Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m old enough to remember the Ford Fiesta XR2 – and with some fondness.  I spent most of my late teenage years tearing around the countryside in one and, as I recall, no small amount of time in the back seat, if you catch my drift.

By today’s standards, its spec would be judged almost laughable.  It made do with just 96bhp, needed almost nine seconds to hit 60mph, and could be nicked with half a tennis ball.  But my God was it chuckable, and it was filled with a cheeky sense of fun that made you feel you hadn’t so much bought a car as found a new best mate.

Down a country lane its light weight and go-kart handling meant there was little reason to slow down for corners.  Quite a few did slow down, though – usually against trees, or at the bottom of a ditch – but I managed to keep mine the right way up and pointing generally in the right direction.

Unfortunately for mine, a Volvo tried mating with it in Billingshurst high street, and my best mate was dragged away on the back of a flat-bed taxi, leaving behind only a few shards of shattered plastic and a puddle of essential fluids.

This week, I found myself climbing into that car’s spiritual successor, the new Fiesta ST, my thoughts flooded by an admittedly rose-tinted set of memories.  The thing is, my mate’s clearly spent the last couple of decades down the gym, because the new ST is a bit of a brute.

And I really, really, like that.

For the new ST, power comes a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit.  That might not sound like much, but from this modest capacity comes 200ps and 290Nm from just 1,600rpm.  That’s enough for 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a top whack of 144mph.

positively overflowing with deep-chested character

If that hasn’t grabbed your attention, jabbing the start button soon will.  Because the ST is positively overflowing with a surprisingly deep-chested character that builds to a rorty crescendo under hard acceleration.

Never while behind the wheel will you find yourself bemoaning its lack of a fourth cylinder.  In fact, chances are you’ll spend at least some of your time driving around on only two, as a new cylinder deactivation system shuts off one cylinder to save fuel during cruising, reactivating it again within 14 milliseconds.

Frankly, I was amazed to glance at the trip computer only to be greeted by the news that, after a week spent driving around with my hair on fire, I’d also achieved an average of just under 45mpg.

And what a week it was.

If you’ve read our Focus RS review, you’ll know I came away a little disappointed at its lack of character, a missing sense of theatre.

Not so the Fiesta ST.

That little three-pot pops and fizzes away to itself in a way more befitting a powerplant at least twice its size.

…this car’s got balls…

Not only that, but this car’s got balls.  There’s real meat to the steering, serious bite to the brakes, and nothing but utter confidence from the front end no matter how hard or fast you turn in.

But what impressed me most about this new-found I’m-an-RS-really personality is that it hasn’t become a total bastard.

Yes, the ride’s bloody hard, and if you have any wobbly bits on your body, expect them to get jiggled into oblivion.  And even with the Quaife limited slip diff – part of the optional Performance Pack – expect the front wheels to fight with you over uneven tarmac under power.

Yet somehow this only made me love it more.  Because despite offering me the balls-to-the-wall experience I wanted, not once did it try to throw me into a ditch, nor did it goad me into pushing the envelope when I shouldn’t.  And when I needed it to settle down and rack up the miles, it was happy to come along for the ride, its playful exhaust burbling away behind me as a reminder it was there when I needed it.

Like I said, not so much a car, more a new best mate.

Entry-level Price£18,995Price as tested£24,515
Engine1497cc 3-cyl turbo petrolTransmission6-speed manual
Power200ps @ 6,000rpmTorque290Nm @ 1,600-4,000rpm
0-626.5 secsTop speed144 mph
Economy47.1 mpgCO2136 g/km
Dimensions4068 x 1783 x 1469 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1262 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.