Just from the blasphemous headline, I can already hear the comments. “How could a front-wheel drive Ford hatchback even be compared to a legend like the E30 M3?!” or “You don’t know what you’re talking about, because you don’t share my opinion so you know nothing!”. The internet is a lovely place. However, this question hasn’t been posed by yours truly, but by Road & Track instead. So all negative comments go to them…
Actually, it’s a very interesting question because if you look at both cars on paper, they’re remarkably similar. While the BMW E30 M3 is probably one of the greatest driving cars in the history of the four-wheeled automobile, the Ford Fiesta ST matches it in terms of engine layout, power, weight and performance figures. The only real differences between the Fiesta ST and E30 M3 are the fact that the Fiesta ST is a turbocharged, front-wheel drive hatchback, while the E30 M3 is a naturally-aspirated, rear-wheel drive coupe.
But where things matter most, from behind the wheel, the two cars are more similar than many fans would like to admit. This was found out by R&T taking both cars to the track and seeing how they stack up against each other. While the Fiesta ST wasn’t exactly stock, as it had an aftermarket tune, it was running 87 octane gas which actually hindered its performance a bit, so the power outputs were pretty similar.
On the track, the Ford Fiesta ST was in the E30 M3’s pocket. While the Fiesta ST could never actually pass the E30 M3, as the Bimmer was far too quick through corners for it, it certainly stayed on its tail throughout the entire day. But pure performance and track numbers only matter so much, because they only give a glimpse of a cars performance that will rarely be used. How fun they are to drive is far more important and this is where the two get really close.
While the E30 M3 still has near-perfect steering, perfect 50/50 weight distribution and possible the best sports saloon chassis ever built, the Ford Fiesta ST is almost as good at putting a grin on its driver’s face, with super-fast steering, a raucous little turbocharged engine and a chuckable demeanor. Both cars are tossable and fun to drive in small packages. Where the E30 M3 can hang its tail out and be throttle-adjustable mid corner, the Fiesta ST clings on through corners with the ability to tighten its line with the throttle. Plus, you can even get a wheel off the ground through corners in a Fiesta ST, if you’re brave enough.
Is the Ford Fiesta ST the truest of E30 M3 successors? No, probably not. That designation probably lies in the BMW 1 Series M or M2. But it’s damn close and it’s a helluva lot cheaper than any of the alternatives. While it does so in a a very different way, the Ford Fiesta ST can provide the same sort of fun-to-drive spirit as the E30 M3 for a fraction of the price.
[Source: Road & Track]