Little car, big fun.

That's probably the best way to describe the Ford Fiesta ST, a new car for the 2014 model year. Sure, it may look like your garden variety commuter vehicle, better suited for trips to Trader Joe's than the track, but believe me when I say this hatch is hot.

Some maniacal genius at Ford looked at the dainty Fiesta and decided to do something bold and seemingly nonsensical, outfitting it with a much more potent engine, lowering the ride height and tightening up the handling. This turned the Fiesta ST into a true, bonafide sports car, capable of delighting everyone from experienced drivers to novices that simply want to spice up their travel time.

I recently got to spend an entire week behind the wheel of the Fiesta ST. From now on, whenever I'm having a bad day, I'm simply going to think of that week and the fact that this car actually exists, in turn reminding myself that someone, somewhere is getting to experience it.

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The Basics

The Basics

Sticker Price: $21,400

?Invoice Price: NA

As Tested Price: $24,785

??Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter I4

??Transmission: Six-speed manual

??Performance: 197 horsepower, 202 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds 

??Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway??

Seating: Five people??

Cargo Capacity: 26.0 cubic feet

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Exterior Design

Exterior Design

The entire Fiesta line, including the sedan, hatchback and ST, received a facelift for the 2014 model year. The big changes are on the front fascia, where a new grille and slimmer, more aggressive headlights are now featured. The rear fascia was also slightly changed.

There are a few visual cues that separate the ST from the standard Fiesta. These include a lower ride height and different lower body work, a rear spoiler, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, bigger wheels and a rear diffuser.

The Fiesta ST looks great. It still retains the cuteness of the standard little hatchback, but with some added aggression and sportiness. The tweaks aren't overdone, keeping the car firmly in line with its roots, but are obvious enough to let people know that the ST is a subcompact that means business.

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Interior

Interior

Because the Fiesta ST costs less than $25,000, the cabin isn't overly luxurious. The designers, however, have done a good job working with that price, using paints and accents that suggest that the car is more premium that it really is. Sure, the interior uses a lot of plastic, but the glossy black paint renders it mostly inoffensive.

It's not the quietest subcompact, but that's actually a good thing. In fact, it's by design. The car employs Ford's Sound Symposer technology, which pumps engine noise into the cabin through a hole in the firewall. The deep, throaty exhaust note is something you definitely want to hear when you're driving. It really adds to the experience, although you may find the drone to get a little tiring over long distances.

The center stack has been updated for all the Fiestas for 2014, and it is a much more user friendly experience. There are still a lot of buttons to contend with, but once you've learned the layout, the radio and heating and cooling knobs are easy to locate and operate.

The big problem with the interior is the seats. My tester had the optional Recaro package, which included special racing bucket seats. They're great for throwing the car around on curvy roads, but are just awful on long trips. Because they're small and super firm, spending more than an hour in them is  quite uncomfortable.

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Passenger And Cargo Room

Passenger And Cargo Room

Interior space up front is quite good. Head, shoulder and elbow room are better than you might think, given the car's overall size. The rear seats are a little cramped, which is to be expected in a subcompact, especially if the front seats are pushed back. Adults probably won't be too thrilled to ride back there.

The trunk itself isn't huge, but the rear bench easily splits 60/40, giving the Fiesta ST a lot of cargo room. This, coupled with its hatch, gives the car loads of versatility.

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Driving Dynamics

Driving Dynamics

On paper, the Fiesta ST doesn't look like the beast it truly is. It's equipped with front-wheel drive and a small 1.6L engine that produces 197 hp and 202 lb-ft of torque. Plus, Ford isn't generally known for its handling dynamics like, say, BMW.

But, boy, get behind the wheel of this little rocket and mash the gas pedal, and you're treated to a brilliantly engineered, featherweight machine that sticks to the road like peanut butter on bread.

The wonderful driving dynamics of the ST are the result of a combination of several attributes done just right. Its light weight (2,564 lbs), potent engine that grants power at nearly any RPM level and lovely gearbox that allows for quick, crisp shifts makes for fast, thrilling acceleration. The lowered ride height, larger wheels, sticky tires and weighted steering makes it remarkably nimble around corners. And its new disc brakes allow the driver to slow down on a dime.

All in all, driving this car is a wonderfully fun experience. In fact, I think the lighter Fiesta ST is even more enjoyable than its big brother, the Focus ST, which is a great car in its own right. The designers and engineers at Ford have a real winner on their hands.

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Tech And Infotainment

Tech And Infotainment

What can be said about MyFord Touch that hasn't already been said? The system is not very good. Software updates have slightly improved its performance, but it's still laggy and unintuitive. 

I honestly like the idea behind the system, but it just doesn't work well enough to warrant any praise. As is the case with most Ford vehicles, infotainment holds the Fiesta ST back a bit.

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Bottom Line

Bottom Line

You want bang for your buck? You're looking at it. For a base price of $21,400 you get a phenomenal driving experience, great fuel economy, the versatility of a hatchback and sleek, attractive exterior.

My main problem with this car is the Recaro seats, which are wildly uncomfortable for daily driving. Sure, they're great for more aggressive driving on twisty roads, but if you're using this for a commute, back pain is in your future. Fortunately, the seats are part of a $1,995 option package that can be skipped.

MyFord Touch is still a problem, too. Opting for it virtually guarantees frustration and some all-too-aggressive button mashing.

In spite of those two issues, though, the Fiesta ST is still one of the best cars I've driven in quite a while. Along with vehicles like the Mini Cooper S and Fiat 500 Abarth, it sure doesn't look like much on paper, or even in person, but get behind the wheel and you'll see that you really don't need more than 200 hp to have loads of fun on the road.

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