Even though I knew this car is more about handling that straight line performance, I am still a little disappointed in the performance.
There is a fairly even spread of torque all the way up the rev range. And, even though you have to rev it quite hard to get decent performance, there is no point at which it really comes alive. Some people say things like "it flies above 5000rpm" or whatever. But, to me, any increase in acceleration at higher revs is minimal.
On the motorway, I find that I have to drop to 4th or even 3rd gear quite often. Otherwise, I've no chance of changing lanes when it's busy. The trouble is, that wastes time, so you either miss opportunities, or end up driving along in lower gears for a while...
It's noisy on the motorway. It really needs a 6th gear, because the engine is spinning quite fast at motorway speeds. The exhaust can be boomy on the motorway, especially when going up hill. Fortunately, the radio has the option to increase the volume with speed!
It uses quite a bit of fuel, considering that it's not all that fast. I could leave my old Zetec-S in 5th all the time on the motorway, and get 40mpg average. With the ST, because you have to rev it hard, I only get 32mpg on the same 30 mile commute. If I drive it really slowly, I can get about 35mpg on the same trip. But then what's the point?
The clutch action is fairly abrupt. It takes more effort to drive smoothly and quickly than any other car I've owned. In fact, sometimes I believe that the biting point on the clutch varies slightly - perhaps there's a problem with the hydraulic clutch?! This is made worse by the fact that the throttle response is jerky for the first couple of minutes after a cold start...
The suspension is a little too firm for typical roads. I could drive faster in my old Zetec-S on many country lanes, because it was not affected by poor roads surfaces anything like as much as the ST.
There is a lot of grip, and the standard Pirelli P Zero Nero tyres seem quite good in most conditions. However, they have poor traction in snow, as confirmed by reviews elsewhere on the web.
The handling is very good. The car is nicely balanced and throttle adjustable in the middle of a bend.
The steering can sometimes feel a little vague on turn in, which can make you unsure of how much grip is available. This often means I don't fully exploit the car, just to play it safe. That can be frustrating. (I did not have this with my old Zetec-S.)
The seatbelts are set quite far back - it takes some getting used to.
There is a decent amount of rear leg room for a car of this size.
I like the look of the car. In particular, the large alloy wheels really set it apart from other Fiestas.
I considered the Clio 182 instead, but after owning a Clio 1.8 RSi, 1.8 16v and Williams in the past, I was wary of reliability problems.
Have a look at Evo magazine's reviews and long term tests. I think they're almost spot-on.
Overall, you feel like you're driving something a bit special, not something average.
I hope this review does not appear too negative, as I really do like the ST overall. Of course, if it had 30bhp more power, more low-end torque and a 6th gear, it would be fantastic.