There’s a sense of déjà vu about this encounter. About 30 years ago I drove a Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 with a Turbo Technics conversion. In standard, 130bhp form the Peugeot was sensational, so adding 50bhp seemed unnecessary, while introducing a bit of throttle lag and a burst of extra torque to a chassis that at already times seemed maxxed out appeared ill-considered. I was wrong: it was an absolute weapon and I remember it very fondly. Today, just a few miles into driving the Turbo Technics conversion for the three-cylinder, Mk8 Fiesta ST, I’ve been through the same emotions.
The almost standard look of the Ford belies a similarly huge uplift in performance, the Turbo Technics kit dropping another 80bhp or so on top of the standard 197bhp, hence the S285 badging. In fact, this car is closer to 300bhp thanks to the choice of intercooler and exhaust. That sounds an awful lot for a little Fiesta riding on 17-inch alloys with 205/40 tires, but history repeats itself: while the extra performance lends a substantial extra weight to the Fiesta’s delivery, it doesn’t overwhelm the grip and handling.
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So there’s a huge potential to leave other drivers wondering why this little Fiesta just left them for dead. The boot badge is a giveaway but that’s optional, and whatever you just gapped probably won’t get a look at the front, where you can more easily spot an enormous new aluminum intercooler lurking behind the black grilles.
Pop the bonnet and your gaze is drawn to a new air filter the size of a biscuit barrel and the bright blue Samco hose connecting it to the standard turbo intake elbow. The turbo looks standard too but the ‘hybrid’ turbocharger that Turbo Technics has designed and developed is all-new apart from the external housing, and even the inside of that side is CNC machined to accommodate the new, machined-from-billet compressor wheel and high-flow turbine wheel. The shaft and all the bearings are new too. A much larger capacity intercooler and less restrictive, full-length exhaust are also key parts of the package, and the whole lot is brought together by a bespoke ‘CP3′ remap. CP stands for Collins Performance, the Ford tuning specialist and Turbo Technics’ partner on the project.
From a cold start the exhaust sounds a bit lairy, but after a couple of minutes it tones down leaving just a more bass-heavy version of the regular Fiesta ST three-cylinder tailpipe burble. There are distinctly non-standard noises from the front end though, one being the sound of air being sucked in, another the quite nostalgic sound of boost being dumped, something you don’t often hear with today’s production turbo installations. Squeeze the throttle halfway down, back off just as boost has started to build and you’ll hear the classic ch-ch-ch-choo! chuckle of boost venting.
A look at the dyno graphs of the S285 versus the standard set-up shows that once over 2000rpm the tuned engine leaves the standard engine for dead. Practically, it’s not just that it delivers so much more but that it is impeccably mannered; There’s not the slightest hiccup or flat spot, the engine being as tractable as standard whether hauling from idle in top gear with a wide open throttle or responding to a snap, full-throttle demand in third.
It’s such a deliciously massive, torque-rich delivery that it even makes sense of the super-long ratios of the Fiesta’s standard six-speed gearbox. In sixth at 60mph, the revs are at just over 2000rpm, on the cusp of boost. Floor it and in no time the Fiesta is hauling hard on full boost and the shove is so solid you expect it to carry on pushing at this rate until it hits the limiter.
The chassis copes, too. What’s particularly interesting for me is that this Turbo Technics demo car doesn’t have the biggest wheels and tires offered on the ST. Instead of 18-inch rims with 235/35 tires it has those aforementioned 17s with skinnier 205/40s. I ran a long-term ST on 18s and found it grabby and a little edgy on lumpy back-roads, characteristics that might become exaggerated with an extra 80lb ft of torque taking the total to just shy of 300lb ft. This ST on 17s has a more rounded, calmer base character and while you’d expect its narrower tread to struggle to get all the enhanced engine’s grunt down, even on the most difficult of surfaces – cold, wet, bumpy B-roads – they Does really well, with the standard traction and stability control keeping everything tidy.
The Fiesta doesn’t feel uncomfortable with so much extra torque, then. Yes, it’ll push a bit wide in corners before being reined in, and if you turn off the electronic aids it’ll do it, but you quickly get comfortable with the level of performance and, importantly, you can get just as as much as you want with hardly any lag. It’s an entertaining challenge to use as much as you can, serenaded by a relaxed-sounding triple fwaarp! from the tailpipes and the hiss and chatter from the front.
Turn everything off and on a cold, wet racetrack you can turn in, back off and have the rear come round to the point where it gets to the apex before the front… and then use the ready torque to drag the car out of the corner and up the straight, everything now pointing in the right direction. Alternatively, on the road you can revel in the more subtle joy of using the ridiculously generous torque to make brilliant progress in high gears, which is curiously relaxing.
The cost of the hybrid turbo (exchanged), intercooler, induction exhaust and remap is £3800 including VAT and fitting. However, Collins Performance recommends upgrading the pistons and conrods too. They haven’t yet seen a failure with the installation (Turbo Technics’ demonstrator is on standard rods and pistons) but say they have seen failures of this engine running similar horsepower from other tuners and feel the conrods of the Mk8 Fiesta’s three-cylinder engine They aren’t as substantial as those of the Mk7’s four-pot unit. Upgrading the conrods and pistons is a job that includes some machining of the engine block and costs £3996.
So, an £8k, bulletproof upgrade. That sounds like a lot, but if you love the sound of a feisty triple and the feel of oodles of torque and power delivered with finesse, this is a seriously impressive and addictive conversion. A standard ST on 17s with such generous performance is an absolute blast, but maybe the dream package is this kit applied to a used Fiesta ST Edition or Performance Edition. That would be a hugely compelling, 300bhp, £30k hot hatch.
Turbo Technics Fiesta ST S285 specs
|Engine||In-line 3-cyl, 1497cc, turbo|
|Torque||294lb ft @ 3750rpm|
|Top speed||155mph (limited)|
|Conversion price||See text|