Okay, put down the pitchforks and torches for a minute while I explain. I test drove a Fiesta ST today, the holy grail of opposite lock. The hot hatch that makes other hot hatches cold by comparison. The choice of so many opponauts that we might as well call ourselves the FiST forum.
Given the way this car is talked about on here, I expected to be blown away. I was afraid to drive it if I'm honest, afraid I'd like it so much I'd commit seppuku for having purchased a Sonic RS only a few weeks before the Fiesta ST hit dealerships. I was afraid that I'd like it so much I'd have to take a huge financial hit on a trade in deal just to have one in my garage.
Fortunately for me, that didn't happen, and I'm going to carefully explain why.
First, lets discuss the cars in question. The FiST I drove was a Green Envy with cloth seats, nardo grey wheel package, sunroof, and navigation. You know the story but I'll repeat it really quickly: 197 hp, 214 lb-ft torque from a 1.6L Ecoboost engine moving the 2720 pound hatchback through the front wheels.
The FiST was challenging my personal car: a 2013 Black Granite Metallic Chevy Sonic RS
Those of you that frequent oppo know it well, but lets recap. Off the showroom floor the Sonic RS has a 138 hp, 148 lb-ft torque 1.4L Ecotec engine moving 2811 pounds through the front wheels. However, as those who know me are aware, mine is not exactly in showroom condition. I have added the following:
ZZP Stainless Catback Exhaust w/ Muffler (note the price has increased since I purchased it)
I haven't dyno'd my car, but other people with similar bolt ons have. I haven't run 93 octane, but figure I'm close to Trifecta's numbers which puts me at ~155 whp and 193 wtq. She's a bit down on power, sure, but boy does that torque number look good…
So now that we've introduced our contenders, lets go through some comparisons. I'll try to keep the non-driving points short, but feel free to skip down to them. I don't blame you.
Reviewing appearance is always annoying. It's very subjective by nature, and in this comparison it's pretty clear that I'm going to be biased. That being said, the Sonic is a better looking car. Fact.
The Fiesta exudes an air of catfish. I'm sorry, I know that I've probably beaten this joke to death, but seriously: it looks like a god damned catfish, wiskers and all
The Sonic doesn't. It has kickass round exposed headlights with matching round lights in the back. It's also slightly wider which gives it a nice stance when viewed from the front or back. Then there's the doors: The FiST has 4 doors with normal door handles, while the Sonic hides the rear door well, giving it the appearance of a 3 door.
This is still a bit of a subjective thing, but I think the Sonic interior looks and feels better overall
Ford's interior styling has bothered me recently. Driving both back to back made me realize something though: I would like the Fiesta interior 10x more if the center console was more like the one in the Fusion or Edge, rather than looking like the Xenomorph from Alien exploding out of the car's chest
The picture doesn't really make it very clear, but the way the radio controls jut out makes the cabin feel more cramped than it should. Speaking of cramped, the Fiesta feels quite a bit smaller inside, which is weird because it really isn't. The Sonic is a bit bigger in front, but not a whole lot. In back though, the Sonic is actually measurably and noticeably roomier.
Interesting observation about armrests: the fiesta has a nice pad on the door, whereas the sonic has hard plastic. That's my biggest gripe about the Sonic, if that door panel was padded like the Fiesta it would be a million times better. Another complaint I've had about the Sonic is the useless drivers seat armrest in the center: it's attached to the seat and folds down for the driver only, and it's too short and too narrow to be useful. I leave it up. The Fiesta has a center console storage container, but it's too far back to be useful! I drove around in the Fiesta exactly the same as I do in the Sonic, only my left elbow was slightly more comfortable.
The seats? This was where the Fiesta fell flat on its face. These cloth seats suck.
They're a bit hard. The bolstering is fine but it's not very comfortable It feels cheap, and doesn't look very good either.
On the contrary, the RS seats are amazing. They look incredible with a red RS stitched into the suede insert in the seat back, and an RS logo embossed in the seat bottom. They are super soft and comfortable with ample bolstering that isn't invasive like the Recaro seats in the ST's
This is a big problem to me with the ST. I can't find the Recaro's comfortable, but the alternative is worse. I'd have to get the Recaro's, and while I'm sure I'd get used to them I really wish there was something in between. Leather seats laid out like the cloth ones would be fine, with a little more padding to make it less like sitting on a park bench.
I don't like the steering wheel in the FiST much either. It feels big and cheap, compared to the soft leather wrapped steering wheel the Sonic borrows from the Camaro ZL1
Enough about that, lets get to the meat: how do they drive, and how was I not amazed by the FiST?
In this part of the country acceleration is important. The roads are straight and flat, so most of the time the only fun you can have is being thrown back into your seat as you tear away from a light.
With 194 HP on tap I expected the Fiesta to blow me away. This was where I expected the FiST to truly outshine the Sonic. I mean really, optimistically I have about 160 HP, a full 30 less than the FiST, and I weigh about 100 pounds more. Surely the Fiesta would feel like a rocket.
