Fiesta shows off its sporty side

FIESTA HAS always had a split personality: humdrum city car meets affordable sports hatch beloved by boy racers.

FIESTA HAS always had a split personality: humdrum city car meets affordable sports hatch beloved by boy racers.

So while the respectable recently-launched model is garnering rave reviews which acclaim it to be possibly the best all-round hatch on the road, it is its rowdy sibling we focus on here.

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ST200 is shorthand for a superquick car which is the fastest Fiesta ever and a world apart from its brutal ancestor, the rapid but basic XR2s of the 1980s.

The ST200 is quick but refined. Better in-gear performance than its predecessor, 10 per cent more power, 17in alloys, Recaro seats, torque vectoring which keeps the car under control and better braking. There is little not to like.

It is happy to pootle but it’s more than delighted to growl to 60mph in 6.7 seconds. It burbles beautifully and at £23,145, it might sound expensive but you try finding a faster new car for the money.

But wait. This model was only unleashed a few months ago but Ford has already announced a major upgrade. At the recent Geneva motor show it showed the new third-generation ST200 with a few marked improvements.

Most notably, it has a three-cylinder 1.5 litre engine. Many manufacturers turn out three-cylinder cars but they are usually city cars. Will it clatter like three-cylinder engines of old? I don’t expect so.

It also offers drive modes – normal, sport and track – and an unusual device to set the tone of the exhaust.

Young guns may love it; more sensible types will dismiss it as a silly frivolity. Me? I’m in the frivolity camp, but it will sound good.

New ST200 also has bigger 18in alloys and comes in three and five-door form.

If you can’t wait until early 2018, the current ST200 is full of vim and vigour.

Performance figures are good with a top speed of 143mph. For such a swift car, it feels like a traditional hatchback.

Only the sexy alloy wheels, super seats and modest body trim give hints of the power at your disposal.

Fiesta is still as young and fresh as it was when it first appeared 40 years ago but it is a more hi-tech creation these days.

Priced from £12,715 for a Fiesta Style, the range continues through Zetec and Titanium to high-tech B&O PLAY series, luxury Vignale and sporty ST-Line models available later.

It has the most driver assistance technologies and connectivity features ever in a volume small car in Europe, as part of the most comprehensive line-up of variants in Fiesta’s 40-year history.

It is the first Ford to deliver an enhanced version of Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection that can detect people who are in or near the road ahead, or who may cross the vehicle’s path, using light from the Fiesta’s headlights at night.

Also offered for the first time on Fiesta is Ford’s Active Park Assist with Perpendicular Parking, which helps drivers find suitable spaces and park hands-free, both nose-to-tail and side-by-side with other cars.

The Ford Fiesta first went on sale in 1976 and quickly became known as the ‘first British supermini’.

In the first three years of its production, Ford sold a million examples and it wasn’t until 1980 that the Fiesta faced serious competition in the form of the Austin Metro. Over the past 40 years Ford has sold a total of 4.33 million Fiestas in Britain.

“Our next generation Fiesta ST is true to the philosophy of delivering cutting-edge technology to enhance every facet of the responsive Ford Performance chassis and powertrain,” said Joe Bakaj, vice president, Product Development, Ford of Europe.