Ford vs. Toyota in new hot hatch battle

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Toyota / Ford

Ford and Toyota are facing off with the two of the smallest, hottest hatches ever seen.

In the Blue (Oval) corner we have the new Ford Fiesta ST Edition—a limited-run, Nürburgring-developed machine targeted at Ford Performance fans. In the other corner it’s the Toyota GR Yaris—a rally weapon the likes of which hasn’t appeared since the days of Group A homologation specials like the Ford Escort Cosworth and Lancia Delta HF Integrale.

The Fiesta’s party piece is its adjustable coilover suspension, which offers 12 bump settings and 16 rebound settings; it also lowers the car by a half-inch or so. The ST wears lighter 18-inch alloy wheels and has a Quafe limited-slip differential that works alongside a torque vectoring system to feed power to the front wheels. A 1.5-liter, three-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine provides 197 hp and is mated to a six-speed stick shift. Normal, Sport, and Track drive modes are offered, as is launch control. A faster steering ratio and bigger disc brakes complete the package. Finished in Azura Blue, the ST gains contrasting gloss black trim for the upper grille, rear diffuser, roof, wheels and rear spoiler. Inside there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel, various carbon-effect finishes, and a big red starter button.


Ford claims the ST Edition can reach 62 mph from rest in 6.5 seconds and crack on to a top speed of 143 mph. Thoroughly tested on the Green Hell of the Nürburgring, Ford says the ST Edition isn’t just about straight-line speed; it’s also about cornering capability, thanks to that trick suspension. Only 500 Fiesta ST Editions will be made.

Toyota’s counter punch is a pretty much a knock-out blow, however. The GR Yaris has been developed by Gazoo Racing and Tommi Mäkkinen Racing as a homologation vehicle to aid its assault on the World Rally Championship. Its three-door body is completely different from the standard Yaris hatchback and is built largely from carbon-fiber polymer and aluminum to cut weight to just 2821 pounds.

The Yaris outguns the Fiesta with its 253-hp, 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbo motor and, crucially, power goes to all four wheels. A six-speed manual transmission with a multi-plate clutch comes standard. The top-spec Circuit Pack version comes with a Torsen center differential and lowered suspension (MacPherson strut up front and double wishbones at the rear). Brakes are 365-mm grooved discs. Toyota hasn’t released full performance information just yet, but with more power and better traction than the Fiesta, any face-off between them is pretty much a foregone conclusion.


The Yaris’ interior is a little less shouty than the Fiesta’s, but it does boast sports seats in Alcantara with GR trim. (Note the manual handbrake to help with those 90-right-over-crest moments.) The GR Yaris is such an important car for Toyota that Akio Toyoda, the company’s president, had a close hand on its development—as you can see in the video below, where he lives up to his moniker of “TGR Master Driver Morizo.” It’s great to see a car boss get his hands dirty.


Both cars start at under $40,000, but sadly you won’t see either on this side of the Atlantic. The Fiesta is only for lucky Europeans, while Toyota is sharing the love with fans in Europe, Asia, and Australasia.

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