RE: Ford Focus ST | UK Drive

RE: Ford Focus ST | UK Drive

Thursday 5th September

Ford Focus ST | UK Drive

Wet 'n' windy Britain has often been the making of a fast Ford - so is that true for this new ST?



As locations for a first UK test of the highly anticipated Ford Focus ST go, you couldn't ask for much better than the roads around M Sport's Cockermouth HQ. This is the Lake District, after all, where stunning scenery meets pretty punishing tarmac. While the test track thrash and the jolly in the south of France could be considered soft launches, there's no escape now - if the Focus is a great hot hatch, as we've come to expect, here's where it will be proved - or otherwise...

Perhaps it's the glum light of a Cumbrian morning, but it remains difficult to be too excited about how a Focus ST looks. While it sits lower than standard and comes with the requisite sporty add-ons, there's not the stop-and-stare appeal of a Renault Sport Megane, nor the classy restraint of a Golf GTI. While the Sports Technologies Focus has never been the most arresting of hot hatches, this latest car does seem a little tame. You might even say plain. The trouble, of course, with then going too far other way is a car as divisive as the Civic Type R, so Ford perhaps erred on the side of conservatism for that reason. It's fair to say, though, that the i30 N - it wasn't going to be long before that came up - strikes a better compromise in being interesting to look at yet not over the top.

Much inside the Focus is good; the new Recaro seats, for example, place the driver low, with comfortable distances to the wheel, pedals and gearstick. Once more, though, as with the outside, it's hard to be too enthused. Not to a woeful degree, but this is the ST pitched as one of the fastest Fords ever, quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS and ready to take it to a formidable bunch of rivals - it's a shame that the stats are so much more exciting than the first impressions suggest.


Fortunately things take a turn for the better on the road. If anything, this car's ST label is something of a misnomer; that dowdy exterior cloaks an aggressive, unflappable, engaging driving machine, one that does away with the endearing but slightly wayward charm of the old model and replaces it with a much more serious hot hatch.

The car's newfound traction is perhaps the first indicator of this, even if it seems an odd place to begin. Where once a Focus ST's front tyres would emit as much smoke as the Sistine chapel at a papal conclave, this new car - despite its 310lb ft - remains as composed as an evening mass. The eLSD - a similar system to VW's VAQ - has four different modes, though it seems across all that the Focus's front end delivers accuracy as well as a remarkable ability to get motive force to the road, surely helped by Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. Even across craggy tarmac it remains resolute, only the odd tug of the sizeable steering wheel letting you know it's working hard. Where before the Focus's uncouth manners could frustrate, its ability now to put the power down is a real strong point, resulting in a much more accomplished, convincing performer.

As with the differential, the continuously variable dampers - at least on Performance Pack cars - have myriad settings, yet deliver in all of them. Alright, so Track is, funnily enough, best left off for the public road. But both Sport and Normal suit the UK; it would be a hard push to say either offer the supple experience Fords may have once been known for, though neither are they jarring, harsh or unforgiving. There's just total body control and sharp, agile responses, giving the driver the utmost confidence - supported by that diff - to attack a series of bends.


Ford makes a big deal of its steering for this Focus ST, though it's not the car's most convincing element. It's 15 per cent faster than a standard Focus at two turns lock to lock, and there are bespoke knuckles for more feel. In reality there are rivals which deliver a greater sense of connection with the front axle, and the immediacy of the rack initially comes across simply as contrived dartiness - perhaps a ploy to mask the 1,500kg kerb weight. Handily the chassis is in tune with all of this, and it makes sense after time, but steering isn't something the driver should have to attune themselves to or make allowances for - see the Megane for further proof. Predictably the racier the drive mode, the more leaden the wheel becomes - not great.

Without a Civic Type R in the world, the Focus's powertrain would receive a far kinder review. However the harsh truth is that the Honda does exist, and is available for similar money. Not only does it make 15 per cent more power (to carry less weight), the VTEC turbo is more willing and revvier, matched to a gearbox that remains unmatched in the class. There's nothing especially bad about the ST's engine and 'box - the former grunty and eager, the latter accurate and quick - they just never deliver spectacularly on the engagement and entertainment front.

