The lovely lady who dropped off the Fiesta ST did not mince her words about the sporty little hatchback’s ride quality.

Sylvia, who is over 21 with a lifetime of delivering cars of all shapes and sizes under her belt, said: “That is the bumpiest ride I have ever experienced, but young people seem to love it…”

A quick flick through the specification of this 200 horsepower, three-door hatchback with its sports suspension, Recaro heated sports front seats and selectable drive modes, makes its appeal to the young at heart pretty easy to understand.

Comfort, quiet sophistication and ride quality are never going to make it to the top of a hot hatch driver’s wish-list and even from a distance the ST-2 screams performance.

Red brake callipers peek out behind a set of imposing optional 18-inch machined finish alloy wheels and a pair of sports exhausts adorn the rear. If you still haven’t got the point, a large body-coloured spoiler sits across the rear screen.

Fire up the engine and the burbling three-cylinder, 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit delivers yet more clues to the 6½ second, 0-62 mph acceleration time.

The all-aluminium engine is state-of-the-art with a new turbocharger but the focus is as much on cutting emissions and fuel consumption as on outright power, thanks to a system that automatically stops fuel delivery and valve operation for one of the engine’s cylinders when coasting or cruising. Needless to say, all this technology goes completely unnoticed.

What is much more obvious is the sporting style of the interior. Hop aboard and driver and front seat passenger slot snugly into those hip-hugging Recaro seats while ahead of the driver is a small, flat-bottomed, leather-trimmed steering wheel complete with 13 buttons.

All models come with a 6½-inch touchscreen as standard, but dominating the dashboard in the test car was a whopping great optional eight-inch screen, controlling everything from the audio system to satellite navigation and connected smartphones either by touch or simple voice commands.

Standard driver assistance includes a lane keeping aid and alert, and cruise control with speed limiter, while other features available include rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, auto-high beam and traffic sign recognition.

Push-button selectable drive modes feature on the Fiesta ST for the first time, enabling engine, steering and stability controls to be configured to normal, sport and track settings, and shifting the vehicle’s character from everyday hatchback to track-focused sports car.

The level of seriousness invested in the car by Ford’s engineers is underlined by the fact that the third-generation ST is the first ST available with an optional Quaife limited slip differential. In a nutshell, the mechanical system works to limit engine torque to a wheel with reduced grip – for example, the inside wheel during cornering – to reduce wheel spin, and improve distribution of engine torque to the wheel with more grip to fully exploit engine performance.

It works alongside ‘torque vectoring control’ technology that improves road-holding and reduces understeer by applying brake force to the inside front wheel when cornering. This is clearly motorsport-inspired technology aimed at drivers who want to play with the ST on racetracks.

But even in its ‘normal’ state, without these track-designed systems, the ST is as engaging, rewarding and agile a hot hatch as you will ever meet.

It’s huge fun, but the price is as hard a ride as many an out-and-out sports car. And for some drivers, like my friend Sylvia, that can be just a little too firm for comfort.

After we had completed the handover paperwork I offered to give her and her companion a lift to the rail station. Nodding towards the Fiesta she asked: “Are we going in that? Thanks but we will get the bus.”

Auto facts

Model: Ford Fiesta ST-2 (3-dr) 1.5T Ecoboost

Price: £23,765 as tested

Insurance group: 19 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 47.1mpg

Top speed: 144mph

Length: 406.8cm/159.7in

Width: 173.5cm/68.1in

Luggage capacity: 10.3 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.2 gallons/42 litres

CO2 emissions: 136 g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles