The Mk8 Fiesta ST did the impossible and improved on the Mk7 ST. Here's how to get a great used one
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, September 12, 2021 / Loading comments
- Available for £15,000
- 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, front-wheel drive
- Thrumtastic triple delivers performance, economy and character
- Ride is less punishing than previous Fiesta ST’s
- No major drivetrain problems coming to light as yet
- Cabin quality much improved but still not to Polo standards
Search for a used Ford Fiesta ST here
Before we start, a quick note. We’re going to be referring to the 2018-on ST as the Mk 8. We don’t propose to go into why. Just accept that we’re going to be calling it the Mk 8. Thank you.
Right, on we go, and just for annoyance’s sake, let’s start by talking about the Mk 7 ST. This was by common consent one of the most loved hot hatches ever, based almost entirely on the purity and joyousness of its handling. All right, so the ride wasn’t ideal if you were suffering from a bad case of the Farmers and without even researching this to avoid possible embarrassment, we are quite confident that it won no prizes whatsoever for the quality of its interior.
The trouble with a popular and well-loved car comes when it’s time for it to be replaced. It was almost as if Ford knew its own car was going to be a tough act to follow, because they kept hot-Fiesta fans waiting for well over a year between the early 2017 launch of the eighth-generation Fiesta and the arrival of the ST hero version in May 2018. It seemed that Ford Performance was spending time and effort on making sure that the Mk 8 wasn’t going to be seen as a damp squib in comparison with the Mk 7.
When pre-launch pics of the Mk 8 ST appeared, some hardcore followers were wondering if Ford’s designers had been mainlining on Nytol. It would be wrong to suggest that first impressions were underwhelming, but if you drew a line with ‘lairy’ on the left and ‘mature’ on the right, the position of the new ST on that line had certainly been shifted over to the right. That was an interesting change of direction for the ST brand, and potentially a dangerous one from the point of view of brand loyalty, but the thinking was that it could be tolerated by new-age buyers looking for a small Ford with a bit more Polo and a bit less Barry in it – as long as nobody messed with the dynamic experience.
The ride of the new car was softer than before, though in truth, it could hardly have been harder. Turbocharging was there too, as you’d expect, but the scarier pre-release news was the change in engine format from 1.6 inline four to 1.5 inline three. The decision to chop a cylinder wasn’t attributed to the usual need to save weight. Indeed, once a balancer shaft had been added to the Ecoboost triple, there was only 10kg or so difference between it and the old four. The three did bring a small fuel saving, which was impressive given the gen-eight’s 100kg weight gain over the previous model, but more importantly, Ford reckoned knocking a cylinder off added to the ‘character’, something that was becoming increasingly elusive in a buzzing vista of four-pot hot hatches.
The starting price for the ST-1 was a little over £19,000, which was pretty decent for a car with the ST’s spec sheet and – followers hoped – excellent road manners. The ST-3 range-topper cost £21,500, with the ST-2 sitting in between at £20,245. Another £850 would buy you a Performance Pack that included a Quaife limited slip differential, launch control and a shift light indicator. Satisfaction and entertainment were promised even without that pack fitted, though.
Today, three-and-a-bit years on, how much will you be paying for a used ST? An ex-demo example of an ST Edition (300 of which were sold in the UK) with just about everything on it can come in at over £29k. That might seem like a lot for a used Fiesta. At the very least it shows you how good Ford is at upselling, given that the current on-the-road price for a new ST-3 was £24,850 as we went to press.
Fortunately, at the more affordable end of the spectrum, you can pick up a proper 200hp ST from 2018 with 30-odd thousand miles on it for not much more than £15,000. That’s right: fifteen grand for what could be the best-driving small hatch on the road, and a current model at that. Add two grand or so to the pot and you could be proudly looking at the keys of a 25,000-mile Performance Packed ST with Bang & Olufsen sound.
Just make sure you don’t accidentally buy a similar-looking ST-Line Fiesta, because that’s an entirely different kettle of fish with a 1.0-litre engine that doesn’t quite hit the 140hp mark.
SPECIFICATION | FORD FIESTA ST (2018-on)
Engine: 1,497cc three-cylinder 12v turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],600-4,000rpm
0-62mph (secs): 6.5
Top speed (mph): 144
Weight (kg): 1,262
MPG (official combined): 47.1
CO2 (g/km): 192
Wheels (in): 7.5 x 17
On sale: 2018 – on
Price new (2018): £19,245 (ST-2 £21,495, ST-3 £21,995)
Price now: from £15,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data aree hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Not everyone loves the off-beat rumble of a three-cylinder engine, but even if you were the president of the ‘I Hate Triples’ society, you’d have to grudgingly admit that Ford did a great job of not only smoothing out the pulsing of its Ecoboost 1.5, but also endowing it with a rorty ‘half a 911’ exhaust note, albeit one that was speaker-enhanced.
