A car might handle like a wheelie bin, be stupidly expensive to run or clatter every time it runs over bumps, but give it a high horsepower figure and you can be sure that drivers will lust after it. Which is why the 150bhp the Fiesta ST seems rather puny at first glance. After all, diesel engines are getting more than that these days and other petrol 2.0-litre hot hatches such as the Renault Clio and Peugeot 206 are producing 180bhp or more – the sort of figures any self-respecting driver wanting some poke is looking for.
So what Ford is banking on is that drivers are savvy enough to work out that the ST is a fine enough car with what it has, and that any more power would corrupt the way it drives, turning it into a petulant, wheel-spinning monster.
Because, having avoided the temptation to go large, Ford has produced as fun a supermini as there is on the market. The tuning arm of Ford, TeamRS, has gone for plenty of torque rather than top-end power. Although its figure of 140lb-ft is marginally less than the Clio 182, it is available very low down the rev range at 1,350rpm with 90% still available at more than 6,000rpm.
Effectively, what this means is that there is plenty of punch in most gears at most speeds, so the ST is easy to drive without thrashing it.
And with sharper steering, revised suspension, new short gearshift and better brakes it is a real little go-kart.
The ST also looks meaner than standard Fiestas with deeper side skirts and a rear spoiler, while inside there are metal foot pedals, chunky sports steering wheel and a metal gear lever, all to reinforce the racy feel.
The sports seats are supportive but high – they don’t give the feeling for the driver and passenger of being hunkered down, ready for action.
It is also noisy, especially on motorway trips. Not noisy in a racy way, but in terms of tyre roar and general background boominess. Some of the cheap-looking, hard plastics in the cabin don’t help that.
At the end of a journey occupants will have unwittingly ended up shouting at each other, while the radio will have crept ever louder. Certainly Wogan’s mellifluous tones would be drowned out with no problem. But listening to the Irish charmer is not what the ST is all about. A journey in the ST is about discovering fun in corners and roundabouts that you might have thought didn’t exist.
That’s not saying the ST provokes hooliganism. It’s just that it coots round bends at fun speeds, without being dangerous. Who needs all that show pony extra horsepower?
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £13,407
CO2 emissions (g/km): 179
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 22%
Graduated VED rate: £145
Insurance group: 13
Combined mpg: 38.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,850/36%
Depreciation 14.13 pence per mile x 60,000: £8,478
Maintenance 3.12 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,872
Fuel 10.47 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,282
Wholelife cost 27.72 pence per mile x 60,000: £16,632
Typical contract hire rate: £343
At a glance
We don't like
Three rivals to consider
WE’VE chosen three sporty contenders to pitch against the Fiesta. The Colt has a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine delivering about the same power as the Fiesta, and its funky styling is the most contemporary here. The ageing 206 is the highest specced with CD changer and climate control but is the 138bhp version and not the full-on 180bhp GTI. Easily the most powerful is the Clio 182 in stripped-out Cup spec.
THESE cars might be cheap to buy, but they carry quite hefty service, maintenance and repair bills. Even the cheapest car, the Peugeot 206 GTI, would cost £1,446, while the Renault Clio 182 would set a fleet back a whopping (for a car of this size anyway) £1,950 over three years and 60,000 miles in garage bills. That is because the Clio and Fiesta both run on serious rubber – bespoke Michelin Exaltos for the Renault and Pirelli P Zeros for the Ford. And there’s no point skimping on these at replacement time.
ECONOMY is never going to be a top priority with a hot hatch, but as these cars would be at a level on a company car choice list for relatively low-paid employees, it is still worth watching. The cheapest would be the Colt, with its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, driven carefully so the turbo is kept off boost. The Clio is the most powerful and most expensive. Over 60,000 miles it would cost £1,100 more than the Colt, at £6,876.
THE low front-end price of the Mitsubishi Colt helps keep its pence-per-mile depreciation cost down to the lowest rate, resulting in a total loss over 60,000 miles of £8,382, although the Fiesta is not far behind at £8,478. The 206 and Clio are getting long in the tooth now, and even in their most sporty guises still struggle to hold their value as they once did. The Clio 182, in stripped out Cup specification, fares worst at 16.03ppm, or £9,618 lost in depreciation over three years.
WITH the Colt the best on fuel and depreciation and second best on SMR, it is no surprise that it wins the wholelife cost comparison by some distance. In fact, over three years and 60,000 miles the Mitsubishi would cost £15,810, which is £800 less than the sporty Fiesta. The two French cars struggle to keep up in cost terms, thanks to higher depreciation and fuel bills, and the Renault Clio is more than £2,500 more expensive than the turbocharged Colt.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
THERE was only likely to be one winner here. The Mitsubishi not only has the lowest front-end price but low CO2 emissions – 161g/km – for a hot hatch. As a result, a 22% taxpayer in the Colt would pay £537 for running it this year. The Fiesta is next best at £649 but again, the two French cars are off the pace at £717 for the 206 and £753 for the Clio.
THERE is a shock coming here. The 206 GTI in its lower horsepower form doesn’t stack up, while the Clio 182 Cup is too expensive and too stripped of kit to be an everyday work car. With a bigger budget though, the full-spec 182 is worth a look, as it is wonderful. That leaves the Fiesta and the Colt. The ST is a great car, but the Colt is almost as good, has an individual character, is much cheaper to run and is considerably lower on tax. It wins – but only just.