Neither, however, are insufficient enough to make the ST anything less than excellent fun on a demanding road. There's that same energy and enthusiasm that's there in a Fiesta ST, a dogged determination to get into every apex, backed up with a little more dynamic sophistication thanks to a multi-link rear axle. It's neutral and pretty resistant to understeer, then benign and predictable if lifting the throttle to quell it. The fast Focuses, despite any other flaws, have always been blessed with a fine chassis, and this ST continues the trend in exemplary fashion.


But there are problems, centring on how you as the driver interact with that chassis - and the rest of the car. There are four drive modes in a Focus ST, but crucially no individual setting. So while you might be after the additional damping control and eLSD aggression of the Sport mode, that can only be had with snatchier throttle response and worse steering. Ramp it up further to Track and the driver is forced to endure a rather droney sound through the Engine Sound Enhancement and tough suspension for whatever other gains they might be after. Throughout, the brakes deliver huge power but feel over-servoed, which might be the Electronic Brake Booster; like the chassis, the hardware and ability is clearly there, but the relationship between it and the driver - so often a Ford strong point - is tricky to establish.

As tends to be the way with these things, 'Normal' provides the most authentic and natural experience, with a sensible throttle response, pleasant enough noise, damping that suits all situations and a tangible sense of the diff functioning. It's therefore a shame that any desired benefits elsewhere are tied up in contrived 'sportiness'. And enforced rev matching...

Still, do away with the Β£250 Performance Pack and drivers will be able to heel and toe to their heart's delight, as well as have dampers without any possibility of driver interference. Perhaps that's where the very best Focus ST lies, shorn of a few distractions and with its excellent chassis - one certainly the match of Civic, Megane, Golf and so on - brought to the fore. We'll find out for certain very soon, but be in no doubt for now; though this ST may not be without its flaws, and may come at a more grown-up price point, it's a much more serious, more capable hot hatch than it's ever been before.


SPECIFICATION - FORD FOCUS ST
Engine: 2,261cc, turbocharged four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 310@3,000-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,508kg (lightest kerbweight with 75kg driver, full fluids and 90 per cent fuel)
MPG: 35.7
CO2: 179g/km
Price: Β£31,995

Search for a used Ford Focus ST here



Author
Discussion

stevesingo

Original Poster:

3,622 posts

167 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
1508kg. Porky!

Haltamer

1,055 posts

25 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
With a 2.3T base, I've got no idea why they didn't just match the output (at least) of the CTR:- It'd seem the Chassis is more than capable based on reports so far, and It'd make the price more justifiable.

lee_erm

806 posts

138 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
Haltamer said:
With a 2.3T base, I've got no idea why they didn't just match the output (at least) of the CTR:- It'd seem the Chassis is more than capable based on reports so far, and It'd make the price more justifiable.
They need to make room for the RS though.

cerb4.5lee

12,330 posts

125 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
I've always liked a Performance Ford and I also like this. It weighs almost as much as my old BMW E90 330i now though.

G.Fraser

157 posts

71 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
The RS ought to be nearer 400bhp if power increases similarly to previous versions. Also takes the fight to the new mega hatches a bit.

Looking to replace my Mk2 ST shortly with the new petrol ST estate. Bit of a shame the review isn’t more glowing, even though it is very positive, however I suspect the extra practicality of the estate should offset some of the deficit in driver experience. Not a very rock n roll trade off mind you!

I am keen to see some proper reviews of the petrol ST estate as there don’t seem to be many.

LuS1fer

35,312 posts

190 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
I own a Fiesta ST Mk 7 and am not enamoured with the current style of most Fords - this seems very fussy and I'm not a fan of the dull-looking Fiesta.
To cap it off, the colour choice is rubbish.
That blue is more wishy-washy than an Aladdin pantomime. The only colour I like is Magnetic but hey, it's still grey...