I gave it the beans a few times, and barely even cracked a smile. 'Eh' is about how I'd describe it. It's quick, but it doesn't really feel that quick. Power delivery is very linear, and while it certainly gets going quickly and pulls well in all gears, it just didn't feel that fast.
Stock, the Sonic doesn't even hold a candle to the FiST. Frankly it's a bit anemic. Tuned is a different story. Around 3000 RPM you really cross the boost threshold and get thrown back as the car hits 22 pounds of boost. When you hit 5500 RPM or so you let off to a resounding 'pshhhht' from the BPV, then give it gas again. The boost comes on and you get thrown back again.
The Fiesta may have more horsepower, but when it comes to torque the Sonic is mighty close to the Fiesta. That's noticeable, and frankly because of the way the Sonic develops power it feels a heck of a lot faster. I know it isn't faster, I know the Fiesta gets to 60 sooner and does the ¼ mile quicker, but it doesn't really feel that way, it doesn't feel as fun. The Sonic makes me giggle every time I really give it the beans.
Strangely that means in my comparison I actually give the Sonic the edge, even though it's slower. It's just more fun, and that's what a hot hatch is all about.
They have brakes. I honestly didn't try slamming on the brakes in the Fiesta, but it stops. So does the Sonic.
Okay, I'll concede: the Fiesta handles better. It's pretty damn fun. Corners flat, has a nice bit of looseness in the tail, steering feels great. With that said though, the Sonic is no slouch. There's a bit more body roll and the steering isn't quite as good. If I lived near great driving roads I'd prefer the Fiesta, but for the occasional autocross I feel like the Sonic is good enough. It's still a blast, and while it may not be as fast in corners it gets a little bit more of that 'slow car fast' fun. I definitely still give the nod to the FiST, but that's not to knock down the Sonic at all. Maybe some new springs are due soon…
While the FiST handles better, it comes at the expense of a somewhat rougher ride. Only a little bit though, and frankly the seats are probably largely to blame here. The Sonic is softer, but it's still a small cheap hatchback with sporty suspension, so it's no Lexus.
Again, FiST wins here. It's a great gearbox. Notchy shifts, fantastic clutch, better pedal placement. The Sonic is okay, I'll report again once I get a short shifter in the relatively near future.
There's a nice rumble in the FiST, but it almost feels artificial. I know Ford works some voodoo magic to get more engine noise in the cabin, and maybe I'm just imagining things but it made it feel like the sound was coming from the wrong place. I can't quite explain it but it felt a bit off, even if it did sound good. There's zero turbo noise though, and that's unfortunate. Nothing. No spooling turbo, no whooshing air, no blow off...I want to know it's a turbo, because turbo engines are awesome.
My Sonic is very clearly a turbo. You hear the air rush in under power and get a resounding blow off when you let off. It's so much fun. Plus the ZZP catback sounds great, nice and throaty without being too loud, and in the right conditions you get a bit of burble. It's not as good as an Abarth, but I like it a lot. My Sonic wins here
The Fiesta has more of them, but only just. Push button start is neat, built in navigation is nice, automatic climate control is great. I still prefer MyLink to Sync though, and manual keys and climate control aren't the end of the world. The FiST wins here, but it should: it costs more
Ah yes, value. The FiST I drove stickered at $24,755. My Sonic's sticker was $21,220. That's a difference of $3,535. That's a pretty significant difference, and my Sonic came with those kickass leather seats. If I want nav it's a $50 app, and while I lack a sunroof at least I have kickass leather seats.
But of course, this Sonic isn't stock. Add the $190 intake, the $360 exhaust, and the $315 tune and you've added $865, which is a heaping...well, still not the $3,535 it would take to get the FiST. Add some new springs for $300 or so and a short shifter for $200 and you've still got a solid $2300 before you match that FiST.
And before you say 'but Ford is offering discounts and special financing', realize that Ford isn't the only one offering it. I certainly didn't pay sticker price, and there's no reason you would.
Oh, and both get about the same MPG if you're into that sort of thing
If you've stayed with me so far, thank you. What did I take away from all this?
First of all, the Fiesta ST is a fantastic little car. It really is, and I certainly didn't write this intending to bash it or steer anyone away from one. That being said, it's not the only option you have in this market.
The Sonic RS tends to be overlooked on numbers alone, and what I hope I've demonstrated here is that it shouldn't be. That's not to say you should buy one, but if you do you certainly haven't gone wrong. It's a fantastic little car in its own right.
Another interesting takeaway from this is the value of modifying a car. The Sonic is alright stock, but a few bolt-ons brought it up to snuff with easily the best performing car in the class, but more importantly they made it my own. It's my Sonic RS, not just a Sonic RS. My Sonic is a ton of fun to drive. My Sonic accelerates like a bat out of hell. My Sonic looks damn fine during the few moments it's clean.
I love my Sonic, and ultimately that's all that matters. I'd probably say the same thing if I had bought a Fiesta. Drive what you love no matter what anyone else says, and don't feel pressured to pick a car just because everyone on here seems to love it. When it comes time to shop for a car, don't overlook a car just because it's numbers don't seem impressive. You just might come away surprised.