Although the Fiesta ST-Line mimics many of the visual elements of the Fiesta ST, these two trims have lots of differences underneath.
This Party’s Over: The End of the Fiesta
If you live in the United States, you’re no longer able to find a brand-new Ford Fiesta ST. With the car being discontinued after the 2019 model year, enthusiasts will have to turn to the used market if they want to find the feisty runabout racer. This is a result of Ford ending U.S. sales of all small cars excluding the Mustang; the Focus, Fusion, C-Max, and Taurus have also been axed.
The exteriors of the Fiesta ST-Line and Fiesta ST are extremely similar. However, the ST-Line can be differentiated by its 10-spoke wheels, black roof, and black rear wing.
Those that live across the pond in the U.K. and other European countries were graced with a redesigned Focus and Fiesta for 2018. The Fiesta ST has been around since launch, and there’s a new 2019 Focus ST using the 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine that launched in the summer of 2019. It’s possible that other non-U.S. countries around the globe may soon see these models, including Australia, who is slated for the Fiesta ST and Focus ST in June 2020 after a series of delays.
Stateside, the Focus is already toast. We received just one more year of the Fiesta, for model year 2019. So what is the Ford Fiesta ST-line? Is it a heroic, final send-off to the track-eating go-kart that is so beloved by enthusiasts, or an all-show, no-go attempt to clear out the old ST body and trim parts bins with some slick marketing?
Unfortunately, the barometer is pointing much more towards the latter.
We’re not here to bash the non-performance Fiesta. In fact, as basic transportation for around $10,000, it’s a fantastic, economical option for many drivers. But a car should be what it is, philosophically speaking. A lot of drivers see it as disheartening that the Fiesta ST-Line dressed up to the nines, pretending to be something that it very much is not, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Sadly, Ford is not the only company to try this marketing strategy, and they certainly weren’t the first. Audi and BMW have been at it for a while with their S-line and M Sport cars, respectively. Even Hyundai is watering down their performance N cars for some N-line variants that are different only in cosmetics. In short, beware of any trim level with the word “line” in it.
Fiesta ST-Line vs Fiesta ST Comparison and Differences
Though the ST-Line seats are based on the ST's, they are unique in appearance and feature a nice pop of red contrast stitching.
The ST-Line does not receive the turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission, or sport suspension of the fun-loving Fiesta ST. It also retains the rear drum brakes of lesser Fiestas, and the 4-wheel disc brakes cannot be added. In short, it does not get any of the performance parts that define the Fiesta ST’s amazing personality and make it what it is. You also don’t get a push-button start, 6-way manual driver’s seat, or Sony 8-speaker audio system.
Fortunately, Ford did not put ST badging on the grille or trunk, making it easier to differentiate these models (until somebody adds aftermarket badging). There’s just a subtle “ST-Line” badge on the fenders to let people know what you really have.
The Fiesta ST-Line comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission (unlike the 6-speed offered in the ST), and an optional 6-speed automatic, which is Ford’s much-maligned PowerShift transmission. At least there is the choice of a stick shift. The tires are the same as you would get on a Fiesta SE if you opt for the 16-inch wheel upgrade. The bodywork of the Fiesta ST-Line means that, like the ST, it’s just a bit longer than a regular Fiesta hatchback. Likewise, it’s also nearly an inch shorter because it’s lowered as well.
Though both are black, the optional 17" premium 5-spoke wheels of the ST are immediately differentiated from the 16" 10-spoke variants on the ST-Line, especially by the red brake calipers..
The ST-Line Fiesta is available in just four colors: Shadow Black, Oxford White, Outrageous Green, and Hot Pepper Red. The last two cost extra and all four colors are actually available on the Fiesta SE. Colors like Lightning Blue and Bohai Bay Mint from the regular Fiestas are not available on the ST-Line, nor is the ST’s signature Orange Spice.
A counterpoint to the argument that the Fiesta ST-Line is just a parts-bin car is that the seats are actually not (exactly) the same as the ones used in the Fiesta ST. The ST-Line seats are unique to the variant and feature a pretty cool-looking pattern with red contrast stitching (as opposed to the ST’s silver stitching). These are one of the more convincing buying arguments for the ST-Line. They’re still clearly derived from the base-level Fiesta ST seats, and the partial-leather Recaros (in gray or the glorious Molten Orange trim) are not an option on the ST-Line. You can get heated seats if you opt for the Cold Weather Package, however, which is not an option on the ST’s base seats.
Apart from this package, the only other options for the ST-Line are a power moonroof, navigation system, and smoker’s package.
Fiesta ST-Line vs “Regular” Fiesta SE Comparison
As an ultra-affordable commuter car, the Ford Fiesta SE hatchback offers a lot. The ST-Line offers some additional features, but the "regular" version will appeal more to those who desire a more subtle and tradtitional appearance.
It’s clear that the ST-Line doesn’t compete with the ST's performance, but how does it look next to a normal Fiesta? If you’d like to compare the new ST-Line to a “regular”, run-of-the-mill Fiesta, it makes sense to look at the Fiesta SE hatchback. This is a more apt comparison than the barebones Fiesta S which only comes as a sedan, and the ST-Line is only about $2,000 more than the SE hatch. The new ST-Line mostly fills the gap left by the cancelled Titanium trim line.
