Fiesta STreets: ST-ing The ST
Admittedly, we’re a little late to the Fiesta ST game, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less impressed with just how good this car truly is. In our opinion the Mk7 Fiesta ST is as close as any modern car has come to maintaining the full spirit of the very best hot hatches in history, such as the VW Mk1/2 GTIs, Renault Clio Williams, Mk1 Ford Focus RS, et al.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with modern hot hatches like VW’s Mk6 GTI, Mazda’s MS3, or even the Fiesta ST’s bigger brother, the Focus ST. Each of those cars has some very strong merits in its favor, and no doubt each is way more fun than the entry level version of the car on which it’s based. What keeps them from being in the same league as that select few hot hatch heroes from days gone by comes mostly down to size and weight – they’re all well over 3,000lb, and well, that’s hard to get around. Literally. We’ve mostly accepted by now that even today’s small cars are going to be relatively pudgy due to various safety and convenience items deemed necessary by today’s governmental agencies and customer preferences. With the Mk7 Fiesta ST, though, Ford has shown that we didn’t actually have to accept any of that.
Weighing in at well under 3,000lb, the new Fiesta ST is a true modern lightweight. Its smaller dimensions as well go a long way toward getting back that old hot hatch feeling, and we’d love to drive ours back-to-back against the all time greats. Our bet would be on the Fiesta out hot-hatching any of them.
The ST’s turbo 1.6 EcoBoost is an amazing engine. It’s got torque basically everywhere, yet it does not run out of breath as you approach redline. The 6-speed trans shifts quickly and precisely, and in today’s world of slow-witted, over-boosted electric steering racks, the Fiesta ST’s steering performance is almost an epiphany. The car turns in sharply and communicates almost everything those two front tires are doing at any given time. Seriously, the levels of joy and confidence a quick and communicative steering rack provides its driver is possibly the most important characteristic in a performance car.
Add precise and consistent brakes all around and suspension and electronics tuning designed to help the car turn in and rotate, and we can totally see why so many automotive journalists have been blown away by the total package the Fiesta ST presents.
Our car has the brilliant Recaro seats and even though both Project ST full-timers are 6’4′ tall, there’s plenty of room. So in summary, yes, we’ve got quite the crush on our little Molten Lava Fiesta ST. Is it perfect? Of course not – no car is – but it’s amazingly close to being perfect for the things we like. We probably should remind you, though, that we named ours after our favorite local track (the Willow Springs Streets of Willow course) and there are very few production cars that couldn’t benefit from a few tweaks aimed at making them perform better on a road course.
So it’s no surprise we tend to address suspension components when it comes to the first mods for a PST project build. We’re not looking for a radical transformation with our car, as the goal is still to maintain excellent daily driver capabilities. We wanted to lower the car a bit (for looks as well as performance), firm up the high speed damping, and add a little more rear roll stiffness. The truth is we’re pretty greedy and actually wanted the ability to tweak each of these things and more; we were hoping to be able to adjust front camber as well.
At fifteen52 we’ve been working with KW Suspensions for over ten years, and in recent years we’ve found their entry-level line of ST coilover kits (yes, the name is somewhat confusing in this context, but in this case ST stands for Suspension Techniques) to be a fantastic value with great performance. When we hit them up regarding our newest PST member we were stoked to learn that they had a brand new program catering to the Fiesta ST specifically. It’s called the XTA system.
First launched by KW of Germany but not yet available here in the States, we got with our friends at KW North America and offered up our Fiesta STreets car to use for test-fit purposes. We all assumed the Euro parts would fit our US-spec car with no issues, but…you never know.
KW picked up our car and in less than a week delivered it back to us with the full XTA system – coilovers with adjustable damping, upper pillow-ball mounts, adjustable upper camber plates; and 22mm solid front and 24mm rear anti-roll bars – installed and the car realigned.
To get a good street perspective idea of what we were now working with, we joined our local LA Porsche 911 buddies for an early Saturday morning trek to the Angeles Crest Highway – one of our favorite local canyon runs.
We spent over an hour driving fairly hard through some of SoCal’s most challenging canyon roads and at no point in time did our little Fiesta have trouble hanging with those pesky 911s.
Initial impressions: the larger front anti-roll bar has sharpened our car’s initial turn-in response but without the increase in understeer we feared. The rear end still seems lively, but we’re not sure it’s rotating as effortlessly as before. We can’t wait to get the car corner-balanced, and then head out to the track for some 10/10ths lapping to nail down the camber and damping adjustments.
Before we actually get to take Fiesta STreets to The Streets, we’re going to take it back east for a bit. We’ll have our boys at Panzer Performance in Bradenton, FL, perform a few mods, and we hope to attend a few east coast events this year. So stay tuned for some cross-country pics and long-haul driving impressions.