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RE: Ford Focus ST facelift: Driven

RE: Ford Focus ST facelift: Driven

Tuesday 10th February 2015

Ford Focus ST facelift: Driven

Matt takes the long way home in the revised Focus ST; is it still the everyday hero?



The mid-life facelift. Such an easy task in principle and yet one that has caught out even the best. The simple aim is to address the flaws of the original while retaining the features that made it a success, assuming it was a car of merit in the first place, of course.

What's a road trip without a drive-thru?
What's a road trip without a drive-thru?
The Ford Focus ST was a car ripe for a successful facelift, update, revision, overhaul or whatever you wish to call it. There was an awful lot to like about the first Mk3 ST: engaging, playful dynamics, a brawny 2.0-litre turbo, estate practicality if you fancied plus an appealingly low entry price.

However, there were a few things that detracted from the overall package. It was hardly the prettiest hatch around, the infotainment system was unfathomable and it did like to torque steer. We're all for a bit of involvement but occasionally the old ST could feel a little wayward and unruly.

Hold on tight
Despite this, we were big fans of our ST wagon long-termer at PH and keen to see if the facelift had improved the car further. Ergo when the offer from Ford came to drive a car back from the Barcelona launch there was no hesitation in accepting.

"Do you need another pass? Oh good"
"Do you need another pass? Oh good"
The plan was simple, as the best ones always are. Photographer Tom and I would fly out on Friday, set off very early on Saturday to explore northern Spain, stay in Millau Saturday night and slog up the autoroute on Sunday. The reality was, er, nearly there.

Turns out Tom is not a morning person. Really not a morning person. When the first McDonald's wasn't open on Saturday the situation looked bleak. When he started playing The XX's Coexist soon after we entered a whole new abyss of melancholy. Mercifully another set of golden arches loomed a few kilometres later. Never have McMuffins and Tropicanas been so gleefully consumed.

With the day now looking figuratively and literally brighter, we could begin to focus (apologies, it had to feature once) on the car. And, tedious concern though it may be, the interior is a million times better than the last ST. Gone are the fiddly buttons and tiny screen, replaced by an eight-inch touchscreen with clear displays and far simpler menu navigation. It's still not the most responsive and some of the graphics are a little basic but it's a vast improvement. And you will never, ever tire of the Sync woman attempting to pronounce foreign place names.

ST was good out here, now even better
ST was good out here, now even better
Harder, faster
Ford has made big claims about the improvements to the ST's handling, boasting of "an even sharper dynamic performance" thanks to new front springs and engine mounts plus tweaks to the torque vectoring and steering amongst others. And you know what? It really has worked. Up in the mountains of northern Spain the ST is absolutely superb. It remains a nine-tenths car, the absolute limit still marked by an inside wheel flaring up and a slight sense of raggedness. But then the RS can fill that void, and the ST is so entertaining, assured and quick up to its limits that the lack of Renaultsport-style balls-out reward becomes unimportant.

There remains some fight from the front wheels exiting slow corners, but it would be unreasonable to expect less given there's 250lb ft and 250hp going through them. Furthermore, the ST no longer feels overawed by those outputs, finding remarkable traction and retaining great composure where experience of the old car would suggest it shouldn't. The brakes are strong even when they get a bit smoky, the engine still torquey and responsive, the suspension striking an excellent compromise between comfort and control. And there's not a single damn thing to configure, which makes a pleasant change. It's brilliant fun actually, a point that becomes patently obvious when I realise Tom hasn't said anything for about 20 minutes. Sorry mate. Vid is good at least.

Deserted Spanish roads a real treat
Deserted Spanish roads a real treat
Food for thought
Ford's revisions to the electric power steering are well done too. The previous car had a very sharp turn in which could feel unnatural but the ST's front end and wheel now has a far more consistent response, giving real confidence particularly just off-centre. Moreover, winding left and right through hairpins reveals none of the gloopiness often found in EPAS systems. It's a really, really good set-up, perhaps only wanting for a touch more weight.

