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Ford Fiesta ST200

Click to view picture gallery“Storm Grey. Thats the colour of
  the new Fiesta ST200 limited edition.
s also the colour of the skies
  around Goodwood as I set off on
  my test drive of Ford
s latest and
  very special
hot hatchback...”

THE RAIN QUICKLY TURNs INTO A MONSOON, and the ST200 becomes perfectly camouflaged. This is going to be a tough test…

But this is a test that I've really been looking forward to. The ST200 is a delicious prospect: take what is easily the best small hot-hatch on the market (the Fiesta ST) and turn it into a higher-powered, more frenetic, sharper-handling little tearaway.

Some 30,000 STs have been sold in Europe to date, 21,000 of which have found homes in the UK. Of these, only 1,000 have been the entry-level ST1; by far the majority of sales (13,000) have been the ST2, with the final 7,000 being the top-spec ST3 on which the
ST200 is based.

The 1.6 turbo engine has been massaged to develop ten per cent more power and twenty per cent more torque (for the record, that's 197bhp at 6,000rpm and 214lb ft at 2,500rpm). But with what Ford calls "transient overboost" — a 20-second hit of extra grunt — those figures can, temporarily, be coaxed up to 212bhp and 236lb ft.

The 1.6 turbo engine
has been massaged to
develop 10% more power
and 20% more torque
(for the record, that
197bhp and 214lb ft).
But with what Ford calls
transient overboost
a 20-second hit of extra
grunt — those figures
can, temporarily, be
coaxed up to 212bhp
and 236lb ft...”
As soon as you turn the key, you can tell there's a difference: it sounds much louder than the regular ST. And unlike most current hot-hatches with 'enhanced' soundtracks, the noise is not at all artificial but entirely organic. The extra volume is the result of a sound "symposer" that channels sound into the cabin.

Interestingly, if you wind down the windows the ST200 doesn't sound a lot different to standard — just a tad more turbo whoosh. Equally interestingly, you don't hear any of that whoosh inside the car, which will please some but disappoint others.

In motion, this feels a very feisty car, and that has a lot to do with another critical change in the ST200: different gearing. Crucially, Ford has shortened the final drive ratio (from 3.82 to 4.06).

That makes the 0-62mph sprint quicker (6.7 seconds versus 6.9 in the regular ST), although frankly the 0.2 second improvement isn't terribly significant.

It's the in-gear acceleration where the changes can really be felt; Ford quotes 31-62mph in 5.2 seconds in fourth gear. At 143mph, the ST200's top speed is actually 4mph higher than the regular ST. And motorway cruising isn't affected since it's doing 25mph at 1,000rpm — quite a few rival hot hatches are geared at more like 20mph per 1,000rpm. Ford could, I think, have gone even more extreme with the gearing.

There are more changes in the chassis department: the ST200 gains a twenty-seven per cent stiffer torsion beam at the rear end; a larger front anti-roll bar (21mm versus 19mm); and revised damper settings, although the ride height is unaltered.

The quick-ratio steering and modified steering knuckle are further revised in the ST200, so it feels fantastically reactive. In fact, initially it feels almost too quick for road use, but familiarity convinces you, and you're soon chucking the car into bends with utter confidence.

Even more so than the regular ST, what this car can do through corners will have you marvelling. You can switch the traction control to Sport mode or turn it off completely, but even in the torrential rain of my test drive, the ST200 didn't feel out of sorts.

The Fiesta ST200
is available now, priced
at £22,745.
But you’ll have to hurry
if you want one because
Ford initially said that
only 400 right-hand drive
cars would be made,
although that’s now been
upped to 1,000...”
One big reason to buy an ST200 is that it looks so distinctive: unique SVO-created Storm Grey paint, matt black/polished rim 17-inch ST alloys, red-painted brake callipers and ST200 badging.

Inside there's part-leather Charcoal Recaro front seats with silver stitching, unique seatbelts, illuminated ST200 sill plates, carbon-fibre dashboard inserts, and metal pedals and gear knob.

The Fiesta ST200 is available now, priced at £22,745 — about halfway between a regular Fiesta ST and the Focus ST. But you'll have to hurry if you want one because Ford initially said that only 400 right-hand drive cars would be made, although that's now been boosted to "up to 1,000", all to be built by the end of 2016.

One final thought — seeing as the ST200 costs fully £3,000 more than the ST3, why not just fit the Ford-warranted Mountune MP215 tuning kit that's already offered on the Fiesta ST? It has identical power and torque figures of 212bhp at 6,000rpm and 236lb ft at 3,000rpm and Ford admits that it's exactly the same upgrade! And the Mountune kit costs a mere £599 plus fitting.

Frankly the Mountune route is a good alternative if you miss out on, or can't afford, an ST200. But the Storm Grey paint, upgraded chassis and lower final drive do make the ST200 a rather special machine — and one that will undoubtedly be sought after for many years to come. ~ Chris Rees

Ford Fiesta ST200 | £22,745
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds | Test Average: 46.3mpg
Power: 197/212bhp | Torque: 214/236lb ft | CO2: 140g/km