What’s Hot: Value for money buying, straight-line power, a classier interior.
What’s Not: Traction issues, squeezy seats.
X-FACTOR: Now with an interior update , the Focus ST delivers plenty of kilowatts-per-dollar.
Vehicle Style: Small performance hatch
Price: $38,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 184kW/360Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol 4cyl | 6spd man
Fuel consumption listed: 7.3 l/100km | tested: 12.5 l/100km
Back in May we gave the updated-for-2015 Focus ST a day-long strap along some tasty Gippslandian roads.
It reminded us then of Ford’s prowess when it comes to making fast front-drivers.
Editor Tim O’Brien described it as “effortlessly quick”, but often performance cars can fall a little flat once you put them on dull, boring roads like, say, those between your home and your office.
Is it effortlessly comfortable? Is it effortlessly driveable? We borrowed the keys for a week to find out.
- Standard equipment: Keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone climate control, leather/cloth upholstery, Recaro front seats, cruise control, reverse parking camera, trip computer.
- Infotainment: Sync2 with 8-inch colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, voice control, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, USB/RCA audio inputs, CD/AM/FM headunit
- Luggage capacity: 316 litres minimum
You may want to exhale before you drop yourself into the Focus ST’s Recaro front seats.
They’re awfully snug, like, awfully snug. And while I like to think of myself as a modest chap, let me tell you this: I ain’t fat, it’s the seats that are the problem.
But they do hold you in tightly, and that’s a great asset for a performance car. They’re also, surprisingly, not that hard to get in and out of.
Once you’re in though, you’re in. There’s precious little room to shift around.
Ford’s ergonomic re-work of the Focus ST’s interior is a huge improvement on the previous model.
The 8-inch colour touchscreen of the Sync2 infotainment system is far easier on the eyes than the postage stamp-sized one it replaces, and the centre stack buttons are arranged more neatly.
The cupholders are also larger and now hidden under a roller shutter, and the handbrake has been moved to a more conventional position beside the driver’s seat.
The steering wheel is also new, with new contouring and better button placement.
Bar some trim material changes, the rest of the cabin carries over. Rear seat space is good (though under-thigh support is lacking), however the boot measures 316 litres with the rear seats up - sub-par for the class.
ON THE ROAD
- 184kW/360Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine inline four
- Six--speed manual, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent multi-link rear.
- Brakes: Front 320mm, rear 271mm. Sliding calipers
With 184kW of power and 360Nm of torque, the Focus ST has some of the biggest muscles at this price point.
The WRX eclipses it for power with its 197kW 2.0 litre flat-four, but the Focus has 10Nm more torque (and it’s available lower in the rev range too, from just 2000rpm).
The WRX’s traction advantage sees it zip to 100km/h in six seconds but the front-drive Focus isn’t far behind, hitting triple-digits in just 6.2 seconds. That’s damn quick for a $39k hatchback.
But as we found out over a succession of damp Melbourne days, moisture really hinders the Focus ST.
There’s no limited-slip differential between those front wheels, and its “torque vectoring” traction/stability control system struggles to keep the wheels rotating at the same speed once the road gets a bit slippy.
Accelerate too aggressively and you get wheelspin and axle tramp, with a side serving of torque steer.
The dearly-departed Focus RS put its power down better, but that car had a tricky multi-link front suspension - the Focus ST only has conventional MacPherson struts.
The traction issue is also evident in corners.
While the Focus ST has razor-sharp steering and a lovely chassis balance that easily rotates on throttle lift-off (you’ll want to hit the Sport button to exploit that), it struggles to put power down on corner exit.
A proper limited-slip differential would transform the Focus ST into a proper segment-leader and we were hoping to see one added as part of the MY15 update. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Also, for day-to-day driving, some may be deterred by the absence of an automatic transmission.
Those comfortable enough to change their own gears will, however, enjoy a precise shift and a clutch that, though heavy, is easy to modulate.
It’s not a car you want to be stuck in a traffic jam in, though. Stop-start conditions will quickly see your left leg tire of pushing that heavy clutch pedal.
The Focus ST is a thirsty beast too. Driven with vigor it returned an average of 12.5 l/100km, against Ford’s claim of 7.3 l/100km
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control (switchable), traction control (switchable), ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill start assist and a reversing camera are standard on the Focus ST.
Passengers are protected by six airbags: front, front side and full-length curtain.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
At just under $39k, the Focus ST’s most serious rival is the Subaru WRX. If practicality is low on the priority list, the Mini Cooper S is good buying at $36,950.
Spend a bit over $40k and the supremely well-sorted Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renault Megane RS 265 become available, and all are fine alternatives in this segment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Focus ST scores big for its price, equipment list and power, but is compromised when it comes to comfort and day-to-day driveability.
There’s also room for its performance to improve. It’s no sloth, but it struggles to put all of its power down neatly and that hurts its appeal as a hot hatch.
But you get plenty of go for your dough, and those prepared to put up with a heavy clutch, tight seats and firm suspension will find the Focus ST to be a very capable performance car.