Used Ford Fiesta ST (2018-present) review and buyer’s guide

The brilliant Fiesta ST is the hottest of small hatches and a fantastic used buy

Launched in 2018, the latest Fiesta ST could have been Ford’s very tricky third album – the previous model was universally loved and revered – but we shouldn’t have worried, as the third generation of ST continued Ford’s domination of the supermini hot hatch class. Its three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine delivers the goods, but it’s the car’s chassis finesse that really makes it stand out. With sharp, direct steering, great body control and an engaging nature that makes even the most mundane journey enjoyable, it really does set a very high bar for the competition.

The all-new seventh generation of Ford Fiesta was revealed in ST guise in 2017 before going on sale in mid-2018. Out went the 1.6-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder of the previous model and in its place was a 1.5-litre three-pot, but despite reservations that performance might suffer, the new ST was still hugely rapid and the engine was surprisingly tuneful, too.

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Initially there were three different trim levels to choose from – ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 – and buyers could also choose between three- and five-door body styles. The ST-1 was relatively basic but still featured Recaro seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with cruise control and electric heated mirrors. The ST-2 added climate control, heated seats, a B&O premium sound system and an eight-inch touchscreen. The range-topping ST-3 gained 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers, satnav and auto wipers.

Buyers could also add a Performance Pack for an additional £850 which included a Quaife limited-slip differential, launch control and shift lights in the instrument cluster. In 2019 a limited-run Performance Edition was launched, all painted orange, which featured the Performance Pack as well as new lightweight 18-inch alloys and a set of manually adjustable coilovers. This variant’s success saw Ford revamp the theme in 2020 with the Edition model which was virtually indistinguishable from the earlier car but this time was blue rather than orange.

In 2021 there was a minor facelift, but other than some styling revisions not much changed for the ST, which is still available in ST-2 and ST-3 guises, the entry-level ST-1 having been dropped in 2019 as most buyers paid the small premium to upgrade to the better specifications.

Prices, specs and rivals

When the Fiesta ST arrived in 2018 the three-door models were priced at £18,995 for the ST-1, £19,995 for the ST-2 and £21,495 for the ST-3, with the five-door carrying a premium of £650. Back then perhaps its main rival was Peugeot’s 208 GTi, but as is the case with many hot hatches that car has been withdrawn and there are fewer contenders for the supermini hot hatch crown these days.

The Mini Cooper S has always been a rival and is still on sale, and while it is a little more expensive it has a more premium image, even if it doesn’t quite deliver the driver thrills of the ST. The VW Polo GTI is another rival which doesn’t quite deliver on its moniker’s promise, but if you’re looking for prestige and maturity rather than ultimate thrills it might tick some boxes.

Those looking for involvement these days might be better off turning to Korea or Japan and the likes of the Hyundai i20 N and Toyota GR Yaris. The former is priced at a similar level to the ST-3 and packs loads of equipment and a brilliant driving experience into its small package, while the GR might be more expensive but is a worthwhile upgrade if you can afford its £30k-plus price tag.

Ford Fiesta ST review

Engine, gearbox and technical highlights

The previous generation of ST used a four-cylinder engine that was much loved, and prior to the first drives of the new ST there were some mutterings that the new 1.5 triple wouldn’t be able to deliver the thrills of the older unit. However, it was cleaner, greener, supped less unleaded and met the new Euro 6.2 requirements, and, much to everyone’s surprise, packed quite a performance punch.

Headline figures of 197bhp at 6000rpm and 214lb ft of torque from 1600 to 4000rpm endow the ST with excellent performance, and while the triple might lack the top-end verve of the older engine, it’s still pretty tuneful and a pleasure to sit behind, even if some of its aural delights are generated electronically and piped through the car’s speakers. It also packs clever tech such as cylinder deactivation when cruising, to the benefit of economy and emissions.

The only transmission choice is a six-speed manual and this can be supplemented by a Quaife LSD to assist the front tyres in their quest for traction.

Performance and 0-60 time

The latest generation of the frenetic Fiesta may have opted for just three cylinders but there’s not all that much wrong with its vital stats, the ST knocking off the 0-62mph sprint in 6.5sec on its way to a maximum of 144mph. Performance Pack models have a launch control function so this should be achievable by most owners, too. It’s a characterful engine and as well as its augmented sound generator it has an exhaust pop that becomes more strident in the car’s Sport mode.

Throttle response is good too, and while it might not spin with quite as much freedom as its predecessor it doesn’t become unnecessarily harsh at high revs. The ST weighs just 1187kg so nigh on 200bhp is more than enough to make the ST a keen performer, with plenty of fizzy character to go with it.

