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Ford has been graced with our Automotive of the 12 months tag seven occasions, and of these, 4 had been sizzling hatches. That is their story

The story of the Ford sizzling hatch over the previous 30 years doesn’t begin with any of those vehicles. Its genesis, I’d argue, was the Puma. Or the fourth era Fiesta. And even the primary Mondeo. All drove with a sweetness absent from some other extraordinary automotive. They had been the mid-Nineties inkling that Ford had good things coming down the pipe. It simply wanted to understand that sizzling hatches, insured into oblivion a decade earlier, had been ripe for a comeback. 

They’ve been, properly, not a lot coming again as coming atcha, for the previous 20 years. Automobiles ok to earn our ‘finest automotive of the 12 months’ tag 4 occasions. Oddly maybe, I feel there’s extra DNA between first and final right here than between any others. The ultimate Fiesta ST goes out packing an identical punch to the place the unique Focus RS got here in. Entrance-wheel drive, about 200bhp, Quaife limited-slip differential and a entrance finish with a pitbull’s tenacity. It had gained a measure of civility, although. 

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Has any automotive ever sat higher on its wheels than the 2003 Ford Focus RS? These OZ Racing starfish alloys set the entire thing off completely. And inform a narrative. They’re clearly not generic Ford wheels. No, they’re extra akin to the edges worn by the Focus WRC automotive campaigned by Colin McRae. And that’s as a result of it was a rallying tribute act: Recaro seats, Sachs dampers, Quaife differential, OZ wheels, AP Racing clutch, Brembo brakes. It was extra skunkworks than thought-about product plan and drove like that as properly. 

It was full on. The steering was a wrestle below energy, the suspension stiff, it was a demanding machine, felt prefer it needed to be tearing aside a tarmac stage. God, it was enjoyable. 

What it revealed was that whereas the on a regular basis Fords had been supple and fluent, the recent ones had extra edge to them. That automotive had essentially the most fringe of all, however the 2013 Fiesta ST wasn’t far adrift. This was the recent Ford supermini we’d been wanting so badly. Its predecessor, 2005’s boxy Fiesta ST150, had fractionally pulled its punches, however Ford didn’t make that mistake with its alternative in 2013. 

Personally I feel the sixth-gen Fiesta ST is pretty much as good because it received. OK, it’s a stiff little tyke and doesn’t eat distance with relish, however level it at any roundabout and it is aware of exactly what to do: dive on in, grip like burned scrambled egg and wag a wheel within the air prefer it simply don’t care. It’s addictive. It inflicts itself on you and someplace deep in your enjoyable centre there’s a response over which you haven’t any management. You’ll hoot and gurgle on the perfection with which this Fiesta ST tackles tight corners. The steering is taut, the turbocharged 1.6 keen and keen. It’s so interesting. 

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From 2016 you possibly can have it with a diff. As if it wanted extra traction. However so full was that automotive that when its alternative arrived a few years later, I used to be barely underwhelmed. It felt a fraction extra synthetic, the three cylinder was good however the noise was piped in, the engine was gradual dropping revs. Besides, it was in a category of its personal, a little bit automotive that knew precisely how one can have interaction and entertain. Ok for the Fiesta ST to earn the crown once more – one in every of solely two different vehicles right here to win high spot greater than as soon as. One was the Honda Civic Sort R, the opposite, clearly,  was the Ford Focus RS. It had turn into fairly a unique automotive between 2003 and 2016, although. A era had handed, the place the Focus RS retained entrance drive, went muscular, however misplaced its sharp edge. When it got here again the sting had been reinstated, but it surely had been achieved with artifice. That is The One With Drift Mode. 

Ford, in frequent with nearly everybody else except Honda, had realised that after you’re a lot above 300bhp, you want 4WD if you wish to come out of corners efficiently fairly than visiting no matter hedge is on the skin. This had 345bhp courtesy of a 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine from the Mustang. It was additionally fitted with a pair of GKN clutch packs that enabled it to vector torque rearwards after which direct all of that to whichever wheel it noticed match. 

This captured everybody’s consideration, with the predictable outcomes nonetheless simply viewable on YouTube. However Drift mode was nothing greater than a distraction from what was essentially the most succesful sizzling hatch Ford had ever constructed. Yeah, it may do with enjoyable extra, truly sinking into its spring journey a bit, and there’s that very same sense of slight artifice that reoccurred within the Fiesta a few years later. However that is bighearted, a proper snort, all the time offers its all. It’s a automotive you construct a simple rapport with as a result of it’s all the time there, nudging you within the ribs and reminding you that you simply’re having a good time. 

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And that’s what all of those vehicles achieve this properly and have achieved so constantly over most of TopGear journal’s lengthy lifespan. I can’t fairly consider that Ford has killed off the Fiesta, that the Focus dies in a few years. That appears vanishingly shortsighted to me. As if Ford hasn’t bothered making an attempt to influence individuals to purchase vehicles like this, however has as an alternative instantly rolled over and capitulated to the crossover. Not solely does that certainly jar with Henry’s ‘they’ll purchase what I inform ’em’ mantra (encapsulated within the ‘any color you want, as long as it’s black’ legend of the Mannequin T), but it surely means we’ll forevermore be denied the Blue Oval’s sizzling hatchbacks. And that’s one thing I’m unsure I’ll ever be resolved to. 

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