By on September 20, 2017

Three-wheeling the FiST isn't hard to do

The Fiesta ST was the greatest car to ever be sold in the United States of America. So, naturally, Ford has decided to stop selling it here.

Boom. How’s that for an opener, y’all? I mean, I can just picture the keyboard warriors reading those sentences and fumbling their bag of Cheetos while running to Reddit to say that ol’ Bark is off his rocker again.

“He should be fired — not just from TTAC, but from the entire internet! Has he forgotten about the 1994 Camry, for Hillary’s sake?”

As Aaron Rodgers would say, “R-E-L-A-X.” I’m going to take a moment to explain to you why the greatest mistake I ever made was returning my 2015 Fiesta ST at the end of my lease.

I come not to bury the FiST, but to praise it. There have assuredly been cars with better interiors, superior construction, finer audio systems, and less squeaky clutch pedals than the aforementioned Fiesta ST. Of course, there have been faster cars. But never before in American history — and likely, never again — will there be a car that cost so little, provided so much fun, and was so utterly and completely, well, practical.

Need to run to the grocery store? The Fiesta ST will gladly accommodate your week’s worth of groceries for a family of four. How about a cross-country drive to a family reunion? Two adults and two children will be quite happy in the interior of the Fiesta, and you’ll get around 35 mpg while doing it. Want to go dominate your local autocross? The FiST is a class killer in nearly stock form — just add better tires and you’re good to go. How about a track day? Watch me gobble up a Porsche Cayman at NCM Motorsports Park here.

The sparse interior, the overheating engine (mine never overheated, but I know many did), and the squeaky pedals somehow became part of the car’s charm. They were a bit of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge from the OEM — like somehow, in order to have a FWD hatch with natural throttle oversteer, we had to cut a corner here or there. But you don’t mind, do you? Of course you don’t.

I can think of no other car, save for the NA/NB Miata, that was so widely owned by the automotive journalist cadre. When people who have free cars delivered to their driveways every week pony up their own money for the right to own a car, especially people whose salary barely surpasses the poverty line, that alone speaks to the greatness of the Fiesta ST.

Our own Timothy Cain did a masterful job outlining the causes for the American demise of the Fiesta ST yesterday, pointing out that America’s thirst for crossovers is making — natch, has made the B segment irrelevant on this side of the Atlantic. I certainly don’t claim to be an “industry insider” (that’s a term mostly used by people who have never, ever, not never worked in the car industry), but I have to think the departure of one Mr. Fields from the CEO chair has caused some, shall we say, reevaluation of how Ford is spending its money.

The Fiesta has never been a huge seller in the States, barely cracking the top 100 overall and placing behind the Blue Oval’s own Expedition (which I had kinda forgotten that they still sell) and barely ahead of the Taurus (which everybody outside of you local PD’s finest had forgotten that they still sell). But the Fiesta ST accounted for much more of the model’s sales than it had any right to, especially when you consider that the FiST was never available as anything other than a six-speed manual.

One of the instructors at the ST Octane Academy, Ford’s one-day program at Utah Motorsports Park for anybody who purchased a Fiesta or Focus ST, told me that many of his students who made the trek to Salt Lake were just people who wanted to buy the “best Fiesta they could get.” Ironically, the Fiesta ST wasn’t really the best “Fiesta” — it’s not geared for city driving, and the suspension was a little stiff for your average retiree on a fixed income — but for four model years, it absolutely was the best Ford you could buy. And I should know.

I sold my Boss 302 because the Fiesta ST kept it in the garage. I compared my Focus RS to it and found the RS to be lacking in many ways — and it cost twice as much. During my hiatus from this site, I actually made two extra lease payments on the Fiesta for no reason other than I couldn’t stand to take it back.

“Uh, Mr. Baruth, are you sure you want to do this?” asked the Ford Credit customer service rep. “Why don’t you just buy out the lease?”

“Because I absolutely cannot justify having two blue Ford hatchbacks,” I replied weakly.

“But isn’t that exactly what you’re doing by making these extra…”

Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!”

Ultimately, my bank balance sheet couldn’t justify the extra payments, so I had to relent and take it back. I felt actual anger toward the poor F&I guy who processed my return. I wanted to shout at him, “Why are you being so damned cavalier about this? Why aren’t you offering me some hot tea, or a hug, or something? I’m returning the greatest car sold in America! I need some counseling to be made available to me, like I would if I were forced to read a Ben Shapiro article!” But he did none of those things. In fact, he took my word for the mileage without even bothering to go check it himself.

