We usually celebrate the Ford Fiesta ST for its hot-blooded driving dynamics. With the sharpened edition model, however, we have to be tough in the super test.
As I've mentioned many times before, it doesn't have to be a 500 hp hammer for the Nordschleife to really have fun at the Ring. Especially in the hot hatch and small car segment, there are real track tool pearls or those that, with small modifications, would have what it takes to be fun in the Eifel. Such a gem is called the Ford Fiesta ST. As if they had heard me in the "Ford Performance" sports department, the ST is also available as a so-called Edition - including with a coilover suspension specially tuned for the Nordschleife. It is a point of honor that the Supertest is used to clarify what the sharpened small car cracker can do.
Quote from the Ford press release: "Ford is presenting an ST edition of its multi-award-winning compact sports car, which transforms it into a veritable 'track tool' for committed excursions on closed circuits. The limited special model developed by Ford Performance in Cologne-Niehl The successful series produced rushes even more ambitiously through the curves thanks to a stainless steel coilover suspension with three different driving programs that was developed on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring and is adjustable in rebound and compression stages."
The Fiesta ST Edition looks just as tasty as these lines from the manufacturer sound when it is delivered between Pistenklause and Nürburg, so to speak, in the Nordschleife epicenter. The edition model is visually recognizable on the one hand by its exclusive paint finish in nitro blue and the black 18-inch wheels in a ten-spoke design. There are also numerous components that are painted in high-contrast high-gloss black (upper radiator grille, fog lamp surround, roof, rear spoiler, rear diffuser element, exterior mirror caps).
Large small car cinema?
This means that the ST Edition could easily pass as the little brother of the visually similar extreme athlete Focus RS Blue & Black. Different: In the parking lot at the tourist entrance to the Nordschleife, with the Fiesta ST Edition you are already part of an illustrious circle from a purely visual point of view. In their minds, Ring fans are already signing a sales contract for the ST Edition and booking the next Nordschleife annual pass at the same time.
Stop! Stop! Even today, the Supertest doesn't care about visual highlights - here and now it's still about technology and the resulting performance. And the ST Edition also sounds really tempting in terms of technology.
Another quote from the press release regarding the new coilover suspension, which according to Ford is not only adjustable in terms of ride height, but also, as already mentioned, in rebound and compression: "In the compression stage, the path over which the dampers can be adjusted, for example compressed on a bump, can be influenced over twelve levels and thus adapt the response of the chassis to the respective road quality.The rebound stage, also known as 'rebound', can even be adjusted in 16 stages return to their starting position. This is important for the contact of the wheel with the road."
It all sounds like a big small car cinema until you hit the Sabine Schmitz curve on the T13 straight. Honestly, the ST Edition doesn't really feel more north-facing. Maybe just a snapshot in the first turn? No, the first impression is not deceptive! At the latest after the first Nordschleife sector I ask myself where he has gone - the agility champion from issue 3/2020!
Regular readers will remember that the normal Fiesta ST delivered a great performance on the Nordschleife in said Supertest 3/2020. With a lap time of 8.28 minutes, the standard ST is still one of the fastest small cars ever to have competed in the Supertest. Within sight of the Renault Clio R.S. 220 Trophy (8.23 min), which due to its hardcore semislicks of the Dunlop Direzza 03G type is just as out of competition as the Mini JCW GP (8.04), which not only competed with semis, but also simply outgrew the small car segment with its puffed up size . In summary: The Fiesta ST is still the fastest of the small cars with front-wheel drive that started without semislicks. Despite a lot of motivation, commitment and will, the youngest small car from Hyundai called i20 N (8.34 min) couldn't hold a candle to the Fiesta ST on the loop.
Back in the new special ST. Bitter pill: Already in the first Nordschleife sector, the ST Edition loses nine tenths of a second compared to the ST baseline. When comparing the cornering speeds, there are clear differences to the disadvantage of the Edition version (Hatzenbachbogen: ST Edition 138 km/h, normal ST 147 km/h, airfield: ST Edition 158 km/h, normal ST 165 km/h, Aremberg: ST Edition 86 km/h, normal ST 89 km/h).