We (alright, me) enjoyed much of Saturday marvelling at the scenery and pretending to be Carlos Sainz up in the hills. So much time was spent chasing the rev limiter, blipping downshifts and generally having a lot of fun that we only reached the border at five in the afternoon. Millau was still four hours away. Erk.

This is where the journey began going downhill somewhat. Tom selflessly took much of the autoroute slog, then about 45 minutes from Millau it began to snow. Properly, can't-really-see-and-don't-want-to-drive sort of snow. The autoroutes hadn't been gritted and progress into Millau was exceptionally slow, by which time the snow had thankfully eased slightly. Then we got lost. Many thanks for the wrong address, to remain unnamed hotel booking website. Tom was getting grumpy having not found a burger at a service station. I was rather grumpy knowing we still had 900km to Calais. The hotel receptionist was probably quite grumpy with my abysmal French after we turned up late.

One day finishes on a high...
One day finishes on a high...
Still, a good night's sleep and all will be fine, right? Erm, no, actually. The reason for staying at Millau was to take a sunrise pic at the viaduct. Sunday dawned so bleak that it wasn't even visible by the time we reached it. Knackers. Snow had made some of the minor roads really treacherous too. But the autoroutes would surely be fine...

Slush puppy
Turns out 235-section Michelin Pilot Sport 3s don't really like slushy tarmac. Quelle surprise. The Focus was a solemn place for much of Sunday morning to about Clermont-Ferrand, speed very slow and concentration high. Tom was so tense he didn't even put The XX on. Thankfully a snowy autoroute eventually became just a very wet one and we could maintain a more normal cruising speed. Suffice to say it will be a little while before Tom and I speak to each other about that Sunday morning again.

Panic over and the ST is a really nice place to while away hundreds of kilometres, chatting fantasy garages and drinking Fanta Limon (it's still really good). The driver's seat is still a little too high but the Recaros are fabulous. Previously they seemed to lack a little lumbar support but I couldn't fault them over 25 hours and 1,200 miles. The ride gave no cause for complaint either; firm yes, but a long way from its Fiesta brother and entirely liveable. The larger, sharper screen provided accurate ETAs and reliable directions, not always a given with the previous system.

... the next dawns bleak!
... the next dawns bleak!
To these eyes the ST facelift is a successful one outside as well. Without such a gaping grille the front is much better, I like the new wheel options the rear seems slightly less dumpy with a couple of tweaks to the lights. An improvement then, but will buyers deem it sufficiently attractive compared to the Golf R and Leon Cupra wagons? Let's see.

Following the drama of Sunday morning, the rest of the journey passed without issue. We made it back to Britain just after 1830h and Tom was home in time to watch Top Gear. Having momentarily been perplexed by a LHD car in Britain I get home and collapse into bed.

And the car? I think it's easier to look at what the Focus ST doesn't do so well such is its broad range of ability and appeal. And, well, there isn't a lot. The gearshift still isn't the snappiest, quite long in throw and across the gate. It isn't bad by any stretch though, and the feeling will be improved being sat on the right. As mentioned, the infotainment could be a little more intuitive and for me there are few too many buttons on the wheel. Tom reckoned the interior was overly plasticky but he's a perfectionist. Photographer's prerogative apparently.

As facelifts go it's a very good one
As facelifts go it's a very good one
So yes, it's an excellent car the Focus ST and one that's wholeheartedly recommended if you're after a hot hatch or estate. Interestingly SEAT doesn't think of the Ford as a rival to its new Leon ST Cupra 280, citing additional power and more equipment. It will have to be one heck of a car to beat the Ford though. Appropriately enough the launch is very soon. In Barcelona. Fingers crossed for sunshine...

 

Quick GoPro vid here(apologies for the sound quality!)

 

 


FORD FOCUS ST
Engine:
2,000cc 4-cyl direct injection turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 250@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 250@1,750rpm
0-62mph: 6.5 sec
Top speed: 154mph
Weight: 1,362kg
MPG: 41.5mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 159g/km
Price: £21,995 (ST-2 £23,695, ST-3 £25,995, estate +£1,100 on all)









[Pics: Tom Begley]

 

Author
Discussion

Major T

Original Poster:

991 posts

120 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Did you notice any contrived engine noise being piped into the cabin? I remember that was one of the criticisms/observations of the original.

