** This article is the personal experience of a 2014 Ford Fiesta ST owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.
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The Ford Fiesta ST
It wasn’t my first choice.
In fact, it wasn’t even a close second. That honour, as it happened, belonged to the other two of the trio of The Holy Trinity of Superminis that I was planning to replace my ageing dugong Toyota Vios with: the Peugeot 208 GTi and the Renault Clio RS.
I was obsessed with the Peugeot 208 GTi, thanks to watching Sebastian Loeb crush a newly paved pikes peak in a 208 T16 in under 10 minutes. Oh and also the fact it was the cheapest of the three and that it was touted as the spiritual successor of the almighty Peugeot 205 GTi, that roped me in. I even put down a deposit for one, only to be given the run around for months on end by an overzealous sales advisor who couldn’t deliver.
The Renault Clio RS, on the other hand, was picked because it was an automatic. A choice made merely to please the parents for the all-too-important “Resale Value”. But alas, it was the most expensive supermini on sale at the time, next to the Volkswagen Polo GTi.
And then, there was the ever elusive Citroen DS3R (see the connection here?), reportedly ruined by a member of the media on a test drive. That option immediately went out the window.
And so I waited and kept on waiting until November 2014, where a little classic car show called Asia Klasika popped up in Putrajaya. Ford decided to show off three Skittles-coloured Fiesta STs there as a preview leading up to the official launch.
I got bored of waiting for the Peugeot 208GTi. Not having any expectations, I signed up for a test drive in the Ford Fiesta ST. I mean, yeah, most of us probably would have read articles or have seen raving reviews of this car on YouTube. But nothing will ever prepare you for what it actually feels like when you’re behind the wheel.
And boy, was I smitten. The drive was so good that I almost booked one there and then. Alas, I still had my deposit for the GTi. “Soon”, I said to myself every day. “Any day now the GTi would be delivered”, I tried convincing myself.
Days became weeks, and that in turn became another month of being strung along again by the dealership. At this point, after many excuses, they accused me of being blacklisted by the banks. "We tried applying for a loan from a few banks ah, all say you are blacklisted one?". The nerve on these people!
Enough was enough. I had lost my patience. I obtained proof of my credit report from Bank Negara & CTOS and wrote a lengthy and strongly worded letter (which was also backed by my former employer at AutoBuzz) to Naza HQ, I took back my deposit and walked on over (well, drove actually) to SDAC Ford to book the ST.
A week later, on Christmas eve, I found myself behind the wheel of my very own, sometimes red, sometimes pink, Molten Orange Ford Fiesta ST. One week. Hella fast. Blacklist? What blacklist?
Year 1- Learning to fly before I could walk.
Sadly, I did not get the chance to enjoy the Fiesta ST upon delivery. I was recovering from bronchitis. That quickly changed two weeks later, when I took it up to KKB dam for a quick round of touge with my colleagues. They had the MK7 Volkswagen Golf R for a review so I figured it might be fun comparing the two. Chasing the Golf R, I remember feeling impressed by how that car corners but at the same time, I'm amazed at how my Ford Fiesta ST is capable of keeping up with it. That, my friends, left a wide grin on my face for the entire run. I just couldn't stop smiling. I knew I bought the right car.
Another week later, another colleague asked if I'd join him at MAEPS for a photoshoot of my car. I said yes. "Let's try for a tripod (cock up one wheel while turning) shot", he said. That turned out to be a really bad idea. If you've been to MAEPS, then you probably know about the coarse pebbles and badly paved tar on their many vacant carpark lots.
The stock, soft compound RE050A front tyres were ruined after just a few attempts of cocking up that one wheel. I was devastated. 800+ bucks per piece for those tyres. Sheesh! This marked the beginning of my ongoing nightmare: tyres. Specifically, in the size of 205/40/R17. Not many make them in these sizes and I averagely go through 2 sets per year, so cheaper alternatives are always needed.
Months on, I found my way into the local chapter of the Ford ST group (which consisted of Focus STs and Fiesta STs) and joined them for my first big group touge. Ulu Yam. Saturday midnight it was. By then, I thought I had picked up and familiarized myself with the way this car handles. "I'll show you guys how a fast driver drives", I thought to myself. I was wrong. So, so wrong. The speeds they were going around bends was an eye-opener, to say the least. I was introduced to the world of Lift-Off Oversteer. Initiation Day hazing hit me hard.
