Hyper-Hot Hatch vs. RWD Handling Champ
by David Pratte
Unlike a lot of my other track test comparos, where I show up and do my best Stig imitation without having done any prior road testing in either car, in this case I got to spend a few days living with the Ford
Fiesta ST on the street before we put it to the test against our favorite counterpart for anything with go-fast intentions for under $30,000: the Subaru
Both the Subie and its sibling Scion FR-S are spectacularly well balanced around a race track, so much so that its 200 hp, 2.0-liter Boxer engine always leaves us wanting more.
In the Fiesta ST, though, it’s quite the opposite. What an engine! Or at least that was my initial impression while giving it a healthy dose of the right foot on my favorite highway on-ramps and backcountry roads. The sensation of acceleration and outright pace the Fiesta ST delivers is really quite shocking, especially given its subcompact econobox underpinnings.
With 202 lb-ft of torque available at 4,200 rpm, there’s a bit of a wait for the turbocharger to spool up, but then it comes on so strong it’ll tear the steering wheel out of your hands if you’re not careful (Ford hasn’t dialed out any of the torque steer, intentionally giving the Fiesta ST more of a raw and untamed feel). Keep it in the 3,000 to 5,000 RPM range where this little 1.6-liter mill really likes to play and you can dispatch slower moving traffic with a kind of hyperactive efficiency that turns commuting into a real life version of Mario Kart.
Ok, so I didn’t drop any banana peels out the window, but you get the idea. The Fiesta ST is seriously fast and fun on the street, almost comically so given its angry jellybean paint job (Molten Orange!) and squished hatchback proportions. Combined with a tightly geared and slick-shifting six-speed transmission, a racecar-firm suspension, sticky Bridgestone summer tires, and aggressively bolstered Recaro front seats and the feeling I was left with was that Ford designed this car for the most immature and antisocial of speed junkies, a demographic I proudly count myself among.
My street driving experience in the ST left me convinced it was going to spank the unsuspecting Subaru around our test track, especially given the recent rain and the slippery surface in a few corners. But then again, it would be foolhardy to count the BRZ out given how closely matched these two are on power-to-weight ratio (2,720 lbs and 197 hp for the ST and 2,760 lbs and 200 hp for the BRZ).