Ride and handling

While the current Fiesta ST’s performance is impressive, it was the previous generation’s handling that really put it head and shoulders above the competition when it came to driver involvement, and the latest car’s handling is similarly excellent. It’s immensely engaging to drive thanks to its responsive nature and deft balance. It has a super-quick steering rack that works in harmony with the rest of the chassis to endow the ST with a very lively character. On the minus side the steering is somewhat lacking in feel until the tyres are loaded, but the car’s inherent balance makes it a riot to drive quickly.

Downsides are a ride quality that can only be described as firm – the ST definitely produces its best on smoother stretches of tarmac – and if specified the limited-slip diff can make the steering wheel squirm in your hands as the tyres scrabble for grip. 

MPG and running costs

One of the reasons for buying a supermini-sized hot hatch is the hope that its running costs won’t be crippling, and while it’s early days yet the Fiesta ST is so far proving to be a relatively parsimonious machine. An official economy figure of 47.1mpg will only be achievable on the gentlest of cruises, but high 30s should be possible in more mixed driving. Really use the performance on a regular basis and economy will start with a ‘2’, but that’ll be the case for all super-rapid hatches.

Thanks to its sub-£40k list price VED rates are palatable too at £220 for the first year and £155 each year thereafter – not quite in the EV category, but very affordable for what is effectively a pint-sized performance car. Ford servicing shouldn’t break the bank either and there are plenty of Ford specialists who will be able to undercut main dealer pricing, too. Tyres will vary from around £120 to £150 a corner depending on whether 17- or 18-inch wheels are fitted.

Interior and tech

Most drivers will be able to get perfectly comfortable behind the wheel thanks to the excellent Recaro seats and well-placed controls, although those with a wide girth might find the seats a little bit tight. The steering wheel is perhaps a little thick and would be better if it didn’t have a flat bottom, but these minor gripes aside the ST’s interior is a step up in both quality and equipment over its predecessor, while not quite matching the level of fit and finish you’ll experience inside a VW Polo or Mini Cooper S.

There’s plenty of equipment too, especially on the ST-3. Spec on the ST-1 was a little miserly, which is why most buyers went for the ST-2 model. As a used purchase the ST-3 is the one to go for thanks to its superior infotainment and 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster.

Design

There are no surprises when it comes to the ST’s overall design and it closely follows Ford’s latest design language while retaining the overall silhouette of the previous-generation machine. Its proportions are an improvement over those of the older car which could look a little tall and top heavy. The later car manages to look wider and more purposeful, even if the rear does look a little bit like an MPV.

There’s enough ST detailing to distinguish the hot Fiesta from more run-of-the-mill models and the distinctive ST alloys finish the package off nicely. The Performance Edition and Edition models are a little more distinctive if you like the colours, although the black rims on the Edition would look better in silver.

Ford Fiesta ST buyer’s guide

Prices

Those expecting rampant depreciation leading to plenty of bargains on the used market will have to wait a while as the Fiesta ST is holding its value pretty well as a used buy – unsurprising given its star billing as one of the best hot hatches around. Indeed, you’ll need to pay slightly more for an ST than for an equivalent Mini Cooper S, which demonstrates the ST’s desirability.

The ST-1 was always a rare car as the ST-2 was just so much better value and the used market split between ST-2 and ST-3 models appears to be more or less 50/50. The ST-3 just shades it as a better used buy thanks to its additional equipment.

Range, specifications and options

The Fiesta ST range is pretty simple – ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 – and performance is identical between the different models. Launched in 2018 the ST-1 was dropped in 2019 due to slow sales, leaving the ST-2 and ST-3 to continue along with a couple of special-edition models – the Performance Edition and the later Edition.

All models received Recaro seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with cruise control, but it was the ‘2’ and ‘3’ that attracted buyers with their additional equipment such as climate control, heated seats, B&O premium sound system and an eight-inch touchscreen (on the ST-2), and 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers, satnav and auto wipers on the ST-3. Worthwhile options include the Performance Pack which adds a Quaife limited-slip differential.

Problems and checks

The Fiesta ST is still pretty new and most models will still be covered under Ford’s three-year warranty. Early EcoBoost three-cylinder engines did have a few issues but these seem to have been ironed out in later units such as the 1.5 in the ST. As a direct-injection engine it’s possible that carbon deposits could build up in the inlet manifold leading to a loss of performance and rough running, but it’s certainly not common.

Otherwise carry out the usual used car checks – tight and consistent panel gaps and colour matches between panels, wheel kerbing, tyre make and condition and a good service history. These are small engines developing plenty of power so oil change intervals mustn’t be skipped or stretched.

Recalls

So far there have been no specific recalls relating to the Fiesta ST.

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