Before I go, I’ll make yet another bold proclamation — the 2014-2017 Fiesta ST will become the Miata for the Millennial generation of racers. There is already sufficient aftermarket tuning support for the car, and as they start to slide under $10,000 at the auction, you’ll see even more spring up at track days, autocrosses, and even SCCA and NASA races. I would love to turn one into a Class 1 or 2 American Endurance Racing car at some point, provided that I could solve for the ever-present overheating issues.

America needs a great, affordable sports car. When the remaining FiSTs disappear from dealer lots, where will the kids go to get their cheap speed machines with manufacturer-supplied warranties? Where will the old men who need to be able to justify the purchase of a “fun car” be able to find a 197-hp hatchback with room enough for the kiddos? Both NAFTA supporters (Hecho en Hermosillo) and Nationalists (yay for no bailout money, Ford!) can find pride in the little hatchback that could.

So I will add my voice to Mr. Cain’s. If you have the means, I highly recommend going to your local Ford store and picking one up. Because, chances are we’ll never see the likes of the Fiesta ST on these shores again.

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73 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: America Can’t Be Great Again Without the Fiesta ST...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I would argue that Ford should ONLY bring the ST over. It’s the only Fiesta anyone cares about, and the only Fiesta anyone is willing to pay anywhere near full price for. The 3 banger will make it really interesting as well. Too lazy to look now but it would be interesting to see what % of used Fiestas are STs. I bet it’s inordinately high. Hopefully they transfer its verve into the next Focus ST.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      “Too lazy to look now but it would be interesting to see what % of used Fiestas are STs. I bet it’s inordinately high.” I’d bet it is inordinately low. In general I suspect that the ST driver is far more likely to buy than lease and if it is the greatest car evar then they are more likely to keep it, rather than trade it in when it is still so new w/o a significantly upgraded replacement available.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I knew of a bunch of people that bought or leased Fiesta STs. I don’t know of anyone that still has one. It seems like what constitutes a great car isn’t what constitutes a keeper car.

      • 0 avatar
        BufferOverflow

        I leased one. However, when I went to the ST Octane Academy, I was the only lessee. So I’m guessing that CPO lease returns will be rather thin on the ground.
        I originally got it as a pet; and to give my daughter a chance to learn how to drive stick — I didn’t want her to learn on the Boxster. Love the car, but when driving it everyday I drive way too fast. So in four months it’s going back.
        If I didn’t have the Porsche, I’d probably keep it — but as a divorced man with four cars in the driveway, something has to go back.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          “… but as a divorced man with four cars in the driveway, something has to go back.”

          Does not compute. Divorced means you can have all the cars you want/can afford.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “… but as a divorced man with four cars in the driveway, something has to go back.”

            Depends on lawyers, judge, alimony, child support et al………..

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      The 2018 Ford dealer order guides DO list a 2018 Fiesta which is a carryover of the 2017 models. The guides list only color changes with the lesser Fiestas, and no changes with the ST.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “I can think of no other car, save for the NA/NB Miata, that was so widely owned by the automotive journalist cadre.”

    Sure, but Camcords and RAVCRVs print money for the bottom line, and that’s what matters. In this case, Ford’s Escape (alone) outsells the entire Fiesta line 6:1.

    America is greater if its car companies are profitable for their employees and shareholders. The FiST was probably break-even at best when all the support costs were figured in.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      This isn’t meant to be an attack on Mark, whose work I mostly enjoy. I still feel like the print magazines need a new pool of automotive journalists; ones who are remotely relevant to the market and the industry. Get rid of the guys who talk about what their friends wear and ‘try to imagine being part of a family.’ Hire some adults who spend money in the meat of the market and use their cars to get to work. I’m not talking about consumer advocates. I’m talking about consumer-journalists with engineering degrees and responsibilities.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        If you can find someone with an engineering degree who can write, let me know.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Yo ma homie, yous rang?

          Seriously though my written communication skills happen to be strong and I have an A.S. in engineering (B.S. though is Information Science and is not an engineering track).

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Patrick Bedard. Having something worth saying is at least as important as form.

