With the “Car Corner” column, we like to focus on cars that serve as suitable daily drivers that can be taken on track for an HPDE or for autocrossing. After all, if you race, you like cars and, let’s face it, driving a one-ton truck every day is no fun at all. It’s nice to have something zippy for a daily driver.
So when we go to press events like the Motor Press Guild’s “Track Days” at Willow Springs International Raceway in Southern California, we are looking specifically to drive those kinds of cars. It seems as though most journalists in attendance are looking hard at track cars, too. BMWs, Mercedes-Benz AMGs, Corvettes and V-series Cadillacs were in and out all day while cars such as the Chrysler 200 sat unloved, like an outcast from the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Google that term if you either have no kids or a poor memory of your childhood.
If you’re looking for something zippy that still nets decent fuel mileage, there are lots of options, and the 2016 Ford Fiesta ST is certainly one of them. Ford has done an admirable job making a value-leading economy car sold the world over look like something special in the ST model. It features upgraded front and rear fascias, side skirts, bright work on the exhaust tips, 17-inch wheels and blacked-out grille to complete the sporty look.
It’s not all looks, thankfully. The Fiesta ST has a sport-tuned suspension that would serve the dual purpose of a daily driver you can hit the track with once in a while. The suspension isn’t terribly sophisticated, with MacPherson struts up front and a twist-beam axle in the rear, but it benefits from technology such as electronic torque vectoring control, which reduces understeer. The ST also comes with three-mode electronic stability control.
It’s also reasonably light, at least by contemporary standards. With a curb weight of 2,742 pounds, the Fiesta ST feels nimble and tossable. It’s fun and lively and has a nice driving feel, with progressive power delivery that comes on at lower rpm than you would expect from a 1.6-liter engine. That’s because the EcoBoost turbocharging system delivers peak torque from 3,500 to 4,200 rpm and peak horsepower at 6,350 rpm. Turbo lag is nominal.
“This is a rewarding car to rev,” said Mark Roberts, Ford Fiesta calibration supervisor. “With 177 lb.-ft. of torque available from just 1,600 rpm and 202 lb.-ft. by 3,500 rpm, Fiesta ST gives the performance and feel of an engine twice its size. There’s no waiting at all for the power to just push you back in your seat.”
That’s a pretty good power curve for such a little engine, and if you wanted more performance, there are vendors out there, such as Cobb Tuning and Spool Tuning that provide you with the means to make more power. That will come at the expense of fuel economy. The Fiesta ST is rated for 26 city and 35 highway, which is good, but adding a tune will definitely affect those figures.
But it would be fun, wouldn’t it? Even in stock form, the Fiesta ST was competent on the Streets of Willow circuit, which is a tight road course that can be configured to limit top speeds — and it was during the “MPG Track Days” event. The ST exhibited a bit of understeer, but it wasn’t difficult to drive it so you could induce oversteer and get the car rotated nicely. The suspension is firm enough for track days and certainly good enough for autocrossing in a stock class, yet it’s not at all harsh on the street, comfy even.
On the inside, the ST offers optional Recaro seats, which came on the test car we drove. They’re fantastic, and the driver ergonomics are first rate. Everything is within easy reach and finding just the right driving position only takes a minute. Ford did an excellent job there.
In terms of materials used on the dash, horn pad, door panels and other hard interior surfaces, the Fiesta ST was a little on the plasticky side. That’s easy enough to understand. We are talking about a performance variant of an economy car that is sells for thousands less without all the performance goodies bolted on.
That certainly wouldn’t keep us from considering owning a Fiesta ST, because this is a fun little car that is screwed together quite well. It’s quick and nimble and has the same seating capacity as a crew cab pickup. It is, however, a lot more fun to drive and far easier to park — and you can’t sneak in an autocross day in a dually.
|1.6-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder|
|197 @ 6,350 rpm|
|202 @ 4,200 rpm|
|Independent MacPherson strut with coil springs and 19 mm sway bar.|
|Twist beam with coil springs and gas-charged shocks.|