Ford loaned me a Fiesta ST for the day to do with what I pleased and hopefully drum up some interest in it as this was the one of the first 3 to hit Florida.
After tearing around town I can say 2 things. One is it definitely turns heads. Two is I want it.
And with this one showing in the low $20s, solving that second part is a sure thing.
Performance: The power is there, the delivery is excellent, and the transmission it is routed through is silky smooth by way of the "snickity snick " shifter and excellent clutch. Straight line acceleration defies the 190-something horsepower they claim and turbo lag is non-existent in all but the slowest of 90-degree 2nd gear turns. And the noises. My god the noises via that amazing invention that is the sound-symposer. Mid-RPM throttle inputs reward with with an earful of spool and when letting off you get that perfect whoosh flutter from the bypass/blowoff that every boost fiend lives for.
The brakes are incredible. They stop like dropping a boat anchor when asked but smoothly when not. The pedal modulates intuitively yet remains firm. No squishy Chrysler or GM-style pedal from over-assist.
Handling was where I was most concerned going into this drive. Being an enthusiast and avid autocrosser (is that a word?) I was wary of trading my fully independent control-blade wonder that I have been spoiled by since my first of many Foci for a "twist-beam" rear setup. Color me impressed. The turn-in is as sharp as my old SVTf and dare I say as comfortable or better. Plus with the short wheelbase (98" vs the mkI focus' 103") I always had a real firm idea of where its rear end was through any maneuver. And maneuver it I did. Not a lot of curvaceous pavement in flat Florida but my enthusiast brain has every square inch of it cataloged for reference as needed. Linking tight esses left the car begging for more. The gear ratios were perfectly suited for everything I could throw at it. Unlike the old Getrag unit in the SVTf, this one didn't have to be in 3rd to feel punchy. The steering was also well done. Electric-assisted like the Focus ST, it was very light and floaty in the parking lot but once underway the assist firmed up and offered a heavily weighted wheel with great on-center feel.
The interior is a mixed bag. I failed to take a picture of it and all the press photos I can find online are wrong. I do like what they did special for the ST but its still a B-segment $14,000 car at its heart. I like the addition of MyFord Touch for 2014 and its inclusion here. I like having automatic climate control. I like that it has automatic headlamps with the same style pull out knob for fogs that the older Foci had instead of the separate push button that the mkIII Focus has. The steering wheel is nice feeling with the perforated leather, nicely sized "10 and 2" bumps, and the ST badge at the bottom however visually the center airbag-housing section is too tall. The seats felt fine (they were not the Recaros) but the headrest was at a funny angle and couldn't make my back and neck comfortable at the same time. The sunroof buttons are that silly dual button setup as in the mkII Focus, with one button for slide and the other for tilt, why? Hard cheesy plastic abounds, not as cheesy as in the mk1.5 and mkII Focus, but not up to par in the surfaces that are actually touched. One exception to this is the door sill where most of us rest our elbows while cruising, surprisingly comfortable for being plastic. I guess the flat top and angle of it works well for me as I honestly find it to be more comfortable than my mkIII's padded door sill. Also the lack of auto-up/down on all the window switches eludes me. Why make it for just one? Does it really cost that much? I like the black A-pillars and headliner but combined with the all black dash makes it very drab inside. Something needs color even if only the radio/vent surrounds colored silver to match the door handles. Front door tweeter placement is odd, my arm blocks it almost always and my passenger felt the same. Stereo sounds great but seriously needs the subwoofer to call it "premium-sound," what if as an option?
Exterior is a ringer. It wears the ST face better than its big brother in my opinion. The Molten Lava paint is interesting too, its almost like a dark red-orange with yellow or gold flake in it giving it a drastically different looks in different lighting that is all but impossible to photograph. I like the rear end on this one much better than the Focus ST too. The optional darker finish wheels complete the package. Unless you're planning on swapping them immediately for something else, pay the extra $300 to get these bad boys. Europe is missing out, the dark housing headlamps we get makes the whole front end work, those silly chrome HIDs that they get ruins the cohesiveness of the design. Chalk one up for the USDM Ford small car for once.
Ford got it right a second time in two years with their second nearly perfect ST-branded vehicle. That's a pretty good record. Now to find more room in my driveway...