A hot hatch designed for everyday life
FIRSTDRIVE FORD FOCUS ST:IF YOU ARE the kind of driver who understands why the Ford Escort Mk2 is still, years after production ceased, changing hands in rallying circles for substantial sums of money, then you are likely to be the person who sees the new version of the Focus ST at least as an aspiration.
After all, a Ford Focus with a 2-litre turbo engine producing 252bph, a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds, 18-inch wheels, Recaro sports seats and a screaming colour choice won’t be on the options list for anyone except those whose idea of fun is driving in opposite lock.
And the car will have its followers – most likely those who might have driven a Mk2 Escort and are now all grown up and affluent. At €35,000, it is beyond the reach of those in whose hands it would be unwise to place it, but it has enough engineering appeal to tempt the more mature enthusiast.
It is also an attention-seeking car. The body kit, including a roof spoiler, and the centred exhaust pipe all accentuate what the ST is supposed to exude, but Ford has gone a step further to remind you of the ST’s presence.
When the throttle is open the engine’s note begins to transform into something much more raucous altogether. Ford has developed a complex system to amplify engine noise under high revs but that also allows the car to reduce to a mellow and less intrusive note at lower revs.
The interior is as performance oriented as the exterior and, in fairness, Ford has managed to offer a lot for the price of the car. The ST is not just a tarted-up version of the Focus and touches like the Recaro seats, the specially designed and leather-covered steering wheel and gear lever, the turbo gauges that slope neatly over the top of the dashboard and the sports pedals all add to the finish. It is also surprisingly comfortable, unlike other cars of the same ilk that can be quite claustrophobic at times.
Out on the road the ST does give you the sense that only a company as big as Ford could deliver a package like this at a price like this. Where other manufacturers will simply embellish their best attributes, Ford’s specialist engineers seem to have been given a lot of free rein.
The 2-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine has been specially adapted in a way that will not disappoint fans of the original five-cylinder unit in the older model.
It doesn’t frighten the horses at lower revs and Ford says you can get consumption of 7.2 litres per 100km with C02 emissions of 169g/km – both impressive figures for a car of its abilities.
There is no shortage of power and one might expect that front-wheel drive would produce a challenging drive, but again Ford has been refining successfully what it calls a torque vectoring control system that corrects under-steer rapidly and precisely.
It means that the car has a corrective ability that makes it difficult to throw off track when cornering under pressure. Steering is precise and measured at whatever speed, thanks to a variable ratio system, and handling is the same. Again, one would expect some sacrifices in terms of ride quality but Ford is out to sell this car to people as an everyday car as well as a performance option and appropriate compromises have been made.
Apart from the engineering package, standard equipment in Ireland will include keyless start, the Recaro seats, Bluetooth application and the 18-inch wheels.
Ford has cleverly chosen the forthcoming film remake of the 1970s UK TV police drama The Sweeney for the ideal product placement. This time, instead of Regan and Carter jumping out of a lumbering Ford Granada in elephant flairs to tell some felon, “Oy, you’re nicked,” they will be swanning about in a car that should promote the notion that Ford can produce out of the ordinary. Here, the numbers of customers may be very small – but very dedicated.
ENGINE2.0 litre Ecoboost five cylinder unit producing 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.
PERFORMANCE0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and top speed of 248 Km/h.
ECONOMY(officially) 7.2 litres per 100 KM.
EMISSIONS169 g/km. Tax - €481. Tax band D
FEATURESRecaro seats, 18” wheels, Bluetooth and keyless start.
PRICE€35,170 (about € 2,000 less than the previous model)
RIVALSGolf GTi and the Subaru WRX
OUR RATING7/10 for performance rather that practicality