The old Ford Fiesta ST was always going to be a hard act to follow, and with such a substantial change under the bonnet, Ford has taken the opportunity to reconfigure the Fiesta ST’s character a bit.

Open the door and it all feels familiar – you’ll climb into deep, figure hugging Recaro bucket seats that feel huge in the cockpit. Fire up the Fiesta though, and you’re immediately introduced to the main event: the engine. 

With three cylinders on board rather than four the engine note has changed drastically, though Ford’s engineers have attempted to compensate for the loss of a cylinder. Unlike the outgoing car with its predisposition to rev freely, the new Fiesta ST’s engine note is much bassier, and the torque curve means there’s little to gain from pushing it beyond 5,500rpm. The exhaust now crackles when the car is toggled into its Sport or Race driving modes though, and the Fiesta ST is much more vocal from outside – you’ll definitely notice one passing.

Overall it’s a brilliantly punchy unit with more torque than before, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as slick in operation as you’d hope it to be. The Fiesta’s steering remains sharp and nimble, creating the desired impression of an agile, small car with bags of grip. There’s less jarring through the wheel on rough surfaces, but it’s just not quite as communicative or natural feeling as the setup in the older car.

The softer steering is joined in the ST by a more supple suspension setup. On the face of it, the alterations impress and this is a much more comfortable car, both around town and on long journeys, than before. The new car doesn’t feel quite as raw and connected with the road as its crashier predecessor, but the ride is still firm, composed and ensures the car flows down a typical B-road superbly. 

The Fiesta ST is the best in class in terms of ride and handling balance, thanks mainly to its brilliant damping. The system is called Ride Control 1, and it’s a passive setup that can firm things up during hard cornering but ease off when less demand is placed on the car’s grip reserves. Edge the Fiesta ST into one of its racier driving modes, and the ESC will relinquish a bit of its hold on the chassis and throttle allowing some slides.

• Ford Fiesta ST first drive

You can now skip the Fiesta’s decent torque vectoring setup and opt for a proper mechanical limited slip differential, too – thus unlocking even more front-end grip and adding another dimension to the car’s stellar handling characteristics. The Performance Pack it is grouped into also includes launch control and a shift prompt light on the dashboard.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

A new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo with cylinder deactivation technology makes its way under the Fiesta ST’s bonnet and is a key element of the overall experience. It’s bassy and sounds distinctly more imposing than the old 1.6-litre on start up. Overall, it makes much more noise, even though it doesn’t rev out quite as hard at the top end.

Ford quotes 197bhp for the unit, which is the same figure as the previous car on overboost. Importantly though, there is more torque. 290Nm is on offer, and that’s an impressive figure in a car of the Fiesta’s size which means it feels on edge and urgent when the turbo is in play. Power is delivered low down and stays on call until around 5,500rpm, with the 6,000rpm redline arriving not soon after.

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