A cutbacks package on power, emissions and insurance is set to make the latest version of the ultimate small Ford more popular with fleet buyers.
But the most fiery model in 30 years of fast Fiestas still has the potential to overhaul rivals in the burgeoning sector for go-faster hatchbacks, believes Ford marketing strategy manager Dr Andrew Paton.
"Even though it reaches 137mph and offers excitement on every journey, the new Fiesta ST is a good example of how we are using lower operating costs to make our products more attractive in the net fleet arena.
"We have trimmed engine output to achieve an improved CO2 performance and lower insurance premiums and we have worked hard to undercut rivals by up to £2,000 on purchase price as we continue reducing our reliance on short-term business like daily rental.
"In addition, a three year/30,000-mile residual value prediction of 50% is also a major factor in cutting monthly leasing rates. We're putting a fresh focus on where we sell our cars and the user-chooser area is our target for growth. We will always be involved with short-term business, but you'll never see an ST on a daily rental fleet,” he told Fleet News.
Paton claimed user-chooser customers were showing a positive response to the new marketing strategy and said 600 orders had already been placed for the ST, which is expected to account for 5,000 registrations this year.
"We think we have everything right with this version. It might be viewed as a second car, but exciting performance coupled with driving comfort over long distances make it viable as practical primary transport," he said.
Compared with its 2.0-litre predecessor, the 1.6-litre EcoBoost ST delivers 20% improvements in output and efficiency to provide stunning performance.
The first Fiesta to accelerate to the benchmark 62mph rate in under seven seconds has lowered ride height and all-disc braking to keep over-zealous progress in check. It costs 70% more than the entry-level car it is based on but comes with a cocktail of chassis refinements to inject dynamism and racetrack ability into everyday motoring.
Overall balance and handling finesse to delight the most enthusiastic driver stems from substantially re-engineered suspension and steering systems backed by electronic equipment that further hones road grip by deftly applying braking force to the inside front wheel as the car zips through corners with little or no body roll.
And it's a surprise to discover that even though the on-rails roadholding calls for firmed-up spring rates, ride comfort remains acceptable over all but the worst surfaces.
As expected, the range halo car stands on 17-inch alloy wheels, has a bold honeycombe grille and a large rear spoiler with air vents and a twin exhaust. It boasts halogen projector headlamps, air conditioning, Recaro seats, DAB radio, Bluetooth and fog lamps but lacks cruise control.
Author: Maurice Glover