The engine would shut down one of its cylinders on a cruise to save fuel, but when you were on the gas, it would parp, buzz, pop and bustle in a manner that was totally in keeping with the ST’s mission statement and jovial dynamics.
Some early cars had an oil leak on the top left-hand side of the cam cover. This sometimes led to a replacement engine under warranty. Other owners thought they noticed a slight hesitancy in the first two gears. But neither of these issues should be present in cars currently on the used market.
The ST wouldn’t quite do 100km/h in second gear, so your attempts to match the official 0-62 time of 6.5sec – off the public road, of course – would depend to some extent on your handiness with the old gear knob. Finding out how skilled you were in that department was a fulfilling way to spend the day thanks to the stubby shift, just-right clutch action and potential for heel-and-toeing. There have been reports of snapping shift cables, mind.
The ribs on the intercooler and aircon unit were quite delicate and could be bent out of shape by a pressure washer or even flying insects if they were meaty enough. Even if you did more than your fair share of caning it, you would have no trouble achieving mpg figures in the high thirties or early forties, giving you an easy 350-mile range between fill-ups.
Quite a few owners went for tuning with open cone induction, remaps, exhausts and the like. Mountune offered a factory-approved M235 upgrade that really enhanced the drive.
Previous models turned the ST into a byword (or a by-acronym) for brilliant handling, and despite those early misgivings about ‘Polo-isation’, the Mk 8 was no letdown.
The clever ‘progressive’ suspension made use of slightly curved Force Vectoring rear springs in place of the usual Watts linkage to reduce rear-axle twist. That was the theory anyway, and who was going to argue with Ford when it comes to small-car chassis development? They considered it good enough to be patented, anyway. It saved weight, and the suspension as a whole was a sensible but effective step forward over the old ST’s filling-jiggling setup.
Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres led some commentators to wonder if the grip might overwhelm the fun (Pilot Sport 4S tyres are a common replacement choice). Most of the fears weren’t justified, however. Going into a tight bend, you could cock an inside rear wheel in the air in the finest French hot hatch tradition and then be hauled out of it, tidily in standard trim or by the scruff of the neck if your car had the Performance Pack with the Quaife diff. Turning off the traction and stability controls gave you access to a degree of tail-out motoring, but to make sure they were turned off completely, you had to hold the ESC button down for a good few seconds in Race mode to get confirmation of ‘offness’ on the front-of-driver screen.
The previous ST’s tendency to bounce had been nicely quelled, and the new steering rack was very responsive at under two turns lock to lock, 14 per cent quicker than the old one, so all the ingredients were in place for a magical driving experience that was largely delivered. The only downsides to the new car’s Riverdance quick-footedness were a still-nibbly ride on anything other than a smooth road and a slightly peculiar feel at the wheel, almost as if somebody had wedged a couple of elastic bands into the joint between the steering column and the wheel boss.
For even more focused handling, you could put your name down for one of 300 Performance Edition STs that were put on sale in the UK in 2020. In addition to the Performance Pack with the Quaife diff, these rather fab-looking Deep Orange cars had a Performance coilover suspension pack with stainless steel damper housings and powder-coated springs in Performance Blue. This kit lowered the ride height by 15mm at the front and 10mm at the rear and could be adjusted manually through 12 bump and 16 rebound settings. ST alloys have been known to corrode. Reading about this online, you get the impression that Ford has been good about replacing these under warranty.
The ST was available as either a three or a five-door, but as you’d expect in a car like this, the fives are very much in the minority. You got a lift-reducing roof spoiler and splitter whichever bodystyle you chose.
ST owners might have been aggrieved by the fact that their car looked very similar to the cheaper and much slower ST Line, with only a slightly different grille and some grey surrounds for the foglamps to signal the ‘proper’ ST from the front. Some owners noticed missing paint in the area around the join between the back bumper and the rear wing, particularly on cars in lighter colours like Frozen White or Silver Fox. Delamination of the headlights’ inner film, sticking door edge protectors and non-weathertight window rubbers were also noted. Some windscreens cracked, giving rise to forum speculation that the glass was too thin.
It was possible to option a very nice two-piece panoramic roof with blinds, a fly screen and global closing on the fob. One slightly annoying feature of this was that you couldn’t go from fully open to ‘rear up’ in one operation. You had to fully close the roof first and then flip up the back.
Heko wind deflectors have been a popular aftermarket buy for the ST, along with CEUK LED foglights and better tailgate struts to replace the weak factory items. The LED headlights option made plenty of sense at £600. It was a shame that the posh LED front indicators were let down at the rear by boring old curly-filament jobs.
Visibility out of the car day or night was excellent, contributing to that warm feeling the driver had of being in total control. The door mirrors looked small but they worked superbly.
Although it couldn’t quite match the quality feel of something like the Polo GTI, the cabin of the Mk 8 ST was a good cut above that of its predecessor. The usual Ford package of ensported wheel, pedals, gearknob and dials married up nicely to the fake (but good quality fake) carbon fibre trim.
