2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Introduction
Don’t look now, but suddenly it’s sexy for even the smallest cars to stake a claim on the high performance label. The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST represents the latest effort from Ford at buttressing the appeal of its least-expensive models with turbocharged engines and hooligan-esque suspension tuning, following in the footsteps of the well-received Ford Focus ST hatchback the year before.
Like the Focus, the subcompact Fiesta ST draws from the automaker’s European parts bin where pint-sized hot hatches have long been a showroom staple. Unlike its larger sibling, however, the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST somehow manages to miss the mark when it comes to putting together a driving experience that can be classified as ‘fun.’ The Fiesta ST is a very good car when evaluated against its rivals like the Chevrolet Sonic RS and the Fiat 500 Abarth, each of which presents an entertaining, but incomplete package. Pricing and the impression made by the truly excellent Focus ST, however, conspire to work against the Fiesta ST in the final analysis.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST is offered in a single trim level that starts at an MSRP of $21,400. The base Fiesta ST comes with features such as power windows and door locks, a CD player, Ford SYNC, Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an armrest on the center console, tilt steering with telescopic adjustment, dual exhaust tips, automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition, the MyFord Touch interface, HD radio, and a leather-wrapped shift knob.
My test vehicle also came with an optional power moonroof, a navigation system, and the ST Recaro package, which brought the total MSRP up to $24,985.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Design
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST is an all-new model.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST has the fortune of being based on the standard Fiesta hatchback, which offers pleasant subcompact styling as a starting point. First impressions indicate that the Fiesta ST clearly means business, what with its gaping maw of a honeycombed grille, jaunty rear spoiler peaking out from over top of the hatch, bright red brake calipers, and a matching honeycomb filler plate in place of a diffuser under the back bumper. The car also sits lower than the base Fiesta, adding an aggressive stance to its repertoire. It’s a very well thought-out take on how a sporty subcompact should look, with a complete absence of the over-the-top theatrics that are such an aftermarket plague in the Fiesta ST’s class.
The passenger compartment of the Ford Fiesta ST doesn’t quite live up to its exterior fit and finish. There are few reminders inside the hatchback that you are piloting something special, as much of the cabin’s design is lifted directly from the civilian edition of the Fiesta. This is not entirely a bad thing, as Ford’s entry-level automobile is one of the better achievers in its class when it comes to the look and feel of its cockpit. Materials, however, draw heavily from the plastic parts bin, and aside from my test vehicle’s Recaro sport seats, I might as well have been piloting a more affordable version of the Fiesta.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST offers Recaro sport seats
There’s a fine line that needs to be walked when installing race-inspired thrones in a street car, and the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST demonstrates what happens when a company errs a little too far to one side. I’m all for being held in place as tightly as possible when negotiating a gravity-defying high-speed corner – and I’ve owned cars with some fairly extreme seating arrangements in my personal fleet - but I also need to be able to access the passenger compartment of a vehicle with relatively little hassle and not have it’s buckets squeeze the life out of me when I’m just puttering around town.
The optional leather Recaros outfitted on the Fiesta ST that I drove for a week featured side bolstering that, even for my relatively small frame, made it harder to slide in and out of the driver’s seat than I would have liked. Constriction was also a feature of the car’s front seats to the point where being behind the wheel for more than a few minutes had me noticing their presence on either side of my rib cage. I can only imagine how much more of a problem the Fiesta ST’s seating arrangement would be for a six-footer of above-average girth, and I would avoid them unless you have had the chance to try them out for yourself prior to purchasing.
Aside from that unique-to-the-ST issue, the hatchback enjoys the same practical, if small, interior room offered by all versions of the Fiesta, I was able to haul home a very long set of curtain rods by folding down the vehicle’s rear seat, and while I wouldn’t want to spend an extended amount of time in the Fiesta ST’s second row, it’s certainly a usable feature. Ultimately, the ability of the ST to retain the daily driver capability of its standard cousin is one of its most laudable traits.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST does not introduce any new features or controls compared to the non-ST Fiesta.
My loaded tester provided me with a full sampling of the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST’s charms, which aren’t all that different from those offered by the top trim level of the hatch. This meant that seat warmers, the MyFord Touch entertainment and communications system, and a sunroof represented the highlights of the subcompact’s feature set. Of these, my only real complaint had to do with the Fiesta ST’s touchscreen, which was recessed so far into the car’s dash that I was unable to actually push any of its four primary on-screen buttons with my fingers, as they were crowded at the very edge of each of the unit’s corners. I had to awkwardly use the thumb of my right hand and hope for the best, which was distracting while driving.
