Launched back in 2012 with a new 2.0 litre EcoBoost engine, that replaced the much loved 2.5 litre five-cylinder Volvo derived powerplant, the Focus ST has remained the biggest challenger to the Golf GTI’s crown as ‘King of the hot Hatches’.
Renault’s Megane offers the most dynamic handling package, but it is not an easy car to drive everyday on less than perfect tar. And Opel’s Astra OPC simply put is quite disappointing and expensive. So I have to say, if you are not into a GTI, and there are a few people in this country that aren’t, then the Focus ST is probably the most balanced and most viable option on the road. Oh and it is also the best priced when take spec for spec into account, and that has to also count for something.
For 2015 you get a strengthened body structure with enhanced front-end body stiffness achieved by increasing the thickness of two structural brackets within the engine bay and using a stronger metal arc welding technique married to an up rated sports suspension. This suspension features all-new front springs and sportier new shock absorber tuning in the front and rear with stiffer suspension bushes on the front lower control arms and rear spring links. The calibration of the Electronic Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) and electronic vehicle control systems has also been revised.
You also get what is called Enhanced Transitional Stability (ETS), which is an industry first, and is a system that forms part of the STs Electronic Stability Control (ESC). What ETS does is sense the vehicle’s stability and driver inputs, predicts when a skid or loss of control might occur, and intervenes as required using individual wheel braking to maintain optimal precision and control during rapid changes of direction at speed – for example in a lane-change situation or on a track.
There are revised Electronic Torque Vectoring Control settings that further optimise wheel torque distribution, and this is there to maximise traction through corners, reduce understeer and increase agility.
There are three ESC system modes available to you, Standard Mode leaves everything on and active, Sport Mode reduces the ESC interventions and ETS is disabled, and in Off Mode there is no intervention from the ESC but it is claimed that Torque Vectoring remains active, although I couldn’t feel it working in Off Mode, a view that was supported by the Ford SA driving instructors at the launch of the car at Dezzi Raceway in KZN.
For the most part these systems work pretty well, the new Focus ST provided for sharp and predictable handling with a fair dose of torque steer on offer still. And for a street car that will spend most its life fighting hot hatch battles in a straight line in the suburbs or on the freeways, you won’t really require any more from it in the handling stakes.
But when you really go hardcore and throw the ST around a track, the systems intervene and spend a lot of time applying the brakes to the relevant wheels, and switch them completely off and they no longer offer any of the advertised traction benefits and then you have a powerful front wheel that you wish had a limited slip diff to make the most of the power on tap. I guess this is what the soon to be launched RS will be all about.
Talking of power, the 2.0 EcoBoost engine’s power and torque numbers remain unchanged at 184kW at 5 500rpm, matched to a substantial 360Nm of torque available from 2000-4500rpm. And this enough to put it in the GTI ballpark when it comes to sprint times at a claimed 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds and a 248km/h top speed.
Where the Focus ST is missing a trick is in the transmission department, you can only opt for a slick shifting short throw six-speed manual gearbox and the GTI is offered in the ever popular DSG double clutch auto transmission. This transmission ensures rapid launch control starts and traffic friendly auto cruising when required. Ford have an equally good option in their PowerShift gearbox that does duty in other Focus models, but this transmission is not for the ST and we were told that this generation car won’t see this gearbox either. This is unfortunate as I think this would attract more buyers to the car.
Auto-Start-Stop is included for the first time, and is said to improve the ST’s EcoBoost engine’s fuel economy by six percent to a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 6.8 litres / 100km. Fine on paper but my personal experience with EcoBoost engines is that achieving their claimed numbers is not their biggest plus point. Last time out in a ST I managed a more realistic 9.0 litres / 100km when I had it on test for a week.
Moving inside, Ford has redesigned the Focus ST interior for a more intuitive layout that is also simpler, with a clearer visual connection between the key components and significantly fewer buttons in the cabin and got rid of all that shiny black plastic of the old model.
An additional bank of three gauges – an ST hallmark – is situated on the instrument binnacle and displays turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and oil pressure information. A new, flat-base sports steering wheel with a soft-feel leather covered rim; a satin chrome-topped gearlever and ST pedals are on offer too.
Satin chrome door grab handles and illuminated aluminium scuffplates add extra touches of refinement, while sports seats developed jointly by Ford and Recaro provide the support required to fully enjoy the ST driving experience.
As in the past, the new Focus ST will be available in ST1 and ST3 trim levels. Standard features on the ST1 include the likes of keyless start, footwell illumination; ST-branded leather steering wheel and gear knob, ST scuff plates, ST triple dial cluster, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and an advanced Thatcham alarm and anti-theft system. Ford’s SYNC with Bluetooth and Voice Activation is included, along with remote steering wheel controls and dual USB ports.
Combined with the full leather trim, the Recaro seats used in the ST3 derivative are heated and boast eight-way power adjustment for driver and passenger. Dual-zone electronic climate control is standard, along with the new SYNC2 system with eight-inch touchscreen, high-end Sony audio system linked to nine speakers, dual USB ports and SD card slot complete the interior package.
I am not going to get into the styling changes, because you can see them yourself and decide if they work for you or not. I do have to say that the changes have sharpened up the car and work for me from a styling point of view.
A new metallic dark grey exterior paint colour called Stealth, my favourite, is introduced exclusively to the Focus ST, along with the striking Tangerine Scream which is now available on both ST derivatives for the first time. Deep Impact Blue is also a new addition to the broader Focus colour palette that also includes Frozen White, Moondust Silver, Panther Black, and Race Red.
If you are in the market for a hot hatch and don’t want to follow the herd, then the new Ford Focus ST deserves your attention.
As with the rest of the Focus range; the ST is sold with a four-year / 120 000km Comprehensive Warranty, four-year / 80 000km Service Plan with service intervals set at every 20 000km.
Ford Focus ST1 R381 900
Ford Focus ST3 R421 900