When the latest Ford Fiesta was launched in 2017 it was a real step-up. Not only did it look sharper than the seventh generation car, but it was more spacious and updated with the latest, fully connected infotainment system.

Most of all, it was still engaging to drive, so job done for Britain’s most popular car.

Starting at £13,965 and blessed with a wide choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines, the Fiesta family is bigger than ever, now with a crossover version (the Active) and a plush range-topper – the Vignale.

Ford Fiesta ST

If you want more fun, then there’s the ST-Line powered by a fantastic 138bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol turbo under the bonnet. Not only is it agile, but it’s surprisingly fast and entertaining to drive.

Now Ford has gone one better and introduced the fast Fiesta enthusiasts have been waiting for – the latest ST.

Priced from £19,495, the new Fiesta ST successfully addresses its predecessor’s few weak points, while also inheriting the improved interior space and tech updates from the rest of the range.

The result is an overall package that offers more fun for £20,000 than any other car on the market.

Apart from the fact that the new ST is longer, lower and fresher looking than its predecessor, it’s also now possible to carry passengers in relative comfort thanks to the extra space at the back, while the luggage capacity has increased to a useful 311 litres, or 1,093 litres with the rear seats flipped.

It really looks the part too. It’s perfectly proportioned and sporty, but not in a show-off sort of way, and you can choose between three or five doors. If anything, it might be a little understated for some, especially if you opt for one of the cooler colours such as the new Silver Fox option.

Inside there are Recaro sports seats up front, plus the other upgrades already mentioned – notably the replacement of the tiny digital info screen with a proper 8.0-inch colour touchscreen (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible).

The biggest change is under the bonnet where the previous ST’s four-cylinder 1.6-litre 182bhp engine (with an ‘overboost’ function that could deliver 197bhp in short bursts).has been replaced by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo unit developing 197bhp mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.

That may sound like a retrograde step, but the gutsy new EcoBoost is a little cracker, crucially delivering a healthy 290 Nm of torque.

Not only is it capable of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and 144mph, but it can return up to 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 136g/km. It’s clever too because it automatically drops a cylinder when cruising to save fuel.

Of course, the reality is the most ST owners won’t quite achieve that kind of fuel economy because there’s so much fun to be had, especially on flowing roads.

There are three trims re available – ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, air-con, automatic headlights and wipers, automatic emergency braking and cruise control.

Step up to ST-2 and you get the 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and an upgraded sound system, while ST-3 adds sat nav, 18in wheels, a 4.2-inch driver’s instrument cluster, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Ford’s new limited-slip differential is available as part of a Performance Pack on the entry-level trims, but it’s standard on the range-topping ST-3 model.

The diff allows the car is able to put down its power even more effectively out of slow corners by working out which front wheel is struggling and sending more drive to the one.

The Performance Pack also includes a launch control system, plus shift lights to tell when you’re about to hit the redline, but the reality is that unless you’re heading off to a track day, you’re unlikely to need either.

For the first time, the ST offers drive modes (Normal, Sport and Track) so it doesn’t have to be a full-on experience all the time. Each setting fine-tunes the car’s performance by modifying engine mapping, throttle position, brake pedal and steering response.

All this adds up to a remarkably dynamic driving experience from the moment you press the Starter button and the engine fires up with a satisfying growl. Superbly responsive, it effortlessly picks up speed and just keeps on giving.

The steering is sharper than ever and feels very direct, while the ride is still on the firm side, but a little more forgiving the than previous gen ST, making it a more comfortable proposition overall.

A great drive, whether it’s in town or on the motorway, it comes into its own on more challenging roads where the lashings of torque, prodigious grip, superb traction out of corners and the engaging engine soundtrack will put a huge smile on your face.

Add to that the now excellent driving position with super supportive Recaro sports seats and the ST becomes a great all-round package – a practical daily driver or a bit of fun.

Verdict: The new Ford Fiesta ST sets a new benchmark for junior hot hatches. Fast, fun yet economical, practical and packed with the latest safety equipment and connected tech, you won’t be disappointed.

Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk

Ford Fiesta ST