I also had an issue with the car’s parking brake, which is nestled at the very rear of the Ford Fiesta ST’s center console. Pulling up on the handle wedged it tightly against the lid of the console’s small storage compartment, making it impossible to reach straight down and disengage it – I had to curl my hand to the side and awkwardly achieve the leverage required to push the button at the handle’s tip. Naturally, this was irritating, but more importantly, it severely hampered my ability to lock-up the rear wheels around 90-degree corners.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST does not introduce any new safety equipment.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST features essentially the same level of safety as its base Fiesta sibling. This means that it offers electronic traction control and stability control, a rearview camera, and a full complement airbags (dual forward units, side impact airbags up front, side curtain airbags along the entire length of the passenger compartment, and a driver's knee airbag). One advantage that the Fiesta ST does have over the standard hatchback is the inclusion of disc brakes at all four corners, as opposed to the drum design employed by all other versions of the car.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Crash Test Ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Ford Fiesta ST a rating of 'Good' in all important categories, making it a Top Safety Pick for the current model year. The NHTSA rated the Fiesta ST at four out of five stars in terms of overall crash safety.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST introduces a performance-oriented EcoBoost turbocharged engine.
- The model also gains a six-speed manual transmission
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST derives its motivation from a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that has been tuned to provide 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque. Purists will be happy to note that the Fiesta ST comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, and that this unit boasts an additional forward gear over the five-speed gearbox found with the base Fiesta. The ST is also reasonably efficient, with EPA estimated fuel mileage of 26 in city driving and 35 on the highway. I saw closer to 26 during my time with the car.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Driving Impressions
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST has two distinct driving personalities. The first is that of a very competent subcompact that has more than the average amount of get-up-and-go when compared against most of its competitors. The smooth power delivery of its turbocharged EcoBoost mill is a boon in almost any traffic situation, as the 1.6-liter willing responds to your right foot and the vehicle’s six-speed manual transmission features well-spaced cogs that make the most of the car's 197 horses. There is strong evidence that Ford’s official output numbers for the Fiesta ST are actually quite conservative, with reports of nearly 250 horses at the crank emerging from a number of independent dyno tests. Combined with the car’s 2,700 lbs curb weight, it’s easy to see why the ST’s acceleration is so commendable.
The other side of the Fiesta ST coin, however, is its unwillingness to shine when pushed past the demands of daily motoring. The hatch is meant to be a pleasure to fling around an autocross track or tight back road, and yet I have been unable to extract a high level of fun from the subcompact’s chassis. Attempts to corner in a lively manner are hampered by understeer, despite the presence of Ford’s passive understeer mitigation technology (a feature that works remarkably well in the Focus ST), and there’s also the question of its three-stage traction control system’s determination to intervene even when it has been switch ‘off.’ You simply can’t get too out of shape in the Fiesta ST, whether it be due to vehicle’s resistance to steering inputs or the efforts of its computerized lifeguard.
Then there’s the question of quickness. The 200 or so horses at the wheels that are such delight during the morning commute feel distinctly pedestrian when the 1.6-liter motor is flogged hard. A lack of a limited-slip differential up front no doubt contributes to the difficulty in launching the Fiesta ST hard, but even a successful interaction between clutch and accelerator delivers only middling thrust when compared to the efforts of its Focus ST sibling (60-mph arrives in roughly seven seconds). The gas and the brake are also oddly positioned relative to each other, with a sunken go-pedal making it difficult to heel-toe the subcompact hatch.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST has the great misfortune of following a strong opening act in the form of the Ford Focus ST. The relative performance chasm between the two cars is exacerbated by the fact that their pricing structure places a well-equipped Fiesta ST within spitting distance of the entry level Focus, which, given not just the more visceral thrills provided by the larger vehicle but also its additional real-world practicality and comfort, clearly places the subcompact model at a disadvantage.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for the Ford Fiesta ST on today’s market, as its more polished package places it ahead of any other comparable subcompact model with performance aspirations. Still, it’s hard to see past the Fiesta ST’s ‘tweener,’ status – a car that is good, but not great, quick, but not fast, and engaging, but not fun. Driven back to back with the Focus ST, it’s difficult for me to understand who out there wouldn’t save their pennies and dimes for the real deal.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review: Pros and Cons
- Nicely-matched turbocharged engine and six-speed manual transmission
- Great-looking body kit
- Practical interior and reasonable passenger and cargo room
- Affordable pricing
- Quick, but not fun to drive.
- Cost difference between Fiesta ST and Focus ST not compelling enough
- Handling not up to par with Focus ST
Ford Canada supplied the vehicle for this review