Wednesday 29th April 2009
PH FLEET: FOCUS ST-2
Our Focus may be a one letter shift from the car of the moment, the Focus RS, but it's beating the competition in the PH car park
Someone sneaked a C30 into shot
You could be forgiven for thinking that now the RS has exploded into our lives the Focus ST is no longer quite so Ďhotí in the hatch market. But even though its new sibling has been trained by Jet Li and spent several years in the gym, the ST can still fight with the top hatches. And itís not the engine alone that makes the ST competitive, because the chassis is still one of the best I have driven.
Another contender for the sophisticated hot hatch title appeared in the PH car park recently - the Volvo C30 2.5 T5 R-Design. The C30 shares the same engine as the ST, albeit with a reported 4 more horses than its Ford group stablemate, producing 226bhp. This should be the Focus STís Siamese twin, yet something strange happened when they were separated at birth.
C30 rear seats - room for one more?
The ST produces a bellowing noise from somewhere deep inside its bowels; despite regular feeds of petrol it sounds mean and thirsty, urging its occupants quickly to the next fill-up. The C30 seems to have given up its growling bowl to the ST during separation, as the noise just isnít there. You can hear it slightly through the funky Swedish designed centre console, but it is muffled. It is very much like the sound inside the S-Max we ran earlier, which also shared the same engine and the same promise of greater aural pleasures. The C30 leaves you feeling slightly removed from the driving experience knowing what fun your ears could be having, and the sound is not my only disappointment.
The C30 looks are an acquired taste and to be honest I love the fact it has a different design to many other hatches, but driving one squanders my affection. The ST has a chassis that talks to you, giving you confidence to push that little harder, be it on track or spirited B-roads. The Volvo doesnít have that same poise on the road, the front end in a permanent fight to decide who is actually driving the car. Without the ability to turn off traction control you are resigned to letting the car sort itself before you regain control to power off in the direction you want.
The C30 does have one ace to trump the ST. The seating position in the Volvo is better than the Focus, a lower seat means you feel like the car is fitted around you. It still isnít as low as I would like, but a welcome change after the sit-on-top feel of the ST. The rest of the cabin in the C30 would struggle to fit your 5-a-side football team, with very little space on the bucketed rear seats for the goalie.
The C30 is not a bad car - it just isnít the Focus ST. Ours is currently proving hard to beat, although when an RS turns up in the PH car park Iím expecting to have to change my mind!