JMF894

2,265 posts

80 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
How can it not be a rival to the Leon? Me thinks SEAT know their car cannot compete dynamically so paper over the fact by playing the 'more power, higher spec' card............

Nice motors both though.

Jimbo

Frimley111R

8,211 posts

159 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
No interior shots??

Hub

3,667 posts

123 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Major T said:
Did you notice any contrived engine noise being piped into the cabin? I remember that was one of the criticisms/observations of the original.
I think they've changed from a pipe into the cabin that opens under certain throttle inputs to sound through the speakers on the facelift! I'd be interested to know how it compares.

I don't know how many of the 'upgrades' to the steering/torque system are just software changes that could potentially be applied retrospectively to the pre-facelift, or whether there are hardware changes too.

Reavenger

107 posts

58 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Why are all the car launches/test drives in Barcelona? Not that I don't like Barcelona (been twice and loved it).

What I always hate about car infotainment systems like Ford, Jaguar and old Audi is they are recessed into the dashboard to protect them from the sunlight. It looks really ugly and often unsightly amounts of plastic.
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underphil

796 posts

135 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
JMF894 said:
How can it not be a rival to the Leon? Me thinks SEAT know their car cannot compete dynamically so paper over the fact by playing the 'more power, higher spec' card............

Nice motors both though.

Jimbo
I suspect Skoda will also claim that this is not a rival to the Octavia VRS

JackReacher

1,128 posts

140 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
The Octavia vrs estate used to have this niche to itself, but now you have the focus (bit more power), Leon (more money but more power and more equipment), Golf R (even more money, power, 4wd and VW badge points). But I still think I'd go for the Octavia.

2smoke

46 posts

36 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
It's between this and the Cupra wagon for me. Took a test drive in the DSG 280 coupe last night. It was quick but felt a bit blunt. The ride is pretty firm too after my 3 series. Steering and ride are supposed to be better in the ST so i'm looking forward to trying it.

mcbook

1,158 posts

100 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
With discount you can get these for £22,300 which I think is a major bargain, given the spec on the ST-3. Seriously considering one.

Can we get a shot of the interior? Or was it covered in McD's debris?

998420

672 posts

76 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Reavenger said:
Why are all the car launches/test drives in Barcelona? Not that I don't like Barcelona (been twice and loved it).

What I always hate about car infotainment systems like Ford, Jaguar and old Audi is they are recessed into the dashboard to protect them from the sunlight. It looks really ugly and often unsightly amounts of plastic.
I guess because it is seen as a nice place to do launches. Attractive if you want to bring a partner, and great roads literally on the edge of the city. Trust me, I live there .... I also saw some of this launch, the fleet was lurking around the hotel by Tibidabo and the Arrabasada on the Collserola hill above the city, the local boy racer's track.

RTH

1,055 posts

137 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
More a travelog than a road test.

DaveyBoyWonder

389 posts

99 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
So much better looking than the pre-FL.

Better looking than the Octy and Leon too. Dare I say it the R as well.

oobster

6,003 posts

136 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Interesting reading. I have a 2012 Focus ST-3 & I am hoping to change it this year, unsure whether to go for the facelifted ST, wait for the RS, go for the Mustang or have a change away from Ford & possibly look at the new MX-5 or Civic Type R.

My car isn't without faults/niggles, but BY FAR Ford's biggest problem are it's dealers. Shockingly bad to deal with.

Deadlysub

109 posts

83 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
oobster said:
Interesting reading. I have a 2012 Focus ST-3 & I am hoping to change it this year, unsure whether to go for the facelifted ST, wait for the RS, go for the Mustang or have a change away from Ford & possibly look at the new MX-5 or Civic Type R.

