Bark's Bites: America Can't Be Great Again Without the Fiesta ST

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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.

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • THX1136 THX1136 on Sep 22, 2017

    @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!

  • BiturboS4 BiturboS4 on Sep 22, 2017

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

    • Mark "Bark M." Baruth Mark "Bark M." Baruth on Sep 22, 2017

      Yeah, Jack would never say that.

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