Two performance hatches from Ford; a sign of things to come?
So, I was just out putting the already-in-Europe-but-coming-here-soon Ford Fiesta ST through its paces on a tight autocross circuit outside of Maconald-Cartier Airport in Ottawa.
We were at the helm of pre-production models that were a little rough ‘round the edges, but the important stuff was all intact; the torque vectoring system, the 197 hp, 207 lb-ft EcoBoost turbo four with a power-to-weight ratio that eclipses that of a Lamborghini Aventador and all the racy interior bells and whistles like standard Recaro Racing Seats and a two-tone finish.
It was a great rip round the track—a seriously grippy car with an eagerly-revving engine, proper short-throw six-speed manual gearbox (you’re only choice) and pointy steering rack. All good stuff.
However, as I was sitting in line waiting to go for yet another tear around the track, something dawned on me that reached far beyond the car I was sitting in.
My epiphany? How’s this: the arrival of the Fiesta ST in late fall of this year will bring the grand total of ST-fettled hatches in Ford’s line-up to two—the Fiesta and Focus.
“Wow,” I hear you saying. “Two. That’s so spectacular. You know what else there’s two of? NHL hockey teams in Ontario and MLB baseball teams in New York City. Big deal.”
Ah, but I beg to differ. It is a big deal, because aside from Mini, no other manufacturer in North America can make that claim. Even the Mini argument is thin, because its is a full-line dedicated to a single platform, really, and the high-performance S and JCW models are expensive. Plus, the Mini ethos isn’t for everyone and both the Focus and Fiesta should appeal to a broader customer base.
What we’re seeing, here, is the dawn of a new day in North America, a day where the hot hatchback rules.
And I, for one, LOVE it.
The Europeans have understood this for years; VW has the Golf GTI and Polo GTI hatchbacks; Renault has Trophy versions of both the Clio and Mégane; and even Audi lets you choose from S-Line versions of the A3 and A1, with an “S1” of sorts reportedly on the way.
I guess the real question, then, is will it last? What makes Ford so special that they can make a go of it? Why aren’t other manufacturers doing the same?
“Well I can’t comment on other manufacturers,” says Marc Vejgman, Product Marketing Manager for Ford Cars. “But our One Ford strategy allows us to do (things like the ST models).”
Since ST models are pretty much the same here as they are overseas, no new production lines had to be built here, no new crash standards had to be met and so it’s as easy as swapping one powerplant for another; indeed, at the Focus plant in Wayne, MI, you’ll see a Focus Electric roll off the line, followed by a Focus SEL, followed by an ST.
Regardless of all that, the proliferation of these sporty hatches we’re seeing is nothing but good for us enthusiasts, or tuners, or folks just looking to add just a little more sport to their practicality, or vice versa.
So which one should I have?
Even after having driven both the Focus and Fiesta ST models, it’s a tough call—the Focus is bigger inside and more garish outside (but not by much on either front), while the Fiesta will save you a couple of grand—it starts at $24,999, the Focus ST at $27,519. Not huge numbers, really, so tough to make a call based on that.
However, when you take into account that you’re going to get better fuel economy from the Fiesta—it’s quoted at 6.8L/100km combined, down from 7.7 with the Focus, the value of the smaller car comes further into, ahem, focus.
That probably wouldn’t sway me, however; for the money I’ll have the Focus and its 260 hp, thank you very much but you can’t go wrong with either; these are both great cars, and we are lucky to have two to choose from.