My car isn't without faults/niggles, but BY FAR Ford's biggest problem are it's dealers. Shockingly bad to deal with.
I also have a mark 2 Focus ST which I bought as a stop gap and have ended up keeping for three years as I really like it. I'm looking at a replacement for it and there is so much choice right now. I had a play on the ford configurator and built an ST, looked at the dreaded finance and was pleasantly surprised how cheap the monthly 'rentals' were.

I also agree with how bad Ford dealers are.

blearyeyedboy

4,317 posts

104 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
Dear Matt,

You wrote:

Article said:
There remains some fight from the front wheels exiting slow corners, but it would be unreasonable to expect less given there's 250lb ft and 250hp going through them. Furthermore, the ST no longer feels overawed by those outputs, finding remarkable traction and retaining great composure where experience of the old car would suggest it shouldn't.
And later on...

Article said:
Turns out 235-section Michelin Pilot Sport 3s don't really like slushy tarmac. Quelle surprise.
The way I read that is that the Focus ST's roadholding and control of its torque steer is really good... on very large wheels with tyres that favour dry fast road work. Do you think the review be significantly different on a more typical mixed/wet weather tyre or (shock horror!) winter tyres, with 18 inch wheels like the pre-facelift version? Might MPS3 tyres on large wheels flatter the new ST on dry fast roads more than the actual facelift work does?

Edited by blearyeyedboy on Tuesday 10th February 23:43

blearyeyedboy

4,317 posts

104 months

Tuesday 10th February 2015
quotequote all
RTH said:
More a travelog than a road test.
Yes, but I quite like that. I think you learn more about road cars as travel companions on longer trips, and it's the kind of driving that helps you figure out if you bond with a car or not.

GTEYE

1,005 posts

135 months

Wednesday 11th February 2015
quotequote all
998420 said:
Reavenger said:
Why are all the car launches/test drives in Barcelona? Not that I don't like Barcelona (been twice and loved it).

What I always hate about car infotainment systems like Ford, Jaguar and old Audi is they are recessed into the dashboard to protect them from the sunlight. It looks really ugly and often unsightly amounts of plastic.
I guess because it is seen as a nice place to do launches. Attractive if you want to bring a partner, and great roads literally on the edge of the city. Trust me, I live there .... I also saw some of this launch, the fleet was lurking around the hotel by Tibidabo and the Arrabasada on the Collserola hill above the city, the local boy racer's track.
And I guess there is a probability of semi-decent weather at this time of year. As these launches are planned presumably months in advance, the northern Europe weather is presumably too unpredictable.

On the car itself, actually a pretty impressive overall package, and (after discounts) pretty decent value. Pity they don't do an auto/double clutch as would get one for the missus in an instant.

carparkno1

768 posts

83 months

Wednesday 11th February 2015
quotequote all
Some brokers are already offering 5k and more off the top ST3. Takes the price down to just over 20k

Christ that is tempting. Usability of a hatchback, 30mpg and 250bhp without the fugly pre-facelift front end. Can't think of much else at that price that competes in the brand new market.

Wonder what the GMFV and depreciation hit would be over three years on that? 6% APR - ish isn't great.

998420

672 posts

76 months

Wednesday 11th February 2015
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
And I guess there is a probability of semi-decent weather at this time of year. As these launches are planned presumably months in advance, the northern Europe weather is presumably too unpredictable.

On the car itself, actually a pretty impressive overall package, and (after discounts) pretty decent value. Pity they don't do an auto/double clutch as would get one for the missus in an instant.
Probability is a great way to put it !

Yes, it is usually decent here, if I remember correctly the Ford fleet was lurking around a few days before it snowed, the (Collserrola) hill was covered, but the city just got a light,quickly melted to slush, dusting.

Tenerife is where you would want to be, but driving back is a tad trickier

carparkno1

768 posts

83 months

Wednesday 11th February 2015
quotequote all
998420 said:
Probability is a great way to put it !

Yes, it is usually decent here, if I remember correctly the Ford fleet was lurking around a few days before it snowed, the (Collserrola) hill was covered, but the city just got a light,quickly melted to slush, dusting.

Tenerife is where you would want to be, but driving back is a tad trickier
Got me thinking about some epic drives now!