A big benefit for the ST-Line is that it comes standard with SYNC 3, which is a $995 option on the Fiesta SE. This alone helps to make up about half of the price difference between these two trims. If you don't opt for the SYNC 3 upgrade on the SE, you'll get the basic SYNC system with a 4.2-inch color display.
The ST-Line also comes standard with many features that are optional on the SE from the 201A appearance package, including ambient lighting and fog lamps, not to mention sport seats and 16” wheels (though the style of these are unique to the ST-Line).
Some of the notable ST-Line features that aren’t available at all the “regular” hatchback Fiesta SE include:
- ST-type front fascia and black grille
- ST-type rear diffuser and side rocker moldings
- Shadow Black rear spoiler
- Shadow Black roof and side mirror caps
- Unique 16-inch 10 spoke black-painted aluminum wheels
- Cloth front sport seats with ST-Line logo, with driver’s seat manual lumbar
- Sound symposer
- Aluminum sport pedal covers
- Carpeted front (red accent stitching) and rear floor mats
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel (red accent stitching) and shift knob (manual)
- Front door sill scuff plates with ST-Line logo
- Dual chrome-tip exhaust
In fact, that exhaust does seem to give the ST-Line a bit more of a sporty rasp compared to the Fiesta SE, and maybe even a few pops. While the power isn’t there, this is still a small car that handles well and can be relatively fun as far as economy cars go.
Another modest benefit, or at least a small quirk worth noting, is that the ST-Line is somehow 20 lbs lighter than a regular Fiesta SE. This is despite adding a spoiler and additional bodywork.
The ST-Line is listed on Ford’s website as having a noticeably smaller trunk than the Fiesta SE (10.1 vs 14.9 cubic ft), as is the case with the ST. However, this does not seem to be the case in real life. The Fiesta ST does have a higher load floor because of its full-size spare tire, reducing cargo space. However, the ST-Line seems to have the lower floor and larger cargo area, the same as the SE.
But despite how different they look on the outside, you’re still getting the same engine, transmission, tires, and driving experience between the two...minus the sport seats that hug you just a bit more.
Well-Targeted Demographic or Scattershot Marketing?
These optional Molten Orange Recaro race seats really transform the cabin of the Fiesta ST, but are not available in the ST-Line.
So, who is the Fiesta ST-Line for? In terms of target demographic, the Fiesta ST enthusiast community certainly isn’t going to be fooled by the flashy body additions and sportier seats. If I had to hazard a guess, there are two groups of people who will purchase the ST-Line. The first is younger buyers, those in late high school or college, who want a sporty-looking car that will be affordable. More importantly, it also won’t break the bank in terms of car insurance payments.
The second group of people is those who are in fact looking for a basic commuter car and get up-sold by a salesperson on the lot. The extra flash of the exterior and the cool seats might be enough to sway some consumers to pay the extra few grand for the ST-Line. Especially when a smooth-talking salesperson assures them that their monthly payments will hardly go up at all, and “look how many more features you get!”
Sunset of an Era
At the end of the day, the Ford Fiesta ST-Line is exactly what Ford says it is - “inspired by performance”, in a time when inspiration is only skin-deep. Many will see it as the quintessential poseur, designed to have “serious visual swagger” that will “get plenty of notice” but with no guts to back it up (all quotations are from Ford’s 2019 Fiesta marketing brochure). Response from the performance-focused community, as you can imagine, has not been super positive or appreciative on the whole.
But perhaps we’re too harsh on it. Criticizing and nitpicking from behind a keyboard is too often easy and of little real value. Taking the time to appreciate automobiles, their unique characteristics, design, craftsmanship, and purpose in the greater scheme of things, is a better way to be an appreciative car enthusiast.
And this car isn’t for the enthusiast community, any more than a minivan is. Maybe we really should let the driver of a given car pick an automobile that is visually appealing to them, no matter what’s underneath the hood. Maybe a 2019 Fiesta ST-Line will be the first step in introducing someone to the Ford Performance community, even if it’s in watered-down form. Maybe it will put a smile on the owner’s face when they see it and get them from Point A to Point B, and that’s all that matters when it comes down to it.
Value-wise, the Fiesta ST-Line actually looks to be a noticeably better buy than the Fiesta SE, at least on paper. The added features can give you a more comfortable and enjoyable driving experience at a great price...as long as you’re ok with the occasional side-eye from a Fiesta ST owner.
2019 Fiesta Trim Comparison
||2019 Fiesta SE Hatch
||2019 Fiesta ST-Line
||2019 Fiesta ST
|Horsepower + Engine
||120hp, inline 4-cylinder
||120hp, inline 4-cylinder
||197 hp, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
||5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic
||5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic
||2,537 lbs (manual)
||30/35 hwy/27 city (man)
||30/35 hwy/27 city (man)
||28/32 hwy/28 city
|Cargo Volume Behind 2nd Row
||14.9 cubic ft
||14.9 cubic ft (inferred; Ford says 10.1 cubic ft)
||10.1 cubic ft
Image Credit: Ford | Car and Driver | carsguide AU