it has map pockets.

The rear seats are flat and the Fiesta has outboard ISOFIX points for child seats.

Realistically, most people buying a car like this aren’t using it to haul children around so think of it as a two-seater with handy rear-seat storage.

The rear seats fold 60/40 but not flat. A space-saver spare wheel lives under the boot floor and it has a high boot lip, meaning you have to lift items up and over to get them in. 

At 311 litres, it’s a decent sized boot with usable space. It’s just one litre more than the Hyundai i20 N, and six litres more than the Polo GTI.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The engine is exclusively paired to a six-speed manual gearbox. (image: Tim Nicholson) The engine is exclusively paired to a six-speed manual gearbox. (image: Tim Nicholson)

Under the Fiesta’s cute bonnet is Ford’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine delivering 147kW at 6000rpm and 320Nm at 4000rpm – the latter is an increase of 30Nm over the pre-facelift model.

Interestingly, it now matches the power and torque outputs of the Polo GTI. The i20 N pumps out 150kW and 304Nm.

The engine is exclusively paired to a six-speed manual gearbox – there is no auto transmission available – and it is front-wheel drive.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Ford claims the Fiesta ST has an official combined cycle fuel use figure of 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres. 

After a week of predominantly inner city and freeway driving, we recorded a much higher 10.2L/100km. However, that was very shortly after an enthusiastic back-road blast to test its performance chops. We did see single-digit numbers throughout the week prior to that.

The Fiesta requires premium 95RON petrol and it has a 45-litre tank. CO2 emissions are 144g/km of CO2.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Fiesta ST has not been tested by ANCAP for crash safety.

It comes with standard safety gear including auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Given it’s a manual, it has old-school non-adaptive cruise control.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km
warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Fiesta is covered by Ford’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and you get free roadside assistance and state/territory auto club membership each year that you service your car at a dealer, for up to seven years.

The servicing schedule is every year or 15,000km, whichever comes first. There’s a four-year/60,000km capped-price servicing program, which costs $299 per service. 

Ford also offers a free service car loan that can be booked in ahead of your service.

The Fiesta ST is covered by Ford’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Fiesta ST is covered by Ford’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (image: Tim Nicholson)

What’s it like to drive?   9/10

It’s easy to find your ideal driving position in the Fiesta ST, thanks to the reach and height adjustable steering wheel and the adjustable seat.

Aside from the extra 30Nm dollop of torque, Ford hasn’t changed anything else about the Fiesta ST mechanicals for 2022, but arguably, it didn’t need to.

The pre-facelift model could cover 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds, and while Ford has not revealed whether that has changed with the facelift, it feels about right.

It’s brisk from a standing start, without being neck-snappingly quick, but there is strong urge and a lack of noticeable turbo lag. There is, however, some axle tramp on take-off, particularly in the wet. We also detected some torque steer when pushing hard up a hill, but it was minimal. 

Speaking of, the little three-pot turbo engine is utterly unfazed by steep hills – it just keeps adding speed. A light kerb weight of 1218kg helps here. 

The three-pot turbo engine sounds wonderful when accelerating, and the Fiesta ST begs to be driven hard.

The Fiesta feels solidly built and has a level of refinement that’s missing from the likes of the Suzuki Swift Sport and Hyundai i20 N. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Fiesta feels solidly built and has a level of refinement that’s missing from the likes of the Suzuki Swift Sport and Hyundai i20 N. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The engine is perfectly matched with the slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox that has lovely short throws and is a joy to use. Even if Ford offered an auto with the Fiesta ST, it would take away from the driving experience.

‘Sport’ mode ups the growl from the engine and throttle response, but it’s not a dramatic departure from ‘Comfort’ mode.

The ST’s strong brakes are bordering on sensitive, but the heavily weighted steering is incredibly sharp.

On a back road run, the front-wheel drive Fiesta ST comes alive, hugging corners confidently. 

On bends that would’ve seen many other cars come undone, the Fiesta’s tight, balanced chassis, grippy tyres and the standard mechanical limited slip differential ensure it maintains its composure.

The ride is undeniably firm, particularly around town in urban areas – you feel every speed bump. My partner found the ride a bit too much at times, but I was far more forgiving.

The Fiesta’s tight, balanced chassis, grippy tyres and the standard mechanical limited slip differential ensure it maintains its composure. (image: Tim Nicholson) The Fiesta’s tight, balanced chassis, grippy tyres and the standard mechanical limited slip differential ensure it maintains its composure. (image: Tim Nicholson)

The Fiesta feels solidly built and has a level of refinement that’s missing from the likes of the Suzuki Swift Sport and Hyundai i20 N.

However, the cabin could do with more noise deadening materials as it can be quite rowdy at speed and on coarse chip roads. Another negative is the massive turning circle – a bit odd for a city-focused light hatchback.

But these are things I could happily live with. During my week with the Fiesta ST, I made any excuse to jump behind the wheel and go for a drive.

Me: “I’m just going to run to the shops to get pasta.”

My partner: “We’re not cooking pasta this week.”

Me: “Yeah but you never know when you need pasta. Bye!”

Verdict

The Fiesta ST is an addictive car to drive. It’s a modern classic and hard to beat when it comes to engaging performance and smile-inducing dynamics. Add in excellent value for money and you have a certified performance car bargain. 

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