And this isn't just a faux pas in the first sector. In almost all Nordschleife bends, the edition model clearly falls short of the normal ST in terms of cornering speed. Only in three ring curves does the ST Edition manage a slightly higher cornering speed than the standard ST (Ex-Mühle: 100 to 98 km/h, Klostertal 2: 80 to 76 km/h, Brünnchen: 95 to 93 km/h) .Due to the slower cornering speeds, the ST Edition also loses top speed on the straights, as it can take less speed out of the corner.
The driving behavior of the ST Edition is similar to the normal ST over the entire course of the curve, only with a very slight phase delay that covers the well-known ST driving dynamics like a veil. The steering precision is okay, but not quite as high as with the basic ST.
If you didn't have a comparison, you would be quite satisfied with the driving dynamics presented. The basic tenor is the same: when braking, the rear becomes light, and here you notice the willingness to turn and rotate. The ST Edition also reacts to load changes with productive self-steering behavior. The front axle initially steers well when entering the corner and, together with the very direct steering, conveys to you that it is precision driven.
Depending on the strength of the curve radius, however, the front-wheel drive tends to slightly smear the front axle as the curve progresses, which becomes more pronounced in tight curve radii with increasing steering angle. The optional lock can also be so traction-willing. Overall, the grip level of the ST Edition is lower than that of the ST.
The Nordschleife result is okay with a lap time of 8.32 minutes. The Fiesta ST Edition also keeps its worst adversary, the i20 N, at bay. The Nordschleife time, which is four seconds longer than the basic ST, is an absolute sign of inadequacy for someone who started with such advance praise, especially when it came to the Nordschleife. In Hockenheim as well as in the other driving dynamics disciplines of the super test, the ST Edition placed well behind the values of the basic model.
Suspension, tires, brakes!
Time for an analysis of what it was. On the subject of tyres: unlike the ST in the Supertest 3/2020, the edition model does not have the grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport S1, but the average Michelin Pilot Sport 4. The ST Edition hurts itself in terms of grip level simply by choosing more conservative tires.
Why do you launch a sharpened edition model, but send it to the start with the more moderate tires? A semi-slick-like tire with a significantly higher level of dry grip would have made more sense.
On the topic of coilovers: Why do you send the ST Edition to the start with a crisp coilover suspension, but then don't set it to perform as well as possible? The camber values of the ST Edition (front axle: -0°57', rear axle: -0°27') were adjusted even more tamely than those of the basic ST (front axle: -1°00', rear axle: -0°36').Why not go to the limit of the tolerance values (camber front axle: -2°38' to -0°08', rear axle: -1°53' to 0°37') when you know that it's going to be on the race track?
On the subject of the brake system: Why do I put on an edition model that has a special affinity with the Nordschleife, but then leave the brake system, which is known to be prone to fading, unchanged? As with the normal ST, the brake system was thermally highly stressed after two laps on the Nordschleife (with a cooling phase in between) and was noticed by muddy pedal feedback.
Development issues are one thing, preparation and chassis tuning for the super test are the other issue that is responsible for the sobering overall result. Especially with the latter problem area, the question of why arises. During the super test of the Ford Mustang Mach 1, not only was the test car perfectly prepared, but also factory support on the Nordschleife at the start. Ford, you can do it, why not with the Fiesta ST Edition?
Because with the right set-up, the sharpened small car athlete would definitely be a real track tool hit. I am 100 percent sure of that!
Missed opportunity! The Ford Fiesta ST Edition could have caused a surprise in the super test if it had been adjusted to the intended use. Unfortunately, the complete opposite was the case. It's particularly unfortunate that the ST Edition couldn't take advantage of its core feature - a coilover kit developed on the Nordschleife - because it started with more tame axle settings than the basic ST.