When I told my wife I’d booked a Focus ST for a week she asked me why I’d do that when we already drive our own Focus every day… was it any better? Considering its almost 100 hp more than our anaemic 2.0L engine and a whopping 124 additional lbs/ft of torque at a much lower 2,500 rpm instead of 4,600, I’d say it would be well worth taking the time to compare. After a week behind the wheel we’d agree – no it’s not any better – it’s a LOT better – with a caveat…
How Does It Look?
• I love the look – it takes the attractive Focus and dials it up a notch
• The Focus in its present guise has been around since the 2013 model year, so it’s getting a bit long-in-the-tooth, yet still looks way sexier than the 2017 Honda Civic
• Looks great in Arrest-Me-Red, but if you want to distinguish your ST from all of the other Focus’ out there, then there’s only one choice: Triple Yellow Tri-coat
• Comes with unique ST grille with badging, body-colour rocker moldings; Larger rear wing; Bright-tipped centre-exit exhaust; 18-inch Rado Grey premium-painted Aluminum Wheels and RECARO® leather-trimmed seats
What’s It Like Inside?
• Driver’s seating position is very good and thanks to the tilt and telescope wheel is easy to get comfortable
• Front bucket seats come with full-leather Custom-designed RECARO’s with the ST logo on the seat
• Power Seats – Drivers get an 8-way power (up/down, fore/aft, tilt/recline and power lumbar), passengers make do with a manual 2-way (fore/aft, tilt/recline)
• Both front seats are heated, as is the unique Leather-wrapped flat bottom steering wheel
• The seats are terrific and really hold you and your passenger firmly in place while screaming through the twisty back roads. However, much like the Ford Edge Sport seats, they wear on you after time they aren’t as comfortable as you’d expect – I couldn’t imagine sitting in them for a few hours at a time. The lumbar isn’t adjustable up and down – that would probably help tremendously in the sore-back comfort level, but not the numb-bum feeling after 90 minutes or so. My wife found the Recaro seat very claustrophobic and confining.
• The Sony audio system with 10 speakers is very good and has a small subwoofer that doesn’t take up much room in the cargo area
• The ST comes with Sync3 and the bigger 8″ colour LCD capacitive touchscreen – it helps when using the rear camera and reversing in and out of a parking spot – however it doesn’t have Reverse Sensing System even as an option!
• The test vehicle came with the Carbon Fibre Interior Accent Package (carbon fibre boost gauge trim bezel, door grab handle inserts, emergency brake handle, and shift knob). On the web site it’s a stand-alone package, but this was on the test vehicle, but included in the base price – not an option – either way – it looks great and I’d definitely spring for that to dress up the interior… if it’s an option
• Rear seat space is “comfortable” but rear legroom is very limited
• Cargo volume is quite generous offering 43.9 cu.ft. with the rear seats folded and 23.3 cu.ft. when raised
• The floor is flat-ish with a drop down to the seat back (see picture). This is different to the regular Focus, which is completely flat
So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?
• Very quick! Mash the go-pedal and is scampers off like a scolded cat
• With 270 lb-ft. of torque at a low 2,500 rpm, If you’re not gripping the wheel tightly it’ll spin out of your hand with the force of the torque and the torque-steer from the front wheels – so you have to be prepared to hang on when you drop a gear and floor it
• The ST puts all of its 252-hp to good use when you want it, but is very civilized if you don’t drive like a mad-man… which is impossible because it’s just sooo much fun shifting quickly through the 6-speed manual gearbox
• It doesn’t hurt that the ST engineers channelled the lower-engine frequencies of the EcoBoost sound into the cabin, so you get this addictive growl from the engine every time you give it some welly… it’s not as beautiful as a V-8 at full throttle, but it does sound great coming from the 2.0L EcoBoost engine
• Also, there’s an “overboost” feature that extends peak torque for up to 15 seconds at a time (from 3,000 to 4,500 rpm) so you get to experience every ounce of its exhilarating performance a little longer… trust me, you’ll be using that on a regular basis!!
• The superb suspension offers razor sharp handling around corners and bends, yet has a reasonably civilized ride quality for a performance car
• Steering and brakes are equally up to the task for a performance-type vehicle
• If this isn’t fast enough for you, you can always step up to the all-wheel-drive Focus RS and 345 hp
Compared to a regular Focus – 2.0L 5-speed manual/ PowerShift 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 146 @ 4,500
0 – 60 mph: 8.5 seconds
What Does It Cost? For up-to-date pricing and options in your region visit: www.Ford.ca
Base Price Canada: $33, 198
As Tested: $34,998
• Fuel economy was way better than expected considering the fun-factor and driving flat-out everywhere. I averaged 8.3L/100 km with a very heavy right foot
• (L/100 km) is rated at: City -10.5 // Highway – 7.8
Noteworthy Standard Equipment on the test vehicle:
• Power Moonroof
• Heated Steering Wheel
• Unique sport suspension
• Sony audio system with 10 speakers
• High-intensity discharge Headlights (HID)
• SYNC 3 which includes 8″ colour LCD capacitive touchscreen in centre stack with swiping capability and 2 smart-charging USB ports
Noteworthy Optional Equipment on the test vehicle:
• 18” Machined-aluminum wheels ($600)
• Voice-activated Navigation System ($800) – why is this not standard?!!
• Oddly enough, SecuriCode™ keyless entry keypad is NOT available on the ST! It’s only on the Platinum Focus. As I use this feature every day on my own car (and LOVE IT), I’d be seriously disappointed not to at least have it as an option on the ST
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
• The Good: Looks great and goes like it looks – the ST delivers
• More Good: It handles superbly – this car is planted and has a tenacious grip to match the power
• The Bad: The clutch and gearbox are tiresome after a while
• The Ugly: The seats aren’t as comfortable as they should be for more than an hour or so at a time
What’s The Verdict?
Exhilarating… that’s probably the best way to sum up the Focus ST. If you are an adrenaline junky and love to race from one set of lights to the next… this is your car. The great thing is you can drive like a hooligan and it still won’t empty your wallet when you fill up at the gas station – it’s quite frugal on fuel. The first day I had it, I wasn’t so sure of the overly heavy clutch and gearbox, but from the next day on, after getting used to it, it really does work well – if you’re used to American clutches and notchy gearboxes. I’ve owned and driven many North American manual transmissions from Chevy, Ford and Dodge – one thing always stands out: they ain’t got nothin’ on a Japanese or European clutch/gearbox for smoothness and ease of use. I felt it was exactly like the Mustang’s and it grew tedious even though I was having lots of fun behind the wheel. It really pains me to say this, because manual transmissions separate the men from the boys, but a good automatic with paddle shifters would make the ST a much better car.
Copyright © 2017 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland
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