Fun and frolics with Ford’s Fiesta ST

With the flimsy excuse of it being “a more modern vehicle” to replace Gill’s first car, a 1.25 Fiesta, the 2006 Fiesta ST was purchased. I remember driving one when they first came out and being mildly disappointed by the power but impressed with the sharp steering and agile handling. Now owning one would afford me the chance to really drive it properly and make some necessary modifications to unleash the full potential of this modern sporty little hatch.

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The Car

As with a lot of our purchases, the salvage auctions were scoured for a few weeks before finding a suitable candidate to buy. The chosen car was a category D write off, suffering from front end damage. Headlights, bumper, slam panel and bonnet all required replacement. Luckily no airbags had deployed and the front wings and chassis rails were straight.

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With a good wash and little hoover out it began to look like, under all the dirt, lay a well looked after little car.

The Fix

Quick fix was first on the agenda for the Fiesta. With a plan to just get it driving and eventually purchase the new parts to make it perfect. A pair of headlights and a front slam panel was all that was required, along with some bonnet re-shaping (jump on it to flatten it out a bit) and some fiddly adjustments to the bonnet catch and the Fiesta was ready for action.

The Drive

I’ve driven a number of modern hatchbacks and compared to the old 205s and Golfs I love, modern hot hatches seem a little less hot. They may be faster certainly, but the refinements and ride comfort required to appeal to a mass market have compromised the raw agile handling. However the Fiesta seems to shun that stereotype, with rubberband tyres, rattily interior and a harsh ride, I felt far more at home. This chassis combined with the torque from the 2 litre Duratec engine, made the ST an absolute hoot on B roads. The only thing that bugged me about this car on the road were the brakes, although strong and rarely overheated, the ABS is awful. Hit a drain cover while braking or hit a bump while braking hard and occasionally the brake pedal would push to the floor as the ABS kicked in and controlled the brakes for you. This may have been a side effect of cheap tyres or caused by this model being a bit peasant spec and not having the ESP package, so no electronic brake distribution or traction control, whatever the issue it was rather an unpleasant experience hurtling towards a bend with no brake pedal feel. The brakes always worked but the lack of pedal feel was extremely disconcerting.

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A trackday was clearly the next logical step for the mighty ST. Beford Autodrome is always a popular option for me, the lack of things to hit make it a good place for Gill, having never been on track before, to learn without too many dangerous obstacles and the varied course make it a great track to put a car through its paces. On the straights you can notice the lack of out and out power in the ST, as you struggle to stay with a few rival hatchbacks like the Civic. Through the bends you start to notice Ford have achieved a harsh ride and soft suspension, although I put some of that down to the age and mileage, it’s still an interesting suspension characteristic to achieve.

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The Tune-up

After the trackday test we set about making a couple of modifications. Job one was to make it sound more like a proper hot hatch. Angle grinders, a Pro Bomb Exhaust (cheap version of a Cherry Bomb), a bit welding and fiddling about and we had ourselves a raucous, cacophony of raspy, backfiring exhaust note coolness.

The next mod was under internet advice regarding the restrictive standard Fiesta airbox and our love of intake noise; a RamAir pod air filter was installed. The standard air box has a complicated labyrinth of plastic channels and baffles to reduce noise and, according to a number of forums, restrict power in order to make the car more insurable for younger drivers. They have a reasonable point, there’s no point making a brand new car that appeals to a youthful audience, then making it uninsurable due to a high power output. I am confident these two mods made a dramatic change to the Fiesta, but that could be just the noise making it feel faster. I rate it a good 10 BHP on the bum dyno. Last modification but no means least, was to the exterior finish of the car. A new bonnet, grill and the all-important ST stripe kit.

Yes the stripes aren’t to everyone’s taste but personally  I wouldn’t have the Fiesta any other way, if you’re driving an ST you might as well have the complete look.

Future

The future of the ST was filled with dreams of new exhaust manifolds, a performance camshaft and a remap. What actually happened was a swift sale and a replacement car. The Nissan 350z.

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