          • 0 avatar
            gmichaelj

            “Get rid of the guys who talk about what their friends wear and ‘try to imagine being part of a family.’ Hire some adults who spend money in the meat of the market and use their cars to get to work. I’m not talking about consumer advocates. I’m talking about consumer-journalists with engineering degrees and responsibilities.”

            Well, we could get rid of the reviews on Ferraris and AMGs and one-off Hypercars, et. al. as well, but people want cars with some “excitement.”

            While I would also prefer news I could use from knowledgeable people, Childish Reviewers who talk about how fast they can go, or how many tires they tear up, will get more readers than those who talk about good engineering or quietness or trunk space, or whatever.

            I miss the guy who wrote the in-depth articles on transmissions

        • 0 avatar
          cdotson

          My written communication skills are good for someone with a BS in Mechanical Engineering who has only worked in engineering. I’m not sure how that translates in the wider world of writing but admittedly I tend to believe it is closer to damning with faint praise than a genuine compliment.

          While I have always been a “car guy” I have never been involved in enthusiast pursuits or owned enthusiast cars. I don’t see automotive journalism as a pursuit capable of providing sufficient enticement (money) to pull my attention from my primary employment or my family.

          Since my automotive experiences are by necessity grounded in the meat of the market my frustration and anger with the nearly worthless sets of trade-offs necessary make me unable to write about the industry in a manner befitting of publications read in the workplace. I think my sanity will be better off if I don’t attempt to compete with click-bait numbskulls slurping buffets at press junkets.

      • 0 avatar

        Not enough pay. Too much trouble for a part time gig for most people.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Grrrr…sad. Most of these smaller “crossovers” (CX-5, Rogue, etc) are so close to being hatchbacks, this makes little sense to me. I completely understand the demise of sedans, or even BOF V8 SUVs, both of which were once kings of the sales charts.

    Why not just rebadge the Focus ST as the Escape Sport? Most people would never even notice.

    There’s always the GTI…for now.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Yeah and we were never going to see real muscle cars again. Gas prices will climb, interest in the segment will rise again, the number of vehicles in the segment will rise and someone, if not Ford will want to stand out from the pack and grab a little recognition and hopefully market share with a hot version.

    Not saying it is going to happen soon though, so yeah if a car like this interests you then you better go take a test drive now and if it is to your liking BUY one.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’m dissapointed in this article.

    You say the line “greatest car” but make no mention of the Chevrolet Holden Commodore that’s low supplies are quickly drying up.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I was actually a little surprised when you let this car go, Bark…

  • avatar
    silentsod

    The suspension tune that you mentioned was one of the leading factors that kept me from purchasing a FiST for my wife. Otherwise it was a fun a little car to drive.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    This is a bummer, but maybe Ford will make the next Focus ST much lighter to give it more of the character of the FiST. The current generation is great, but heavier than the competition, which is one reason its 0-60 time is similar to the much less powerful Civic Si’s.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    Recently I have been watching old review of the FiST and have become one of its fans. I knew of the ST but never really paid attention. A sat in a regular Fiesta once on a showroom floor and found all plastic really bad. When I saw a FiST I thought the low profile tires where to short making the ride super harsh.

    But my opinion has changed. It’s almost the perfect car. It’s got a turbo, a hatch and a manual 6 spd. It’s fast and can corner, gets great gas mileage.

    But Ford just never sold many Fiesta at all. Which is sad. We can blame the oridinary masses crave for SUV/CUV’s. I think Ford should keep selling the Fiesta on our shores. The small car market is small but it still needs cars in that market.

    Change your mind Ford

  • avatar
    Pantherlove

    https://imgur.com/gallery/JrmCZ

    You’ll pull mine from my cold, dead hands.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Well, you didn’t find some car reprehensible, and the people that drive it reprehensible, so I’ll say that’s a pretty good start by your standards.

  • avatar
    cheezman88

    I was contemplating replacing my Miata NC with one of these, but I just couldn’t stand the way it looks. So I ended up with a Mazda3 that I’m now getting tuned, and have aftermarket suspension installed.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …we looked into supplementing our NC with a ‘speed 3, but couldn’t live with its nautical handling and picked up a 2 instead…similar to mark’s experince with the focus versus the fiesta, tuning just can’t make up for all that extra weight and the smaller car’s balance of practicality and handling is unbeatable…

  • avatar
    BlythBros

    Drove my ’14 for 3 years. Went into it with the right mindset and I don’t have a single complaint about the car. But, as much as I liked the ST, it wasn’t that entertaining or interesting on my 15 minute commute to work – some would call that a positive. I got a good bit of money back in the sale and bought a ’13 500 Abarth and an ’04 Maserati Coupe with the manual. Neither car compares to the Fiesta ST in terms of practicality, handling or whatever, but I’m having a lot of fun that I wasn’t having in the ST.

