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Attacking the Goodwood hillclimb course in the Ford Fiesta ST

Attacking the Goodwood hillclimb course in the Ford Fiesta ST

We’ve all hopefully been enjoying the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2013, which has just wrapped up for another year after a weekend of very hot sunshine, and very, very hot cars.

For the last few years, on the Thursday before the full show kicks off, the Goodwood grounds have also hosted the Moving Motorshow. It’s a nifty new idea that lets members of the public get close to plenty of new models all in one place, as well as a lucky few – usually competition winners – getting to run up the famously tricky Goodwood hillclimb course in what could be the car of their dreams.

Well, I had a shot at the daunting hill in what could well be described as a real-world dream car; the new Fiesta ST – the hottest Fiesta ever.

Sure, when we talk about dream cars they usually have a miffed-looking horse on the badge, or indeed a ballistic bull, but lovers of the open road and twisting British back lane will probably already be well aware of the new Fiesta ST. And with up to 200bhp and a torquey turbocharged engine, and a very reasonable £16,995 price tag, this little rocket from the pocket is a brand new performance car that many of us could actually afford to buy, run and insure. No mean feat in these days of expensive everything!

I’ve already been lucky enough to enjoy the Fiesta ST on road, mountain twistys and race tracks, so I know it’s a Blue-Oval-belter. Indeed it’s already well ahead of its sales targets, so if you are considering one you should show your interest sooner rather than later.

The Fiesta ST is widely agreed to be the hot hatch of the moment, even without taking into account its lower price than many of its key rivals, and this is because it does everything with quick wits, pace and theatre. So when Ford offered me the keys to an ST and pointed me off to the hillclimb start line, I knew I’d be in for some familiarly fast fun.

Rolling up to the start line with the starting-marshal waving me down to stop me and take my ‘golden ticket’, and I prod the ESP button to turn off the traction control and safety systems. This is something you don’t have to do for general on-road, faster driving in the ST, as the ESP on this latest Ford is very well tuned. It lets you have fun on the road but keeps things right-side-up and on the tarmac. But I wanted to do a smoky burnout start for the watching fans.

On the rev limiter and drop the clutch! The ST sets off in plumes of tyre smoke and a throaty growl from the 1.6-litre, turbocharged, EcoBoost engine. With 290Nm of torque in a lightweight body and very little turbo-lag – the time it takes for the turbo to start spinning hard enough to supply useful boost pressure to the engine – the ST is very athletic in the lower gears.

Through first gear in no time – she’ll hit 62mph in 6.9 seconds – and snicked into 2nd gear with the usual Ford manual gearbox accuracy – and as the ST nudges the rev-limiter for the second time in 2nd gear – I’m holding the car in balance for the first of the bends – and it’s a quick dab on the very quick-to-bite disc brakes to set me up for the medium-pace, right sweeper that takes the hillclimbing cars into full view of the Goodwood crowds.

It’s important to carry good speed through this first bend so you can really attack the next straight section – that takes you flying past the lovely Goodwood House – and as a veteran of a few of these runs, I’m pretty happy with my corner speed and floor the ST through 3rd and 4th gears down the straight, with plenty of growl ‘n’ howl from the ST-only twin-exit sports exhaust.

This first section of the course is relatively easy but as I nudge 80mph in 4th, the first big test for the ST looms large and immoveable ahead. There’s a new chicane for the Moving Motorshow drivers this year – after a few, well, hay-bale-bail-outs in recent years – and two huge chunks of hay now guard the mid-section of the main straight to trim speeds before a sharp left-hander. This left – that really begins your climb up the hill had seen too much fender-bending recently, so a chicane was added.

I knew the chicane was there but it was still a fearful sight. Two weighty, tall bales with a hard-left and an immediate hard-right now chop the straight, so I braked with all the firmness my right foot could find. With the ESP off, meant the ST chirped its tyres a little, but still with full control and poise, and with 2nd gear engaged I nipped through the chicane with two flicks of the wrists.

The current Fiesta model has always had a fast and accurate front-end, but with the ST’s beefed up suspension – harder and lower – thicker anti-roll bars, more powerful brakes and high-performance, low-profile tyres; this ST can be placed with impressive accuracy.

Safely through the chicane and I’m hard on the power in 2nd gear, quickly on my way to that worrying left-hander. The flexibility of the EcoBoost engine is in full effect here. I should really have used 1st gear for the chicane, but there’s torque aplenty to get me going hard with just 2nd gear in the gate, and it’s 2nd gear that will see me through that mean left-hander too.

Again, I make full use of the ST’s quick and powerful brakes, and scrub plenty of speed off for that watch-out left-hander, which the ST sails round without a care in the world. I could’ve gone a lot faster – maybe next time!

Now we’re off up the hill and the ST is charging hard. Through 3rd gear and hard into 4th. The bends are smooth and flowing now, but this section of the track is fast and the buildings – made of mincemeat-making stone – are track-side and scary in a couple of places, and the tarmac drastically narrows between them.

This is where the ST’s surefootedness, and chassis balance and grip, make me feel much safer than I would in something too-powerful and supercar-like. I’m a pretty good driver, but I wouldn’t fancy prancing my way up this winding hill in an angry prancing horse!

The Fiesta ST is perfect for us average petrol-heads to get in and enjoy every day. Yes, she’ll rip up the Goodwood hill with style and theatre – I crossed the line at nearly 100mph – but she’ll also nip and tuck her way around your favourite country lanes, day in and day out. And when you’ve polishing the splatted flies from the ST-only, deeper front bumper after a chunk of Sunday fun, the ST will be good to go for your cruise to work on Monday morning. Use that lovely engine torque for economy and get the 6-speed ‘box into top as soon as you can, and you should see around 40mpg.

I thoroughly enjoyed my hoon up the hill, and I’d say that the Fiesta ST is one of the finest fun-cars that you can buy for a reasonable price today. A test drive is thoroughly recommended, but hopefully one without a huge, hay bale roadblock!

Posted by Craig SalterADNFCR-3205-ID-801612269-ADNFCR