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HOTTEST HATCH: Ford unleashes undiluted, affordable sportster in Fiesta ST

2014 Ford Fiesta ST
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At long last, one of Europe’s favorite hot hatches has made it across the pond. Best of all, it hit U.S. showrooms virtually unscathed.

Ford wisely decided the hopped-up hatchback Fiesta ST didn’t need the customary Americanization to make it acceptable to drivers – and regulations – over here.

As a result, the wee ST is practically identical to the version Europeans have been raving about for a number of years.

Now it’s the Americans’ turn to rave. All the motorhead magazines – Road and Track, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, et al., have given the pugnacious little sportster a vigorous thumbs’ up. C&D even named it to its annual Top Ten list.

So what’s all the fuss about? It’s about a true performance machine that delivers more smiles per mile than just about anything out there, and at a price practically anyone can afford, starting at $21,400.

True competitors are few: Fiat has its 500 Abarth, Mini Cooper has its S model, but both have higher base prices. And neither offers quite as compelling a package as the Fiesta, thanks to its four-door accessibility.

To create the ST, Ford has given the econohatch a thorough mechanical massaging, from its sport-tuned suspension to its upsized brakes and tires to its potent 1.6-liter, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. A perfectly precise six-speed manual transmission delivers the goods to the front wheels.

2014 Ford Fiesta STCornering is of the proverbial “on rails” style. The little car is eminently flingable, making it the perfect companion for threading through the urban interstate crush or zipping along rural roads. The car rides rather stiffly, but not intolerably so.

Our Race Red tester featured the optional Recaro seats. If you can fit in them, you’ll want them. They grasp onto you in a way that makes you feel as though you’re actually a part of the car’s structure.

The cabin is austere, with lots of basic black plastic, a dead giveaway of its econobox background, but it is largely functional. Although a paucity of gauges runs counter to the car’s performance aspirations: Why no coolant and oil-pressure meters?

The answer, of course, is money. To keep the costs under control, Ford has wisely focused the bulk of its upgrades on the performance side of things, and it’s money well spent.

As a result, the little Fiesta ST might just earn bragging rights as the biggest bargain among current sports-car offerings.

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