    I was happy to support Ford for 1) bringing the Fiesta to the US period and 2) bringing us the best hot hatch in recent history. I don’t really miss mine though.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I bought a ’13 Abarth new for the same reason over the FiST. It was just so much more fun, and I didn’t need it to be particularly practical.

      But for practicality, you can’t beat a GTI. It’s not as exciting as either Ford, but it is just so much nicer. The grownup choice.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    BUT!!! According to Ford dealer order guides, there WILL be a 2018 Fiesta ST. It will be a carryover of the 2017 model with no changes.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I WANTED to love the Fiesta ST. All the write-ups, all the praise. The price. Even managed to find one without Recaros AND a moonroof. It was black, which I don’t enjoy caring for, but if I really like a car, I’ll deal with the color.

    But I couldn’t do it. Sure, it was a fun little car. You could sense the brilliance in what Ford had done to the basic Fiesta chassis. I’ve had a few Fiestas as rentals and they were always fine cars (except for the awful Ford Sync system)

    But there was no way I could live with it as a daily driver. And I don’t drive everyday! Too loud, too stiff and the “cheap and cheerful and eager” Fiesta vibe just wasn’t cutting it. The refinement that is kind of present in the regular Fiesta wasn’t there. Something was lost in the translation.

    After I drove the ST, I went and looked at a GTI. Maybe it’s not the trackday weapon right out of the box the ST is, but a more livable car all the way around. And I don’t go to the track (though I want to).

    I actually wound up with a regular Golf with a manual transmission. It was a good compromise on many fronts, but it’s still an enjoyable car. My right foot did not need the temptation of GTI, but I enjoyed the basic car so much that I couldn’t not have the regular Golf after I drove it.

    I wanted to man, I wanted to love the FiST. But I couldn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      TheEndlessEnigma

      My experience with my ’16 FiST as my daily driver has been wonderful. I have a Kona Blue copy, with Sun Roof, no Recaro seats, the full blown Synch 3 system…..great little car to drive in Central Florida. It is my daily drive at roughly 64 miles round trip each day.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I suspect you might not like driving your commute everyday in a FiST if you had to drive on broken Midwest pavement. The suspension of the FiST is just way too harsh for a daily driver in the Midwestern frost-heaved and truck beaten roads. I believe it was Edmund’ss long-term FiST tester that needed a few suspension and wheel repairs done that demonstrates this fault.

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          Oh yeah, if I lived in central FL, I could sing a different tune. Western PA roads can be fun, but not after winter gets a hold of them.

          I’m too, uh, large for the Recaros. They pinched me in weird way that wasn’t comfortable and even the GTI was a bit pinchy.

          Sync 3 is fine from my very limited experience. The earlier systems not so much, which is what basic Fiesta get. Hate that system. My Golf with Apple Car Play has been fine so far. Even the basic system is intuitive enough. The Entune in our ’17 Sienna SE is awful.

          Kona blue is lovely, but it wasn’t available for ’17. Or, all the ones I could find were Recaro equipped. My Golf is Night Blue, so I got a deep blue that I was looking for.

  • avatar
    scent tree

    I remember shopping for cars and trying to figure out why the only company building a K20 Fit was Ford. Honda wants to be sporty again, so maybe they’ll fix their mistake, stuff the Civic SI motor in the Fit where it belongs,and reclaim the ‘Best CRX’ crown from the FiST.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    This is fantastic satire.

    A cross-country drive (so…2,800 miles) with 3 other people in any sub-compact? I mean, this HAS to be satire right? Maybe fantasy?

    • 0 avatar

      Barks short

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Two adults and two kids in a Fiesta? Why not (at least space wise)? I wouldn’t want to put up with the noise and the crashy ride for that long, but the size of the thing seems entirely adequate. I drove my Abarth on a 500 mile round trip with 4 full size adult males in it and it was perfectly fine. Short but tall cars are quite roomy.

