As capable of thrilling its driver at track day as it is hauling a load of groceries.
Compact performance hatchback
Buckle up, kiddos! Today, we’re going to help you find yourself a first-class copy of a second-hand Ford Fiesta ST. This little turbocharged pocket-rocket is one of our favourites because it’s sensible, cheap to run, affordable to buy, and friskier than a boxful of caffeinated kittens.
You’re probably here because you’re considering a used Fiesta ST from the used market – and if that’s the case, read on for some tips and advice to help make sure you buy a unit that you’ll love for years to come, and not a unit that’ll leave you stuck with an assortment of someone else’s headaches.
For this piece, we’ll focus specifically on the high-performing ST variant of the Ford Fiesta, which hit the road for model year 2014. If you’re more interested in more mainstream versions of the Fiesta, give this article a look-see instead.
Fiesta ST was cooked up using a typical hot-hatch recipe which involved taking a mass-market economy model and adding bigger wheels, a body kit, a snottier engine, some stickier rubber, and a special badge. Stick on some special badges, toss in some Recaro seats, offer some fancy colours and boom: a new econo-pocket-rocket is born.
Feature content included leather Recaro seats, Ford Sync, Bluetooth, automatic lights, keyless access, push-button start, a back-up camera, cabin mood-lighting, and a power moonroof.
All Fiesta ST models came just one way: with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s turbocharged for 200 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox, and it drives the front wheels.
What Owners Like
Owners tend to appreciate the ST’s looks, a positive feel to the clutch and shifter, a sporty and precise steering system, plenty of grip, pleasing performance, and sensible fuel economy. And, since this one’s a hot-hatch, it’s equally as capable of thrilling its driver at track day as it is hauling a load of groceries or camping gear or canine.
Notes from a past test drive by your writer indicate that Fiesta ST feels nicely dialled in and honed from a performance standpoint, and this is an attribute backed by many owner reviews.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners aren’t too fussy about the small touchscreen interface, which may frustrate chubby-fingered users. The brakes can be noisy, rough roads can rapidly degrade ride quality, and paper-thin tires mean the Fiesta ST should be piloted carefully around nasty potholes, as striking one could turn a wheel into an octagon. Finally, if you’re a girthy gal or fella, be sure you fit comfortably in the Recaro seats: these are fantastically supportive, but may fit larger drivers like a shirt that’s a few sizes too small.
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Pro Tip: Watch for Mods
We’ll put this right up here to kick things off: if you’re buying a used Fiesta ST, you’re typically best to ensure the unit you’re considering has never been modified by a past owner, especially when it comes to engine management software. By various means, power-boosting electronics can be applied to the Fiesta’s engine computer to make it go faster – though these will almost certainly void any remaining warranty coverage (even if removed) and can damage the engine and other components.
Some owners run modified Fiesta ST’s without issue. Others turn the boost up too high, throw a rod, and turn the engine into coleslaw.
In any case, the average shopper is best to mitigate risk by ensuring the ST they’re considering has never been chipped, tuned, or modified with non-factory parts or electronics.
The Test Drive
Assume the Worst
The Fiesta ST is a sports car. Sports cars are designed to be driven hard. Driving a sports car hard doesn’t hurt it, though it will wear out things like tires, brakes, fluids, and the clutch more quickly. In a sports car like the Fiesta ST, parts like these are typically considered disposable.
So, when approaching a used Fiesta ST (or any used sports car) work backwards from an expectations standpoint – and assume that it will need a new clutch, new tires, new brakes, and a full fluid change until you confirm otherwise.
Inspect these components carefully yourself, and if you’re not sure how, have a mechanic give the vehicle a going over for you. If the Fiesta ST you’re considering is about to need $1,500 worth of tires and brakes, now’s the time to find out.
You’ll also want to ensure the Ford Sync system, as well as all touchscreen and steering-wheel-mounted controls that manipulate it, are in proper working order. Are any of the buttons non-functional? Does the Bluetooth link and perform as expected with your handset? Can you plot a navigation destination without issue? Does the back-up camera (which borrows the Sync screen when the vehicle is in reverse) work properly, every time?
Numerous Sync users across a multitude of models have reported glitchy issues from time to time, and Fiesta ST is no exception. Here’s some reading.
If the Sync system seems to be borked, crashing, or otherwise misbehaving, the fix may be a hard reset (easy), a software update (fairly easy), or replacement of the head unit (complicated and pricey). Translation? Have a Ford technician assess any detected problems with the Sync system before you buy.
If the steering wheel controls fail to work properly, or seem “dead”, give this discussion a read. Some DIY repair may be possible, though we’d recommend having a dealer technician perform the work, since it may require removing the airbag in the steering wheel. Safety first!
Also, Ford’s website even has this post to help drivers perform a Sync system “master reset”, which can fix certain issues.
Try each of Fiesta’s one-touch power windows in both directions, several times, to ensure proper operation. If the windows, or the one-touch function, fails to work, the computer that controls the windows may need to be reset. This is a super easy thing to do in about seven seconds with no tools. Information here.
If this doesn’t fix any problems detected with the power windows, further investigation by a Ford technician may be required.
According to numerous online owner discussions like this one, there comes a time in every Fiesta’s life where the blower fan will conk out and fail. This almost exclusively happens after the vehicle has been sitting a while, and on the coldest day of the year.
This issue looks common enough to warrant pre-emptive replacement of the blower fan. First, ask the seller if the fan has ever been replaced. If not, ask your friendly neighbourhood Ford dealer to look up Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) TSB18-2024, which specifies corrective action to fix this problem, and see if they’ll fix it for you. Reports are inconclusive, but typically, you’ll have to wait until the fan actually dies to have the TSB work performed. The cause of the issue, apparently, is snow and ice from the windshield cowl melting and re-freezing on the fan motor.
Two checks are advised in the rear of the Fiesta ST. First, open the hatch, then apply slight downward pressure by hand, confirming that the lift struts are able to hold the hatch open. If that’s not the case, replace the struts before the hatchback decides to close itself on your noggin while you’re trying to load in the groceries.
Also, remove the floor cover in the hatch area and check carefully around the spare tire well for signs of mould, mildew, rust, moisture, or standing water. Some owners have reported a water leak that can allow water to pool in the bottom of the hatch. If detected, this problem may stem from an improperly seated rubber seal or grommet around the taillamps, taillamp wiring, or roof-rail trim.
There are at least two things that could cause an unwanted clunk from the Fiesta ST on a test drive.
The first is one or more worn suspension components – so head to a rougher road, drive with your ears open, and remember that healthy suspension systems don’t make popping, banging, or smashing sounds as they travel over bumps.
Second, be on the lookout for a clunking or popping sound when changing gears, particularly from first to second, and from second to third. Some owners at FiestaST.org have reported this problem, and the discussion is somewhat inconclusive. A small amount of noise may be normal, especially during quick upshifts, though some drivers report that a bad rear motor mount, or even a bad transmission (very rare) may be to blame. In any case, if you detect any unwanted clunking sounds, be sure to have a dealer technician investigate before you buy.
Here’s a list of recalls. Note that Fiesta recalls are all grouped together and don’t call out the ST model specifically. Therefore, some of the recalls at the link may apply to the ST, and others may not. Your dealer service department has the full scoop.
Mostly, Fiesta ST’s more commonly reported issues should be easy to detect on a test drive, though that blower fan may be a real doozy if it hasn’t already failed and been replaced. As with any sports car, a full on-the-hoist inspection by a dealer technician, as well as a full computer diagnostic scan, are highly advised as the best means of protecting yourself against problems before you buy.