Some early adopters settled for the ST-2 as there was a bit of a wait for ST-3s in the first year (around six months) and the discounts weren’t as good on the ST-1s. The ST-2 was a good shout anyway as the main items you were missing from the standard ST-3 spec were white stitching on the half-leather seats, 18in wheels, folding mirrors with puddle lights, automatic wipers and full beam and keyless entry. The auto high beam was a bit of a liability as it could come on at the most inappropriate times, and people who worried about needless battery usage weren’t massive fans of keyless entry. For some however the white-stitched seats were a must, as the blue stitching on the standard ST-2 seats could look a bit manky on cars that weren’t painted in Performance Blue.
There were instances of sagging/loose seat fabric, sometimes in the very first week of ownership. Again you get the sense that Ford held their corporate hands up in dealing with this problem, but we’re not sure how much warranty joy owners had when holes developed in the fabric in the area around where the top and bottom sections came together near the outer side hinge. At least the Mk 8’s front seats were usefully lower than the too-high perches of the Mk 7.
The SYNC 3 infotainment and sat-nav system worked well with Apple CarPlay but there were instances of it freezing. A quick off-on generally fixed that. Oddly, the ST-2 had B&O speakers but no sat-nav, whereas the higher-spec ST-3 had sat-nav but only standard speakers, the logic presumably being that ST-3 buyers would ‘happily’ pay the £350 extra for the B&Os to fill what would otherwise feel like a spec hole. Buyers trying to beat Ford on spec bingo found that the invoice for an ST-2 that had been specced up to the absolute max would be higher than that for a 3 with everything thrown at it. It’s all a moot point for used buyers of course, who may or may not chance upon a spec mix that’s exactly right for them. If the choice between two cars boils down to one having the heated steering wheel and one not, think carefully before deciding that warm hands aren’t worth the extra. They are.
Keyless start was standard on both 2 and 3, and obviously items like the bigger wheels were available as options to non-3 buyers along with all the usual Ford packs like Comfort, Rear View, Driver Assistance etc. The Recaro seats – cloth as standard on the ST-2, leather and Alcantara-type stuff on the ST-3, full leather a £1,000 option – looked the business and gripped you hard. Some passengers found that the grip (or maybe the angle of the seat) could send their legs to sleep on longer journeys.
There were many reports of squeaks from the driver’s-side door pillar and dash area, especially in colder weather, and from the steering column of some cars when turning the wheel. We think that Ford came up with a tweak for that last one, which seems to have been a Fiesta-wide fault on cars built in a very narrow time window between mid-May and mid-June 2019. Their fix for the dash rattle consisted of a couple of judiciously placed O-rings.
Some found the ST’s steering wheel to be too big, so try before you buy as that will bug you all the time if you come to the same conclusion. Another thing that riled some owners was the amount of confirmatory button pressing you had to do to clear statements of the bleedin’ obvious (like ‘vehicle is on’) off the small screen between the speedo and tachometer. There were also loads of notifications to work through to get the car into Sport mode, although you could short-circuit the normal menu prompts and bring up the little ‘S’ on the screen by pressing the Sport mode button three times in quick succession. It could be a bit too easy to click a steering wheel button at the wrong time, too, annoyingly skipping tracks you liked or flipping the radio station to one you didn’t.
Calling a hot hatch ‘mature’ sounds a bit like damning it with faint praise, but it is a good word to use to describe the advances the 2018-on Fiesta ST managed to make in tech and quality without negatively impacting on the sparkly driving experience of its predecessor. The Mk 8 was a brilliant wee thing that hit the sweet spot between fun and functionality. Most of the issues affecting it have been minor and have, anecdotally at least, been tidied up pretty smartly by Ford under warranty.
In the used market, it’s definitely worth hunting out cars with the Performance Pack, as the Quaife diff adds a very worthwhile extra layer of adjustability. You’d have thought it would have been a no-brainer for many new ST buyers at £850 but in reality, PP-optioned cars aren’t that thick on the ground. At least ones that are for sale, anyway. Clearly, owners are hanging on to them for the time being.
One of the cheapest Performance Packed STs on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this 22,000-mile ST-2 at £17,220. At the top end of the market, you’ll find dealers asking £29k-plus for cars like the ST Edition in Azura Blue that we mentioned in the Overview, or £26-£27k for a Performance Edition in Deep Orange like this 1,000-miler at £26,181.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, £16k will put you into this 2018 29,000-mile ST-2 in black with heated seats and 18in wheels. The price reflects the fact that its last service was 11,000 miles ago.
Used ST-1s are practically non-existent. If you’re happy with an ST-2, as most were, there is a big selection of cars at under £18k, including - if you need that extra bit of practicality – this 9,000-mile 5-door at £17,999. ST-3s are rarer at the bottom end of the market but this 2018 27,000-mile P/Pack car is available for £17,999 and comes with a bushel of go-faster bits, including a Revo intercooler, stage 1 map and Scorpion exhaust.
Search for a used Ford Fiesta ST here
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