Price: From £16,995
Engine capacity: 1.6-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 179 @ 5,700
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 214lb ft @ 1,500-5,000
Top speed (mph): 139
0-62 mph (seconds): 6.9
Fuel economy (mpg): 47.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 138
The small hot hatch market is dominated by three cars at the moment: the Renault Clio 200, Peugeot 208 GTI and this, the Ford Fiesta ST. It's less powerful than its French rivals but it is £2k cheaper, comes with a manual gearbox and is based on what is probably the best small car on the road today.
Since it was introduced in 1976, the Fiesta has found nearly four million British homes. One in four superminis is now a sensible Fiesta and it tops the best-seller car list every month. The new Fiesta ST, though, isn't your average Fiesta. It's a fast Ford, and that means it's far from sensible.
It gets a rear spoiler, all-round disc brakes, lowered suspension, twin exhausts, a bling ST badge and most importantly, a 179bhp turbo-charged engine, which is about as powerful as a late-1960s Porsche. That's really impressive when you consider that all that power has been packed into a three-door car that starts from £16,995. What's even more impressive is the torque figure; there are bags of it, meaning the Fiesta ST surges forward at an alarming rate.
Torque, I should explain, is the force of the engine at a given rpm, and its ability to move its weight forward from a standing start. Once you get the Fiesta ST above 2,500rpm, it fires off like a Typhoon jet. There's even a nice raspy engine note, which is only compromised by the fact that it's actually exaggerated by a sound tube – called a sound symposer – which amplifies engine noise and pipes it into the cabin. It's the throaty frequency petrol heads love but when it comes to performance I prefer the real thing over trickery.
Inside the cabin is standard Ford (good), aside from some vast Recaro racing seats, a shiny gear knob and the fastest bum-warmers known to man. It's on the road that you can really feel the difference from the standard car, and the Recaros – normally the preserve of high-end sports cars – are absolutely essential because once behind the wheel all you'll want to do is throw the ST around. Ford, it turns out, is very good at making fun cars to drive. This shouldn't come as a surprise, though – even the standard Fiesta, in its least powerful oil-burning guise, is a pleasurable car to get around in.
Hurling the ST around isn't as reckless as it might sound, though. Bear with me; if you boot the throttle on a 660bhp Ferrari FF out of a sharp bend, you are – unless you really know what you are doing – likely to end up dead. In the Fiesta ST it is possible to use the power, within the speed limit, on a public road. Yes, the temptation is to hoof it, but driving it at legal speeds down a bendy B-road is a really rewarding experience.
Of course, there are downsides; it's too loud on the motorway and bumpy at low speeds. And while the engine's nippy note is great around town and on a B-road dash, it switches from pleasing to intrusive on any long motorway run. In short, this car isn't a comfortable cruiser; it's a performance car for the masses. And that's why Ford already has 1,000 customers signed up for one.