Mark Slack tells us the latest news on all things motoring.
ROAD TEST: Ford Fiesta ST
Many car makers have legendary names on the rollcall of automotive history and Ford can claim more than a few. The Fiesta has been a familiar site on our roads for decades and with a myriad of body, trim and engine options it truly does offer something for everyone.
The halo model has to be the ST with its hardcore sporting looks, racy interior and an engine note to match. Classic fast Fords have been in the ascendancy for some years and with new fast Fords like the Fiesta ST it’s not hard to see why.
Range prices start from £16,140 for the lead-in Trend model and top out at £26,825 for the extreme ST Ford Performance Edition. The standard, if you can call them that given what they offer, ST models are offered in two trims simply named ST-1 and ST-2 priced at £21,775 and £24,325 respectively. The 3-door accounts for 65%
of sales and the remainder to the 5-door.
Power comes from a 3-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine that develops 200 hp and propels the car from 0 to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds, yet 40 mpg in combined driving shows just how useable the ST is in daily commuting.
Standard fare includes rear privacy glass, navigation, Recaro seats, air conditioning, a plethora of ST badges so you don’t forget you’re in the sporty version and selectable drive modes of normal, sport and track. The ST-3 costs approximately £2,500 more but you gain larger alloys, a posh Bang & Olufsen sound system, auto high beam lights, auto wipers and dimming mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, rear parking camera and sensors plus traffic sign recognition. It seems a good jump in specification for the additional cost.
On the road the ST is huge fun and a mark of its fast Ford credentials is that you don’t have to be tearing around at break neck speed for it to be fun. There’s a terrific exhaust note that’s enough without being OTT and a progressively hardcore transformation to the ride in sport and track mode. With 6 manual gears to work your way through it not only looks the part but very much drives it too.
It shares all the practical virtues of the more sedate Fiestas with space, folding seats and sensible running costs. The bright colours, snazzy interiors and driveability is what sets the ST apart.
The New Mini Countryman
The biggest and most versatile MINI, the Countryman, has received an update and new additions to its equipment.
In addition to a plug-in hybrid drive, the new Countryman is also available with
two petrol engines and one diesel engine ranging from 136hp to 178 hp. Turbo-charging is used in the 3-cylinder petrol engines and in the 4-cylinder petrol engine of the Cooper S version. ALL4 is an option for four engine variants and a standard feature of the plug-in hybrid model.
The redesign of the front section adds LED headlamps to the standard trim and adaptive LEDs as a newly added option. The range of body finishes includes newly added colours and a new Piano Black exterior dechroming option.
Depending on the model variant, the Countryman is fitted as standard with light alloy wheels in either 16 or 17-inch. Inside it has a versatile interior with three fully-fledged rear seats which fold down with a 40:20:40 split. The addition of new options of Chester Indigo Blue and Chester Malt Brown have been added to the selection of seat upholstery.
The new MINI Countryman is available in seven model variants and is priced from £23,500 RRP and available to order now.
ROAD TEST: Maserati’s Style Machine
Although it sounds a lot of money (it is!) spending nearly £55,000 on a car is not as difficult as one might imagine. Look at some Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz models and even a moderate amount of ticking in the option boxes can easily accelerate to a £50,000+ price tag. While any car with an Audi, BMW or Mercedes Benz moniker on the bonnet is an automotive powerhouse they are rather plentiful, especially lead-in models.
So, you might be surprised to hear that one of the most stylish Italian luxury car makers, with strong links to iconic motoring name Ferrari, can be bought new for similar money.
Maserati has been a fixture among the upper echelons of motoring desirability for many years and their stylish Ghibli saloon is on offer from £54,835. Somewhat of a bargain given the package and pedigree of the Maserati name and history.
Two petrol engines in two power outputs, and a diesel are on offer. The 350hp and 430 hp petrol units are 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 engines, the turbo diesel is also a 3.0 litre V6 and develops 275 hp.
Even in entry level form the Ghibli is a head turner bestowed with generous equipment levels and a level of detail that feels very bespoke. The powerful twin turbo 3.0 litre V6 engine propels the Ghibli past the benchmark 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 163 mph. It’s a delight with lots of power and a super soundtrack from the exhaust. Although not a priority with buyers, you would imagine, the fuel consumption is impressive with a combined figure of 31.7 mpg.
On the road the power feeds in smoothly and progressively in a refined and silent manner when in normal mode. The Ghibli remains composed and refined even at high speed and could easily prove a licence loser under inattentive hands. Use the sport mode and the car takes on a whole different persona. There’s an audible growl from the exhausts and with firmer suspension and sharper steering meaning the Ghibli handles impressively across country roads.
The Ghibli is an impressive machine with a pedigree matched by few rivals, performance that equals the best on offer and maximises on style and individuality. All of this at a price point starting at just under £55,000 makes it a surprising and little-known star of luxury performance motoring.