ST a sleek, comfortable Ford drive
Continuing a tradition of sporting front-drive Fords, the Focus ST uses a Falcon engine to get its thrust. DAVE MOORE explains.
The initials GT, XR, RS and ST have suffixed the names of all manner of fast small and midsized family Fords over the past 50 years and they’ve all had one thing in common: fun.
While further hopped-up models became RSs, the GT badge soldiered on for the merely ‘‘warmedover’’ models. With the advent of front-drive Fiestas and Escorts in Europe the XR badge came into being.
As the Escort became replaced by the first Focus, the initials ST replaced XR with the Fiesta and Mondeo also including ST versions. Each Fiesta and Focus model also gained an even faster very limited edition ultra high performance RS version, meaning the STs are seen as the more civilised face of Ford performance.
So the third generation Focus ST driven here is seen as essentially a simmeringly warm hatch rather than a boiling-hot one.
At the heart of the new ST is an engine that is 20 per cent smaller than the preceding model’s Volvoderived 2.5-litre transverse five.
The latest Focus ST may have given up a cylinder and lost some capacity, but the engine produces more than 10 per cent more power and torque, at 184kW and 360Nm, than the previous five-pot while managing to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by more than 20 per cent.
The car uses a pleasingly slick six- speed manual unit only, though there has been discussion about a double-clutch two-pedal ‘‘PowerShift’’ transmission.
The power unit is of course a version of Ford’s ubiquitous EcoBoost 2.0-litre four.
It’s ubiquitous because it’s doubtful that there’s a fourcylinder engine that has more applications.
As well as the Focus, Mondeo and various SUV and peoplemover derivatives of those models in Europe, the front-drive EcoBoost 2.0-litre is employed in the Explorer, Fusion and Edge as well as various Lincoln and Mercury models, while Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar also use it and Ford’s Australian Falcon has a northsouth rear-drive version which will even be found under the bonnet of the next Mustang.
An additional benefit of the EcoBoost unit is that it is considerably lighter than the old fivecylinder unit which means it is not the lead-tipped arrow the previous ST could be in some conditions
To make an ST out of a stock Focus, the car’s independent front MacPherson strut and rear control-blade suspension is given new springs and dampers, stiffer anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear and there’s a 10 millimetre reduction in the ride height. Ford also fits the ST with an enhanced version of the Focus’s Torque Vectoring Control, designed to quell inherent front-wheel-drive torquesteer.
However, the biggest difference when driving the car comes from the steering, which has a new variable ratio rack – with more teeth closer to the steering centre point – and fresh calibration of its electronic assistance.
While Ford fanatics will readily spot the ST among a bevy of other Focuses, unless you opt for the ‘‘Tangerine Scream’’ paint of the test car, it doesn’t stand out that much from the standard model which is a pretty good looker as it is and shod with similar diameter wheels in Titanium models.
But to give it some visual cutthrough, the car has a roof spoiler, a black grille with an ST badge in its left side. There’s another ST badge on the right rear of the car, centre- mounted twin exhausts and black straked vents at each corner of the car. The interior is much the same as any other topechelon Focus. Mine had Ford’s easy to use new Sync set-up which engages easily with an iPhone – and so should do the same with most other handheld electronic accoutrements.
So the ST is loaded with gear, is as cosy as a den to slip into, and from behind the wheel, the feel and the view tends to exemplify what we could call the accepted zenith of current mass-produced performance hatchbacks. Though hot-hatch juries might vote for the more powerful hot Meganes or hot Golfs on paper, this warmed but far from overheated Focus tends to close its case when you start to drive it day to day.
Performance Ford: Hero colour for the model is pretty hard to miss. Large trapezoidal grille is an ST signature.