Not long at all, but just enough to know that it's pretty fun behind the wheel.
Here's the lowdown: myself and Autobytel writer, noted Opponaut and Focus ST owner Juan Barnett, aka the DC Auto Geek, went to a sort of "media day" at the Ecoboost Challenge at FedEx Field on Friday. (It's open to the public today, so feel free to go check it out.)
It was just Juan and I, and a few local car dealers, and they set up a kind of impromptu autocross course in a parking lot where we got to hoon the Fiesta ST and Focus ST. The course was relatively short, and basically idiot-proof. They had green cones set up telling you where to enter and exit, and you never got out of second gear the entire time. (In fact, they were very adamant that we not upshift past second.)
I didn't really get as much in-car time as I would have liked. I did a few laps in each car, but then they shut the whole thing down because of a looming thunderstorm that turned out to be pretty nasty.
At first, they seemed okay with us taking the cars out on public roads, and I hoped I could do that long enough to bring you a full review, but they later said that wasn't happening.
Anyway, here's my thoughts, based on what limited experience I had behind the wheel:
The Fiesta ST is remarkably fun. It doesn't have the Fiat 500 Abarth's insane sound, but it is faster, handles better, and is more practical. It's also louder than the Focus ST. The little car is agile as fuck, and it was more fun to put through the course by virtue of its smaller size.
The Focus ST is bigger (obviously) and more powerful (also obviously), and it's more willing to rotate its tail end under hard cornering. Surprisingly so for a front-wheel drive car. But it's also more forgiving than the Fiesta ST, easier to drive at speed.
The Fiesta ST felt like it had just a bit more body roll, but I think the cornering differences had more to do with its smaller size than anything. It was generally more challenging to throw through the course, but that was what made it more enjoyable to me. I know that this is the most overused trope in all of autojournalism-ism, but the Fiesta ST feels like a go kart. It really does. It's the closest I've come to experiencing a kart in car form in a good while.
Also, I'd have to confirm this, but it seems like they fixed the Recaros on the Fiesta ST. By that I mean they aren't as insanely and uncomfortably bolstered as the Focus ST. Sorry guys, I love me some Recaros, but I can't breathe when I sit in the focus. The Fiesta's seats held me in good and tight without being too harsh.
So which would I pick? They're not really that far off in price. I'd say I would find the Focus ST's massive amount of power to be more useful and fun in everyday situations, but the Fiesta ST is more of the track warrior of the two. They're both great in their own ways, but they were surprisingly different. I can't wait to bring you a full review of the Fiesta ST at some point.
Anyway, if you're in the DC-Maryland area, feel free to check out the event. It's going all over the country through the end of summer. Hopefully you'll get more seat time than I did.