Fiesta ST and Focus ST 1

You read about the B299 Ford Fiesta ST in our triple hot hatch comparison (against the Peugeot 208 GTi and Renault Clio RS 200 EDC) – while Dunton’s latest Sports Technology kid didn’t end up taking top honours in the test, it was actually a close run thing; in any case, the car won a Blue Riband of sorts – the six-man jury unequivocally voted the car as the most dynamic and exciting to drive.

Since it was in for the group test, we decided to do a quick round of photos with the Molten Orange mule, comparing it against its class-up sibling, the third-gen C346 Focus ST, a simple enough task given the availability of the latter – the pre-facelift Race Red example is mine. Nothing like a side-by-side to view the family DNA on call, and there are many visual similarities.

There’s the face, for one, and the spoilers on both share the same cut; moving inside, items like the scuff plate design, gearshift knob and alloy pedals show a distinct commonality. Elsewhere, the pronounced difference in how the Blue Oval sizes its B-segment and C-segment offerings is also strikingly evident.

Admittedly, the Fiesta ST we get – in what is a base ST-1 trim level with additions, virtually identical to what Australia gets in terms of specs – feels a bit bland on the inside. Save a few bits, there’s very little differentiation to a base Fiesta presentation-wise. The trim’s demure Silverstone grey/charcoal black fabric combination, monochrome and manual air-conditioning (seen on the pre-facelift Fiesta) doesn’t aid the cause.

Fiesta ST and Focus ST 8

The Focus ST, in this case uniquely-configured for our market (in ST-2 level trim, but with ST-3 HIDs – not on mine though! – and slightly different tail lamp configuration as well as rear parking distance sensors incorporated in the final mix) feels a bit more polished in presentation and material. Meanwhile, kit like the dash-mounted boost/oil temp/oil pressure gauge set may be a bit kiddy-trick, but hey, if you’re going to sport things up…

Some on-the road performance notes, which doesn’t veer far away from that gleaned from the duo on the handling course at the Ford Lara/You Yangs Proving Ground some time back. As it was in Melbourne, the Focus doesn’t feel quite as zippy or agile, its extra 120 Nm and 70 or so horses (250 PS, or 246 hp, to the Fiesta’s 180 PS, or 177 hp) largely negated by more bulk (1,362 kg to the the Fiesta ST’s 1,163 kg), but it is inherently more compliant and a more balanced offering, with a much more mature feel about it.

A couple of other observations – the clutch pedal on the Fiesta ST is lighter, but has a higher bite point. The shift action on the B6 six-speed ‘box is clean, though as mentioned in the shootout, the stick shift’s placement could be better – things can be a bit of a stretch, the only real niggle in the Fiesta’s contact point ergonomics. In this regard, the MMT6’s shifter position on the Focus is way ahead.

Finally, to the question, as posed by Danny during the drive. Would I pick a Fiesta ST over the Focus? As a driver’s car, it’s a vixen, and in many ways offers things the Focus can’t (from a driving dynamics viewpoint), but it’s a bit too plain elsewhere, and I’ve outgrown a three-door configuration, especially one in the B-segment. Besides, I’m already hitched, and I quite like the way the gal is shaping up with a growing set of mods, so that’s the end of that argument.

B299 Ford Fiesta ST

C346 Ford Focus ST