Finally, despite or maybe because of the looks, I would love a Honda CTR but Honda still only fit 2 seat belts in the back.
This is an own goal when the standard car has 3 in the back.
Could I fit an extra seatbelt? I don't know but then I'd have to declare it as "modified".
Sort it out Honda, I've been denied a CTR for a long time for just that one reason. It's not a coupe...

s m

17,824 posts

148 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
cerb4.5lee said:
I've always liked a Performance Ford and I also like this. It weighs almost as much as my old BMW E90 330i now though.
Those days are gone when a 4-door saloon was 1200kg
320d Sport tested a few months back was 1640kg

cerb4.5lee

12,330 posts

125 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
s m said:
cerb4.5lee said:
I've always liked a Performance Ford and I also like this. It weighs almost as much as my old BMW E90 330i now though.
Those days are gone when a 4-door saloon was 1200kg
320d Sport tested a few months back was 1640kg
yikes


cry

I suppose on the bright side though that is still over 600kgs lighter than the Porsche Taycan at nearly 2300kg!! biggrin

Uncle John

1,958 posts

136 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?

Court_S

1,173 posts

122 months

Wednesday 4th September
quotequote all
I struggle to get excited about this generation of ST; that dowdy blue colour really doesn’t help. It just looks so bloody dull.

A friend had the previous version and did whinge about torque steer and woeful infotainment (the Ford Sync system does appear to be poor).

FaNtheMaN26

45 posts

4 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Yeah heard this a few times, it's slower off the line, then the weight advantage shows and it gets across the line slightly quicker

Brakes are apparently better as well, which is surprising as they were brembos on the RS vs rubbish looking ford specials

s m

17,824 posts

148 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
FaNtheMaN26 said:
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Yeah heard this a few times, it's slower off the line, then the weight advantage shows and it gets across the line slightly quicker

Brakes are apparently better as well, which is surprising as they were brembos on the RS vs rubbish looking ford specials
Will be interesting to see if it’s true about the RS vs timings

I haven’t seen any proper road tests in the UK mags yet to prove/disprove it but Autocar magazine are doing a full timed test of it next Wednesday so I guess we’ll see if the speculation is true or not

KPB1973

277 posts

44 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
Saw my first one yesterday at my local Ford dealer. If it wasn't for the big 'NEW FOCUS ST' sign in the windscreen, I wouldn't have noticed what it was, despite being less than 5 feet away.


Hub

4,301 posts

143 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Hard to believe isn't it - with about a 70bhp deficit and fwd. Must be in the gearing!

greenarrow

1,720 posts

62 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
s m said:
FaNtheMaN26 said:
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Yeah heard this a few times, it's slower off the line, then the weight advantage shows and it gets across the line slightly quicker

Brakes are apparently better as well, which is surprising as they were brembos on the RS vs rubbish looking ford specials
Will be interesting to see if it’s true about the RS vs timings

I haven’t seen any proper road tests in the UK mags yet to prove/disprove it but Autocar magazine are doing a full timed test of it next Wednesday so I guess we’ll see if the speculation is true or not
I look forward to finding out as frankly I'm struggling to believe a FWD car roughly 65BHP down on power (albeit about 100KG lighter) is going to cover the quarter mile faster than a 4wd RS.

I went to the Ford dealer on Sunday to look at the ST and its just so uninspiring to look at. The post facelift Focus ST MK3 in my eyes is a sharper looking car even if it does torque steer for England. The boot also looks small for the size of car. The Focus is quite a long car now, but seems ill proportioned, i.e. long bonnet, short boot...not great packaging Ford.

After looking at the ST I went next door and sat in the Hyundai i30n Fastback and for me, that's a much more appealing package. Better looking on the outside with a better quality interior (IMHO), bigger boot and cheaper list price (not that I'd be buying new). It might be a touch slower and perhaps not as fast around a lap, but with Hyundai's cast iron warranty thrown in, I think I might choose one over an ST. Obviously would need to drive them both to find out. I'm hoping Pistonheads do a twin test soon, because IMO the i30N not the Civic Type R is the biggest rival for this car.

Edited by greenarrow on Thursday 5th September 08:09

s m

17,824 posts

148 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
greenarrow said:
s m said:
FaNtheMaN26 said:
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Yeah heard this a few times, it's slower off the line, then the weight advantage shows and it gets across the line slightly quicker

Brakes are apparently better as well, which is surprising as they were brembos on the RS vs rubbish looking ford specials
Will be interesting to see if it’s true about the RS vs timings

I haven’t seen any proper road tests in the UK mags yet to prove/disprove it but Autocar magazine are doing a full timed test of it next Wednesday so I guess we’ll see if the speculation is true or not
I look forward to finding out as frankly I'm struggling to believe a FWD car roughly 65BHP down on power (albeit about 100KG lighter) is going to cover the quarter mile faster than a 4wd RS.