Sure, one would say that a high horse-powered car would pull away on straights but on these B-roads, the Ford Fiesta ST truly shines - and it shines spectacularly. The dampening is unbelievable. This is what it’s made for and believe you me, this is one very tail happy car, even with full on ESC. Hit Sports mode, and the Torque Vectoring frees up its nannying duties. ESC fully off, you get like 10% nannying. It’s like the engineers forgot to tell it that it’s a front wheel drive car.
Get this: You could late brake, heel-and-toe downshift, yank and point the steering wheel deeper into the corner, induce lift-off oversteer and just let the car rotate itself. Keep your right foot planted to power out of the corner without much or any correction to the steering angle and it will straighten itself out. You know how someone smiles retardedly after doing something unbelievably stupid and survives? Yeah, that look. Every single time. I kid you not.
Ever since then, I spent a lot of my weekends going up Ulu Yam to Gohtong Jaya. Sometimes 4 times in a weekend. I spent so much time up there that I started naming the car miSTy. Geddit? Mist. ST? No? Okay, moving on.
miSTy came with something called Torque Vectoring. What it essentially does is that it functions like an LSD, but with brakes instead of mechanical hardware. All that nannying that's trying to keep you alive though, didn't help much in keeping the brake pads lasting longer. I had my first pair (of many. I burn through them on an average of 3 pairs per year) of front pads replaced in August.
Thankfully, these were claimable under warranty as later I found out that SDAC marked them up all the way to 1k, just for the rears. I don't even want to know how much they charge for the front pads. I started sourcing pads from the UK where parts are aplenty. I might have to pay for the tax and shipping costs but it’s still way cheaper, even with the currency exchange, plus you can get yourself some pretty solid upgraded pads compared to what they are charging here. A little piece of trivia: Apparently, I drive a mini MPV as the pads were of the same dimensions but different in compound compared to the Ford B-Max. Go figure.
Right around October, I took the Ford Fiesta ST out on her first track day. Prior to that, I was scrutinizing zerotohundred's YouTube clip of Tom Goh's lap of the Fiesta ST on Sepang. He did a fast time of 2 minutes and 50 seconds on a set of crappy tyres. Me? A measly 2:57.03. Jeez, was I disappointed! The shame. Considering that he's a seasoned driver on Sepang, I consoled myself that it was a good lap for a first-timer. Tom said so himself. I vowed to match it one day.
Year 2 - Making frenemies
Mid-April 2016, through the ST club, we were contacted by the president of the 208GTi club. Talk about irony. The car model I had given up on came knocking, asking if we would like to go for a joint touge session. No way was I ever gonna miss this. We met up at Karak BHP in the early hours of 17th April and made our way up Bukit Tinggi. It was a fairly civilized and respectful drive. No dive bombs, no intentional tailgating, and most importantly, no incidents but at the same time, carefully sizing up each other turn by turn. At the end of it, we were all busy taking pictures of the group and each other's cars but I could see smaller groups huddled up all over with words spoken in hushed tones about the other camp. I just chuckled.
Some good things did come out of that outing though, a lot of us became good friends. It also led to the inclusion of the Clio RS camp into what my friend Najdi would call, a Supermini Trifecta night touge.
This is also the year that I had my first mod in my Ford Fiesta ST: Mountune Rear Motor Mount. The original mount that came with the car had a notorious reputation. It was taken directly off the parts bin of a standard Ford Fiesta and plonked onto the ST model. Perfectly fine for a standard Fiesta but not for the ST. This translates to bushings that were too soft and under hard acceleration and fast gear shifts, the engine block had a tendency to tilt backwards and knock on the cabin firewall. Changing the mount as well as upgrading the bushings tightened the movement and made shifting crisper.
Additionally, I had my second and third track day. Learned from my previous mistakes and took 2 seconds off my personal best. Achieved a lap time of 2:55.37. Still slow, compared to what the Clio RS could do at Sepang.
Year 3 - The Best and Worst.
Slapped on a combination of grippy AD08R tyres for the front and Pilot Sport 4 for the rear, I managed to clock a personal best on Sepang at 2:53.45. Sadly, I never had the time to go back to track since. Tom, I'm still gunning for that record.
After nearly 60,000 kilometres of hard driving, the clutch of my Ford Fiesta ST crapped out. So did the passenger side short drive shaft. Had these replaced under warranty but not before limping all the way to the service centre. Sad times.