      And I suspect by “cross country” he meant the typical 100-200 mile roundtrip to Grandma’s house, not coast to coast.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        Well, that’s a different drive than ‘cross country’ because it dictates how much stuff you take with you.

        I can’t see the Fiesta or any similarly sized vehicle being able to hold 2 weeks worth of stuff (because….you’re driving back home across the country again, right?) for 4, even of 2 of those are kids…..probably LESS so if 2 of them are kids.

        A few hours, though? Sure,if I had to. I think small cars as a whole sacrifice some NVH and ride comfort in order to be economical, so even a few hours at 70mph in a compact vs. a sub-compact would be an improvement. But the FiST in particular just doesn’t seem like a good fit for that type of of work. It’s better tossed into corners with glee by people who like to drive hard.

      • 0 avatar
        TheEndlessEnigma

        I rountinly use my as the haul the family around town car, both adults up front, a 15 and 16 year old in back – everyone sits comfortably and cargo space in the back. Ford did a good job designing space utilization in the Fiesta – something that can’t be said for its direct competitors. Now if Honda would roll out a hot-hatch version of their Fit you’d have something even better.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I know the current automotive landscape here is MOAR CUV/SUV, but the loss of the little Fiesta makes me more than just a little sad. Before I adopted my daughter, I was seriously considering a Fiesta (not the FiST), but at least a decently optioned SE with manual trans. For my daily drive back and forth to work (which is about 75% of my drive), it’s more than I need. Practical, good on gas and plenty big enough for one passenger. Plus, manual! But I understand that America has spoken and unless CUV/SUV is somehow in the product description, it won’t sell. Bigger is better, all of that jazz. Sad to see the little bugger go. Maybe in a few years, I’ll find a nice used one to putz around in day to day and leave the soon to be bought minivan to the weekend dog show hauling duties.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    When I look back over all my past cars I see a lot of missed opportunities and years driving boring cars. My 15 FiST has to be the smartest purchase I ever made.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    So a rather mediocre car with amazingly low quality is the greatest car in America because it drives well?

    Really? If it truly was as good as you say the sales wouldn’t be so bad that they canned it.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      Your schtick would be charming, but for the suspicion that you’re actually a serious, damaged person.

      That said, I still want to know how long Al Mullally kept you in his basement.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        You don’t like my schtick of truth?

        I guess your idea of quality includes a cheap interior, squeaks and rattles and brakes that fade quite badly.

        • 0 avatar
          ctowne

          O.o? What are you talking about? My ’14 is squeak and rattle free, and I’ve never had the brakes fade once. 55k miles and this car is a clock of reliability and fun. Not a day goes by where it doesn’t elicit giggles.

          It’s easily the best car I’ve ever owned and autocrossed. I commute in mine, autocross it, haul kids in it, and the best part is I don’t have to tune it or mod it to make it a blast to drive because Ford did such a great job with it.

          If your idea of an acceptable interior is a higher cut, please go elsewhere and buy it, but you’re talking out of your ass.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          The old adage about pigeons and board games applies here, and it’s my mistake for engaging.

          Suffice to say that I do not care what my dashboard or door handles are made out of, I am not a pretty pretty princess and I can handle an occasional squeak or rattle, and I replace brake pads often anyway.

          You’re talking about it not selling well as if it weren’t an extremely niche product in the first place, and as though “my idea of quality” must neccessarily include faults that are irrelevant to my priorities.

          But, you’re a troll, so this earnest reply is wasted. For all I know, you’re a smart dude in a marketing department somewhere, getting a little stipend each week to come online and act like Big Al from Ford touched you inappropriately.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The only part I would disagree with is the car really is too small for a road trip vacation for a family of four. The Focus is also.

  • avatar

    @Mark, I understand your dilemma on the 2 Fords. I faced the same thing with my 2 Gibsons. A ’69 335 and a ’60 330. Both quite similar and yet enough different that the choice was a hard one to make. Keep or get rid of the 330? If I hadn’t gotten a fair offer from George Gruhn – knowing it would go to a good home – I’d probably still have it.

    Now, I have something new to consider: how to justify a Fiesta ST. It sounds like everything I would like and enjoy driving. (And the blue is a great color.)

    Thanks fro the write up!

  • avatar
    BiturboS4

    In which the less pedantic but more reactionary Baruth brother improperly uses the term “sports car” to describe a 4 door hatchback.


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