Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your pals at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used car deal.

The warm weather is moving in. For some of you, that means the time is right to seek out a new-ish springtime ride, and perhaps one that’s built to thrill on the relative cheap.

This was, of course, the mission statement of the Ford Fiesta ST: it packed a great price-to-performance quotient when new; and as a used buy, the Fiesta ST takes that even further with affordable pricing and solid-looking reliability.

The Sticky

Unlike the more mainstream Fiesta model your librarian drives, the hopped-up Fiesta ST targeted enthusiasts with goodies like bolstered-to-the-nines Recaro seats, red brakes, a 200-horsepower turbo engine, lowered and stiffened suspension, and no shortage of hot-hatch cosmetics. Stickier rubber, special badging, ST-specific intake and exhaust provisions, and no shortage of exciting paint colours helped round out the package.

If you need to clear the purchase of such a hot-hatch with an apprehensive significant other, fear not: the Fiesta ST is highly sensible. It’s easy on gas, has a flexible cargo hold, and can be relatively easily set up to haul around anything you like: two occupants and a weekend’s worth of camping gear plus a canine? A family of four (with two smaller kids)? One person and a track day’s worth of wheels, tires, brake pads, and a cooler full of ham sandwiches (because track day is hungry work)? No problemo.

Look for features like Ford Sync, push-button ignition, automatic lights, keyless access, a back-up camera, a power moonroof, and more.

Owners appreciated a very precise and eager feel to much of the Fiesta ST’s driving experience, and appreciated a nicely tuned feel to the steering, brakes, clutch, shifter and ride.

Approximate New Value

When new, Fiesta ST came priced from the mid-twenties, and a few options were available to drive that figure up slightly, too – including premium audio provisions, the sunroof, and the navigation system. Options for customization were fairly minimal, which makes shopping pretty easy. Selection is fairly generous in the used market too – though be patient if you’re after a specific colour or option.

 

Approximate Used Value

If you don’t mind a few miles on your Fiesta ST, then you’ll find units like this, this, and this, each of which comes in around $14,000 with reasonable, but widely varying mileage. Cheaper units can be had too, typically with higher mileage and/or some non-factory add-ons, which seem to decrease resale value, slightly. Units like this and are two good examples. If your budget is a little bigger, then models like this and this give you access to a lightly used Fiesta ST for a decent savings over going new.

For $14,000–$18,000, you can find plenty of used Fiesta ST examples that have plenty of life remaining.

Test Drive Tips

Start by approaching any used Fiesta ST assuming that it needs four new tires, a full brake job, a full fluid change, and a new clutch, until you confirm otherwise. Now’s the time to make sure the seller isn’t trying to stick you with an upcoming expense.

 

If you’re not sure how to confirm that the tires, brakes and clutch are healthy, seek out a professional pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a Ford technician ahead of your purchase, for maximum peace of mind. This highly affordable inspection can save you thousands of dollars in upcoming repair or replacement part costs, or confirm that the vehicle is in excellent shape. A PPI by a Ford technician is the best thing you can do before buying a used Fiesta ST.

The average shopper should avoid a model that’s currently modified with non-factory parts (or has ever been), and especially if those parts are attached to, or modify the operation of, the ST’s engine.

Chips, tunes, and upgraded turbochargers should be avoided, unless you’re up on the world of Fiesta ST tuning. In some cases, these upgrades can be a lot of fun. In others, they can turn your engine into a boat anchor with little notice. Stick to stock for minimized likelihood of having to deal with someone else’s headaches. Also, note that the powertrain warranty (if still in effect) will not cover damage caused by the use of non-factory parts or electronics. Also, dealers can often detect the presence of these modifications, even if they’re removed before a warranty claim is made.

 

Elsewhere, note that unwanted popping, clunking, or banging sounds from beneath the vehicle on rougher surfaces typically indicates the need to replace one or more worn-out suspension parts. Similarly, unwanted sounds or sensations when quickly shifting gears at higher revs (including a clunking sound from near your feet), may indicate a problem with a motor mount, or even the transmission itself. If you hear any unwelcomed sounds, delay your purchase until a professional has investigated.

Numerous owners have reported issues with climate control fans, which seem likely to conk out and stop working, often on the coldest day of the year. Some owners pre-emptively replace their climate control blower fans with new and updated units to avoid this problem. Dealers may be able to perform Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) TSB18-2024 (ask your Ford service advisor), which specifies corrective action to fix this problem, though many owners say you’ll have to wait until the fan actually dies to have this work performed. Note that in most reported cases, the blower fan kicks the bucket in the middle of winter.

 

Try all power windows, confirming proper operation. If you note any issues, the windows likely need to be reset, which is easy to do in about 30 seconds with no tools. Triple check that the Ford Sync system works without crashing or lagging, and confirm that the head-unit is running the latest software updates to prevent possible problems.

Finally, though we don’t recommend buying any used car without full service records, remember that a full fluid change, filter change, and tune-up can go a long way towards long-term durability and reliability. If you’re unable to determine which of Fiesta ST’s fluids and filters need changing, budgeting to change them all is a great idea. Fresh fluids and filters are the life-blood of any vehicle, and are worthy of extra care in a higher-performing car like this one.

Verdict

A well-maintained, factory-stock Fiesta ST should give you access to a thrilling and largely trouble-free driving experience, at a highly reasonable price. Plus, as a small hatchback, this one’s handy, flexible, and easy to live with, every day of the year.