Year 4 & 5 - Eat, Sleep, Touge, Repeat
As I dove into more work and side projects, all that went on was the routine touge, trying to get better and drive faster, replacement of brakes pads, discs and tyres. As mentioned before, I go through these like butter on bread, averaging about 2 sets of tyres and 3 sets of brake pads per year.
Late last year while headed home after a night touge session, due to over-tightening of the drive shaft that was done under warranty in 2017, the shaft snapped off on the wheel hub side of things. That caused all sorts of warning lights to become illuminated on the dash. The speedometer wasn't working, ABS lights were on, traction lights were on and no power steering. At that point, I thought that it was due to brake pads failure because it felt familiar, sans the lights. Not realising what actually happened, I limped home all the way from Karak for an additional 30+ kilometers, further damaging the disc and pads. Looking back, I could have caused a major accident or worse yet, gotten killed myself.
6 years on - Is it a keeper?
As the Ford Fiesta ST passed 100,000 on the odometer, one can't help but wonder if it's worth keeping a car beyond its optimum 3rd year resale value. Just recently, post MCO rules were loosened, I had another clutch issue as well as a speed sensor failure, causing Christmas lights to light up on my dashboard, again. Driving back from Penang to Selangor on the North-South Highway with no power steering, ABS, traction control and with the speedometer disabled is a frightening experience. I thought another drive shaft snapped. Thankfully it was just a speed sensor issue. Easy fix. The clutch on the other hand...that's one for the very near future.
So, at this point, you're probably thinking I should get rid of miSTy. I'll admit, the thought did go through my mind but are these enough to sway me into trading this in for another car? Would I keep this and get a second daily? Or would I keep her and remain as my only car?
See, everyone has their own preferences, their…thing, when it comes to cars. To some, price point and practicality is king. Reliability and consumption figure is another. And then to some, the engineering precision of a car. Or perhaps, the finely crafted, beautiful curves of a car. Myself, I don’t fancy bigger cars. I am subscribed to the idea that if you can’t park it right the first time around, you can’t drive it. If it's too big for you to maneuver around, you can't drive it.
I’m all about hot hatches. The raw performance and how well sorted the car is in terms of handling. That’s my thing. That’s my schtick.
Sure, on the outside, you can say that the ST is just a kitted out car with a little bump on the output figures. Admittedly, it’s not as easy on the eyes as its nearest rivals. Even the cabin is an eyesore. Don’t even get me started on that Nokia 8210 looking centre console. Just don’t. The creature comforts fall short on the ST, except for the cloth Recaro seats that hugs you tightly and secure you in a high speed turn.
While all previously mentioned hot hatches deliver about 200hp and 300Nm of torque, it’s the handling characteristics that truly sets the ST apart. Every little detail about it is superb. The single-piston brake calipers are one of the best I’ve tried. It does not even fade after continuous hot laps at SIC. Grip levels on those 205/40/17 OEM Bridgestone Potenza RE050A are phenomenal (good luck sourcing replacements though). The handling is precise, albeit being electronically assisted. The only thing that comes close to matching the tyre performance are the Michelin Pilot Sport 4.
Yes, the ride is a tad bit too stiff (you could say the same for the previous gen A200) for everyday driving but it’s a trade off I’m willing to live with, purely because the dampening keeps the car planted on hard cornering. Yes, there’s loads of body roll and yes, there’s a little bit of torque steer too but I don't see these as weaknesses. The car simply oozes confidence when you’re behind the wheel, it’s just that good!
Also, the fact that it lacks Oh Shit handles makes it all the more priceless. Every time you have a passenger and then you drive fast, you'll notice their face changes and instinctively reach up to grab that safety handle. They'll utter those two magical words when they realize there's none.
The Ford Fiesta ST is by far the most pure, unadulterated fun you can have behind the steering wheel. I'm of the opinion that the Fiesta ST will one day become one of the future classics, in due time. Looking at the electrification trend right now, the Fiesta ST might be one of the last few generations of cars that has an internal combustion engine mated with a manual gearbox. In a sense, it is a true driver’s car that puts a wide smile on your face every single time. To quote Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire: “This car is like, perfectly manic.” - and that alone perfectly sums up why I will forever keep one as my daily driver, or until my knee gives up. Or fossil-based fuel dries up.
Call me biased, I don’t care.
P.s. If you’re looking for one, introductions can be made. If you’re looking for one below RM60k, you’re out of your damned mind. Most of us still owe the bank more than that figure.