ANN ARBOR — (WWJ) Ford is adding a dose of power to its subcompact Fiesta, as the Fiesta ST performance version starts to arrive at dealerships.

“The Fiesta ST is a different car from the base Fiesta,” said Fiesta marketing manager Liz Elser. “It’s different from the exterior. It’s different from the interior.“

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The main difference is in driving dynamics, with a 197 horsepower, 1.6 liter EcoBoost engine, along with performance brakes, and 17 inch wheels.
Elser says Ford is targeting young buyers, particularly young men.

“They are the ones that follow the rally cross racing,” she said. “They love Ken Block and all of those action sports idols. They want something with more power, and a lot more fun, but also a daily driver.”

Ford’s Fiesta ST has been on sale in Europe since the spring.

“It’s been an absolute runaway sales success, as well as a critical success,” said Jamal Hameedi, Ford’s chief engineer for performance vehicles. “It’s been put up against the cream of the crop in Europe… and it’s come out on top in just about all of its comparison tests.“

Ford’s latest strategy is to build cars in one part of the world, and sell them with minor variations globally. Hameedi says the Fiesta ST is the perfect example of leveraging this strategy.

“The Fiesta ST was developed in Europe alongside the mainstream Fiesta. It was developed once for 40 markets around the world.”

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Ford allowed journalists take the Fiesta ST on a quick spin near Ann Arbor. The very brief drive showed a vehicle that had impressive acceleration, and a smooth manual transmission, along with a more aggressive look, inside and out.

Ford will be selling the Fiesta ST in a number of unique colors, including something called “Milton Orange” that is only available on performance vehicles.

They also want drivers to hear the sound of the Fiesta ST’s performance. So, Ford’s created a special symposer that pipes the proper engine sound back into a passenger cabin that’s ordinarily designed to be quiet.

“You want a little more visceral experience,” said engineer Tim Smith. “You want to know what’s going on under the hood. We need something to bring that back.”

The Fiesta has helped Ford capture a lot of buyers who had never considered the brand before, particularly on the west coast. Marketing manager Liz Elser says the new generation of the vehicle is off to a good start.

“It’s delivering a young, millennial buyer, at the highest rate for all the Ford vehicles,” she said. “It’s 25 percent millennial. Also first time buyers, it’s our highest rate. It’s also a great conquest vehicle for us. It’s the highest non hybrid conquest vehicle.“

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AutoBeat Reporter
Twitter: @jefferygilbert