THERE is no denying that the Ford Fiesta ST is a classic hot-hatch.
Clever marketing has kept up interest and demand for the most sporting of the three and five-door hatchbacks over five decades and its now the model contesting the World Rally Championship for Ford.
The Fiesta ST-3 in three door trim is the most popular and it has strong acceleration and a composed motorway performance while easily returning over 30mpg day after day.
The engine is an immediate starter, pulls well from low revs and through intermediate gears, and the gearchange is crisp although the clutch pedal has a long and not always comfortable travel.
I liked the power, feedback and modest pressure needed on the footbrake, the parking brake secure held it on a slope while the steering had a good turning circle, modest weight and did not suffer from vibration or kick-back on bad roads.
Secondary controls are mostly grouped on or immediately around the steering column and wheel and are easy to use but some fascia buttons are hidden out of immediate sight.
The instruments are a mixture of big and clear but not calibrated in detail and the computerized display is on the small and previous generation size, which probably dates the interior more than anything else.
Once you get used to working your way through the display it is good, but it's not quick to turn screens and suffered from reflections as well.
The temperature controls are simple, clear and work well to select, maintain and distribute air in the small cabin, backed up by powered windows. Ford's tremendous Quickclear heated windscreen is standard on the ST-3 and it gets heated Recaro seats infront.
Oddments room is fair, not particularly good, and the boot will take a couple of suitcases without folding down the split back-seats to triple capacity to over 900 litres.
Rear access demands a bit of twisting, its much easier slipping into the front sports seats but I still find the legroom range on the short side and it's something Ford really needs to address in a world where people are getting taller.
Once inside and despite the lower ride height of the ST-3, the way the car soaks up bumps is impressive, because you can hear the suspension coping but rarely feel the shocks despite the 17-inch alloys at each corner.
That lower height makes you feel better in touch with the road and the sharp steering responses with good grip and an ideal safe setup from the chassis engineers. You can enjoy the Fiesta without worrying too much about ploughing around bends and lifting off mid-corner simply brings the whole thing back onto a tighter course.
Visibility is important and it's good to front and sides but the ST-3's back pillar, high tail and slim rear window do restrict your view when reversing and pulling out and the sensors are a necessity and should not be an option. Lights and wipers are very good.
The smoothness of the powertrain and major controls, low noise levels and quality feel to the trim are impressive and it will be interesting to see how Ford improve on these elements in the next generation ST.