Ford has unveiled the production Fiesta ST at the Los Angeles auto show and confirmed that it will be sold in the United States. With a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 197-hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, it may be the new performance king in the fledgling subcompact car segment.
If you’re experiencing deja vu, there’s a good reason. Ford introduced the five-door ST as a concept at this very venue last year. The production version looks nearly identical. The aggressive grille, seventeen-inch wheels, rear spoiler, and even the look-at-me orange metallic paint (the same shade originally offered on the F-150 SVT Raptor) carry over with little changes. All said, the ST looks like a very angry gold fish. We like it. The production model also carries over much of the concept’s interior, including thickly bolstered (optional) Recaro seats and metal-accented petals.
What is something of a surprise, though, is the power. Ford had previously estimated the Fiesta ST would produce 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. That’s roughly in line with what this engine produces in other applications and would have put it near the head of a hot hatch class that includes the 160-hp Fiat 500 Abarth and the 181-hp MINI Cooper S. The actual numbers, in particular the 214 lb-ft of torque, make the ST a rather different animal. The only subcompact that offers comparable power is the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, which also uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder.
Ford found the extra power by increasing the maximum boost, which is available in 20-second spurts. We’re told no modifications were needed to handle the extra pressure because the ST is rather light–it’s expected to weigh about 2700 pounds whereas the Escape that uses this same engine checks in at 3500-pounds. A “sound symposer,” also found in the Focus ST, carries the growl into the cabin. Not surprisingly, all this power brings a fuel economy hit versus the regular Fiesta. Ford estimates it will achieve 34 mpg on the highway versus the base model’s 39 mpg. The only transmission choice will be a six-speed manual.
In addition the increased straightline thrust, the ST should prove far friskier than a regular Fiesta on curvy roads. Like the regular Fiesta, the ST was primarily developed in Europe, spending some quality time on English back roads and the Nuerburgring. The rear twist-beam axle is seventy-five percent stiffer, which should mitigate understeer, and revised steering knuckles make the already sharp steering even quicker. Considering how willing the larger Focus ST is to rotate, we can only imagine that the considerably shorter Fiesta will be an entertaining handful in hairpin turns.
Like the Focus ST, the Fiesta features brake based torque vectoring to further reduce understeer. Happily, the Fiesta does not have its bigger brother’s twitchy torque steer compensation system. The electric power steering, already nicely weighted on the regular Fiesta, will be slightly heavier here. The ST suspension treatment also includes lower, stiffer springs and high-performance summer tires. Behind the seventeen-inch wheels sit significantly upgraded brakes — sixty-two percent larger in front and discs rather than drums in back.
Ford has not yet announced pricing for the Fiesta ST. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine it not being a performance bargain. With a powerful engine and, just as important, a significantly upgraded suspension, the Fiesta ST may be a giant killer. We look forward to getting behind the wheel.
On sale: Summer 2013
Engine: 1.6L four-cylinder, 197 hp, 214 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drive: Front wheel
EPA fuel economy: 34 hwy (estimated)