THE FORD FIESTA ST has been in Hong Kong for two weeks and already it's turning heads - and making me feel my age. Whatever way you look at it, the ST is the kind of car English footballer Wayne Rooney would have bought with his first pay cheque just to impress his mates. And poised at the lights in Shau Kei Wan beside a souped-up Mitsubishi Lancer with blacked-out windows, my teenage years flash before me. Twenty years ago, as a zealous learner driver, I would have relished a face-off with an anonymous boy-racer in front of an audience of envious spectators - if it were not for the fact I learned to drive in an agricultural jade green Lada Riva and not a 150 bhp giant-killer like this. Now, with the first flush of youth well behind me (and paunch in front), I'm feeling too old to be showing off to the bunch of school kids admiring my wheels (not very understated 17-inch 11-spoke alloys) and the conspicuous double stripes running up the middle of Ford's latest hot hatch - an optional extra, but effective if you want to get noticed. But, as the lights change, I floor the accelerator anyway (purely in the name of research, I tell myself) - and the ST ensures the Lancer is in my rear view mirror within a matter of seconds. Ford's perennial favourite has been around for more than 30 years, and has proved itself as a reliable and sturdy runabout, but rarely an object of desire. Until 1982, that is, with the launch of the XR2, where the tuned-up (a mere 84bhp) version of the standard hatchback gained notoriety for its sporty performance. Other incarnations of the XR2 followed, and the 1990 133bhp RS Turbo proved to be a serious set of wheels for wannabe racers - but the new Fiesta ST is miles ahead. Wheeling around Hong Kong Island in the natural successor to the sporty XR2, it makes me wonder how good the next version of the sporty Fiesta will be - because the ST flies. Its 2-litre Duratec engine pushes its 1165kg kerb weight to a top speed of 208 km/h, hitting 100 km/h in just under eight seconds. That's fast, and Ford insiders hinted to yahoo.co.uk that the new Fiesta ST isn't much slower around its test track than the super-quick RS Focus - demonstrating just how quickly development takes place in today's car industry. So hats off to Ford's Sports Technologies (ST), which has set up the Fiesta's handling superbly. The light, precise steering wheel receives feedback from the low-profile tyres, while the stiffened suspension (you can feel even the smallest bumps, so be warned) provides a stable platform for the chassis. Add a notchy, flickable gearbox and the ST is one easy car to manoeuvre. Considering that this is a front-wheel-drive car, you'd be surprised how civilised the little Ford is with all that speed on tap, and it rarely misbehaves when it's taking sharp bends. Zipping across to Tai Tam and round the island to Stanley and Aberdeen, I'm reassured by the extra power when overtaking, rather than being wary - as with the Subaru WRX, for example. And, from the outside you also cut a dash with styled bumpers, side skirts and side stripes. Inside the Fiesta ST there's a modest selection of creature comforts and sporting embellishments as standard. Large instrument dials, supportive Recaro-style racing seats (replete with ST logo), a leather steering wheel and metal pedals all lend to the sporty feel, while a single CD player with an i-Pod jack provides in-car entertainment (remember the target market here, folks). After all, this is a sporty version of a small car and not an upscale, all-wheel-drive thoroughbred. And for a two-door car with a lower roofline than the standard hatchback, there's a good amount of space for rear-seat passengers (although you have to clamber in from the front) and the boot space is the same as in the standard version. At the same time, the two-door set-up gives the car increased body rigidity, which helps with stability and handling. Reluctantly handing the keys back to Ford Hong Kong in Causeway Bay, I sense that I've recaptured at least some of my youth. It also makes me ponder the question: If I had teenagers, would I buy them a Fiesta ST as a first car? The ST is fast, fun and safe - and amazingly it's GBP1,535 (HK$23,500) cheaper than the published price in Britain. So, yes, I'd be tempted to buy one - I just might forget to mention the 180 bhp RS Fiesta that's being launched later this year.