I went to the Ford dealer on Sunday to look at the ST and its just so uninspiring to look at. The post facelift Focus ST MK3 in my eyes is a sharper looking car even if it does torque steer for England. The boot also looks small for the size of car. The Focus is quite a long car now, but seems ill proportioned, i.e. long bonnet, short boot...not great packaging Ford.

After looking at the ST I went next door and sat in the Hyundai i30n Fastback and for me, that's a much more appealing package. Better looking on the outside with a better quality interior (IMHO), bigger boot and cheaper list price (not that I'd be buying new). It might be a touch slower and perhaps not as fast around a lap, but with Hyundai's cast iron warranty thrown in, I think I might choose one over an ST. Obviously would need to drive them both to find out. I'm hoping Pistonheads do a twin test soon, because IMO the i30N not the Civic Type R is the biggest rival for this car.

Edited by greenarrow on Thursday 5th September 08:09
Wouldn't that be the old front wheel drive 5-pot RS though rather than the current ( or latest model ) 4 wheel drive RS?

sideshowfred

19 posts

28 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
s m said:
cerb4.5lee said:
I've always liked a Performance Ford and I also like this. It weighs almost as much as my old BMW E90 330i now though.
Those days are gone when a 4-door saloon was 1200kg
320d Sport tested a few months back was 1640kg
I think people don't realise how heavy cars actually are. A base spec Astra is around the 1700kg mark at the moment.

thiscocks

2,034 posts

140 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
s m said:
greenarrow said:
s m said:
FaNtheMaN26 said:
Uncle John said:
Article says quicker across the quarter mile than the old RS.

Is that right.....?
Yeah heard this a few times, it's slower off the line, then the weight advantage shows and it gets across the line slightly quicker

Brakes are apparently better as well, which is surprising as they were brembos on the RS vs rubbish looking ford specials
Will be interesting to see if it’s true about the RS vs timings

I haven’t seen any proper road tests in the UK mags yet to prove/disprove it but Autocar magazine are doing a full timed test of it next Wednesday so I guess we’ll see if the speculation is true or not
I look forward to finding out as frankly I'm struggling to believe a FWD car roughly 65BHP down on power (albeit about 100KG lighter) is going to cover the quarter mile faster than a 4wd RS.

I went to the Ford dealer on Sunday to look at the ST and its just so uninspiring to look at. The post facelift Focus ST MK3 in my eyes is a sharper looking car even if it does torque steer for England. The boot also looks small for the size of car. The Focus is quite a long car now, but seems ill proportioned, i.e. long bonnet, short boot...not great packaging Ford.

After looking at the ST I went next door and sat in the Hyundai i30n Fastback and for me, that's a much more appealing package. Better looking on the outside with a better quality interior (IMHO), bigger boot and cheaper list price (not that I'd be buying new). It might be a touch slower and perhaps not as fast around a lap, but with Hyundai's cast iron warranty thrown in, I think I might choose one over an ST. Obviously would need to drive them both to find out. I'm hoping Pistonheads do a twin test soon, because IMO the i30N not the Civic Type R is the biggest rival for this car.

Edited by greenarrow on Thursday 5th September 08:09
Wouldn't that be the old front wheel drive 5-pot RS though rather than the current ( or latest model ) 4 wheel drive RS?
Yes I think this is what the article means by 'old' RS

driftingphil

79 posts

92 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
BTW Recaro don't make the seats.. ford do, they just license the name to be used.


IanJ9375

908 posts

161 months

Thursday 5th September
quotequote all
sideshowfred said:
I think people don't realise how heavy cars actually are. A base spec Astra is around the 1700kg mark at the moment.
You're looking at the wrong weights I'd suggest

Kerb weight on a MK7 Astra is 1350kg for the largest engine petrol and 1263kg for the lightest/small engined one

https://www.ultimatespecs.com/car-specs/Vauxhall/1...

https://www.ultimatespecs.com/car-specs/Vauxhall/1...

Which basically means it's a very similar weight to the MK5 Astra from x2 gens ago but with more safety/tech etc