In October 2012 Ford kicked off its SA hot hatch assault with the launch of Focus ST. In 2013 that model has proved hugely popular globally and well suited for family petrol heads. It’s track manners are matched by its practicality. The Focus’ baby brother on the other hand, has had a slightly different mission in life – giving drivers a roller-coaster ride behind the wheel sans responsibilities.Image galleryThe previous Fiesta ST had a mischievous air about it, the new one even more so. FIERY HABANEROIf the Fiesta can be likened to a hot tamale, then the ST is the fiery habanero local hot hatch fans have been searching for. Usually SA trails in terms of model releases - anything from six months to a few years, as was the case with the previous Kuga. Due to the automaker’s “One Ford” strategy we’re only two months (May 2013) at the time of writing behind the European launch of the Fiesta ST in March 2013.Wheels24 drove the Fiesta ST hot hatch around the Red Star Raceway in Johannesburg. The new ST is priced at a segment-winning R254 900. It’s enough to make closest rival Volkswagen’s Polo GTI nervous.1.6 TURBO PETROLWhereas the previous Fiesta ST (2005-08) had a two-litre non-turbo four-cylinder engine the new ST has a 1.6 Ecoboost turbocharged unit, driving power to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine can take the car to 100km/h in 6.9sec with its 134kW/240Nm. Top speed is 220km/h.Fuel consumption is listed as 5.9 litres/100km with CO2 emissiions of 138g/km.Ford has made no bones about its plans for the Fiesta ST – create a fun-to-drive vehicle that will crush all opposition with its assertive pricing. Ford SA marketing manager Gavin Golightly commented: “It’s always exciting launching a new model especially when you have a potential segment-winner such as the ST.“ST is an aspirational brand as buyers might think to themselves ‘Sure I drive a Figo now but one day I want an ST’.”DRIVING ITFord Team RS tuned the power train, suspension, steering and brakes for optimised driving dynamics and introduced tech previously found in larger performance cars – including enhanced torque vectoring control and three-mode stability control.This translates to excellent grip and intuitive handling. It’s in the corners that you’ll become besotted with this hot hatch. Its engaging handling dynamics are courtesy of a lowered suspension with stiffer springs and shock-absorbers as well as a rigid torsion beam.You can whip it through chicanes; with the traction control turned off you can get the rear out for some great slideways action. It allows you to be a hooligan through corners but you’ll notice that the grip adjusts with the throttle due to the torque vectoring, ensuring you stay on the tar. The Fiesta ST borrows the sound symposer introduced on the Focus ST to deliver a throaty note to the cabin when pushing the throttle. It’s essentially a tube with valves and a resonator which filters the engine induction noise to create an exhaust symphony.The result of the upgrades over the standard Fiesta is a hatchback that's eager to get to grips with countryside bends and day out on the track. It’s also refined enough to not beat drivers into submission on a daily commute to the office with a harsh ride as experienced in rival Renault’s Clio RS.At the time of publishing this article, the grin still hasn’t left my face.Ford SA CEO, Jeff Nemeth, commented: “It’s not about getting as fast as possible down the street. The new model has fantastic driving dynamics. It’s also great in terms of fuel consumption and C02 emissions enabling drivers to spend more time away from petrol stations. DESIGNWhile its performance might be hot, it’s design is rather lukewarm. The model borrows the trapezoidal grille with black honeycomb face of the new Fiesta and adds a tepid body kit, twin pipes, a subtle spoiler, new rims and of course ST-badging. Overall it’s a purposeful not too-in-your-face design though it doesn’t scream “I’m a performance-built hot hatch” either.TEPID INTERIORThe interior is essentially the same as the vanilla Fiesta though curiously it’s “missing” chromed elements on the centre console, dials and doors. The hot hatch elements can be seen with addition of sports seats, red gear-lever detailing and metal pedals. The interior is liveable, the materials of a high quality but apart from the badging on the steering nothing really shouts ‘this is an ST’ and not just a minor sports kit.There’s not a lot of space in rear and particularly tall individuals may have their knees crushed against the backrest. Also there aren’t any grab handles (front or rear) so passengers are left clawing to whatever they gain purchase on during a really spirited ride (read: show-off session). As seen in the Focus and Fiesta, Ford’s Sync is available on the Fiesta ST. The system allows customers to make phone calls, read text messages and play audio using voice commands.Just because you can be a hooligan behind the wheel of the ST doesn’t mean you’d want your kids to follow suit. As seen in its siblings, Ford’s MyKey system is available in the new model. Should you purchase an ST for your kid, consider MyKey as a trial run of sorts. You can set speed limits and they won’t be able to disengage the ESC.Consider it a trial phase for your child and once they “graduate” you can turn off the nanny-controls.TWO-DOORS v. FOURWhat about the two-door vs four-door debate? SA buyers who gravitate towards four-door vehicles might consider the Polo GTI as a more practical. Nemeth said: “The previous ST was a two-door and we’ll continue this as it appeals to a different buyer. It’s down to personal taste. We kept it sporty to appeal to fun-seeking car-buyer.”In the US the Fiesta ST is available in four-door guise.RIVALSFord’s baby Focus ST will take on the Polo GTI and the soon to launched next-generation Clio RS. In terms of performance the Polo (132kW/250Nm) and ST are identical though the latter benefits from an overboost function. So what about value proposition?The Polo GTI, of which I’m rather fond of, retails for R283 900, add in an optional service plan( R11 926) and extras, such as curtain airbags (R2620) and the ST, already the more affordable option, becomes that much more appealing. There’s also the lack of tech as the Polo isn’t sold with Bluetooth or voice controls whereas the ST benefits from Sync and MyKey systems.Renault will launch its new Clio RS 200, powered by a 147kW/240Nm1.6 turbocharged petrol, locally later in 2013.OVERALLIt’s an incredibly fun hot hatch and considering the segment it’s possibly the most amount fun you can have for your hard-earned rand. In terms of value, it’s considerably cheaper than rival automaker’s offerings. If you like driving, this is the hot hatch you need. If you have aspirations of being a family-man, then the Focus ST might be more long term goal.It’s great, simple as that. Minor niggles with seat comfort and fumbling passengers aside, the Fiesta ST will slap a smile on your face and leave you with an envy-inducing grin amongst petrol heads. It’s about performance and dynamics but more importantly buyers will form that ever important emotional connection with their ride. And you cannot ignore that price!MORE FROM FORDFord’s next product for SA, arriving in August 2013, sees the launch of a new urban SUV– the EcoSport. The model will be launched locally with three engine choices (1.0 EcoBoost and 1.5 petrol and diesel) and in three spec levels – Ambiente, Trend and Titanium.Wheels24 test drove the then new SUV in Goa, India. RED STAR RACEWAYPredominantly a superbike circuit, Red Star Raceway opened its gates to allow us to put the Fiesta ST through its paces on its challenging track. The 4km circuit has 13 corners and five straights. One of the biggest challenges is that its flat layout is devoid of any landmarks or reference points. It’s one of the most technically demanding circuits I’ve encountered yet in SA... and I’m dying to return. PRICEFord Fiesta ST 1.6 - R254 500 Optional metallic paint - R750Rear park sensor – R1710Pricing includes four-year or 120 000km warranty and four-year or 60 000km service plan. Service intervals 20 000km.