The Truth About Cars » Ford Focus ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:29:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford Focus ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Ford’s Got A (Focus) ST-D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-got-a-focus-st-d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-got-a-focus-st-d/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 01:33:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853993   Ford’s Focus lineup has got an ST-D. D for diesel, that is. The Focus ST Diesel gets a 2.0 diesel making 182 horsepower and an 295 lb-ft of torque. On the European cycle, it gets 64.2 mpg and emits 114 grams per km of CO2. 60 mph comes up in 8.1 seconds, compared to […]

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Ford’s Focus lineup has got an ST-D. D for diesel, that is.

The Focus ST Diesel gets a 2.0 diesel making 182 horsepower and an 295 lb-ft of torque. On the European cycle, it gets 64.2 mpg and emits 114 grams per km of CO2. 60 mph comes up in 8.1 seconds, compared to 7.5 seconds for the VW Golf GTD.

The gasoline powered Focus ST gets a new start-stop system, while both cars get an updated interior with Ford’s revised SYNC system.

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Ford To Debut Focus ST Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-to-debut-focus-st-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-to-debut-focus-st-diesel/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 20:02:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850322 A new Ford Focus ST is set to be debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend. In addition to a facelift (to better align it with the facelifted 2015 Focus), Just-Auto is also reporting that a diesel variant will be offered alongside the 2.0L Ecoboost engine. Any bets on whether it will arrive in […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

A new Ford Focus ST is set to be debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend.

In addition to a facelift (to better align it with the facelifted 2015 Focus), Just-Auto is also reporting that a diesel variant will be offered alongside the 2.0L Ecoboost engine. Any bets on whether it will arrive in North America? I’ll say “no”. The ST Diesel wagon is sure to be the new “most lusted after” hot hatch on the interwebs. You can bet on that.

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Geneva 2014: Ford Focus ST Gets Diesel Variant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-ford-focus-st-gets-diesel-variant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-ford-focus-st-gets-diesel-variant/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:48:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=765465 With the Ford Focus ST due for a mid-cycle refresh in Europe, Ford apparently announced a diesel version of their hot hatch at a dinner after Day 1 of the Geneva Auto Show. AutoExpress reports that the oil-burner will be powered by a a 2.0 TDCi engine, the diesel ST will have 182bhp (1bhp more […]

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With the Ford Focus ST due for a mid-cycle refresh in Europe, Ford apparently announced a diesel version of their hot hatch at a dinner after Day 1 of the Geneva Auto Show.

AutoExpress reports that the oil-burner will be powered by a

a 2.0 TDCi engine, the diesel ST will have 182bhp (1bhp more than the GTD) and cover 0-62mph in eight seconds – 0.5 seconds slower than the Golf. CO2 emission will be 114g/km, while the chassis will get the same suspension and steering tune as the petrol-powered Focus ST. A ‘heavily revised steering mount to reduce wheel hop and eliminate steering thump’ has been added, along with new wheels and tyres and further tweaks to improve steering feel. 

Photos of the new ST have not been released yet.

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691530 Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result […]

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2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

For 2014, the American hot hatch shopper is spoiled for choice. There are a whopping two options: the 2014 Ford Focus ST and the 2014 Volkswagen GTI. If you’re patient enough, VW plans on releasing a new GTI for the 2015 model year and the Mazda rumor mill is rife with 2015 Mazdaspeed3 assumptions. I must therefore rule the Focus ST the most attractive hot hatch in America and put the comparatively boring GTI in last place, or second. However you want to look at it. For performance duty Ford takes the already handsome Focus, lowers it by nearly half an inch and swaps in some new wheels, a front bumper, tweaked spoiler, rear valance and exhaust tips. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is no sedan variant of the Focus ST. Sorry America.

Although the parts list is short, I found the transformation impressive. I haven’t warmed to the Euro nose that the current generation Focus wears while the ST’s more conventional single grille look manages to be both more grown up and more aggressive when compared to the donor car. (Don’t worry, you can get your Focus in colors other than “Tangerine Scream”.) The ST shares hoods with the lesser Focuses (Foci?) there is an oddly large gap between the hood and front bumper that is so uniform (and is on every ST model I have seen) that it must be intentional, however distracting. The reason is that the regular model’s hood doesn’t mate directly with anything as it is styled to be the upper part of the front grille. I have a feeling that if and when the Mazdaspeed3 lands, it will take the crown as I find the Mazda3 the most attractive entry in the compact hatchback segment.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005

Interior

Like the Volkswagen GTI, the first thing you will notice about the Focus when you hop inside will be the very European color palate. In other words, black. The soft injection moulded dashboard combines with the black headliner, black carpets and predominantly black upholstery to create a very Germanic interior. All Focus models sport a double-bump style dashboard with the infotainment positioned in a prominent position and the ST trim tops off the binnacle with standard gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost.  This is the same cabin that European shoppers get with one exception: the Recaro seats aren’t standard on our side of the pond. Neither is that 8-inch touchscreen.

Although the ST starts at $23,625 my realistic base price jumps to $25,845 by adding the “ST2″ package which I consider essential. This package adds the 8-inch screen, automatic climate control and the Recaro seats that you see in all the photos and reviews of the Focus ST. The base seats lack the aggressive bolstering or the exceptional comfort of the half-leather Recaro thrones. ST2 shoppers can opt for two-tone seats (as seen in our tester) in blue, yellow or black-on-black. Checking the ST3 box brings the ST up to $28,000 and adds completely leather faced seats (black only), seat heaters, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and standard navigation software.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004

During my week with the ST I put over 1,100 miles on the Tangerine Scream including a 650 mile road trip. The Recaro thrones proved to be supportive, comfortable and superior to the GTI’s seats for long road trips. Unfortunately the rear passengers weren’t as happy since the Focus has a fairly cramped rear seat. Adding the Recaro seats to the Focus seems to drop the rear seat room by a hair as well making the Focus a great deal tighter than the GTI despite the Focus being the longer car by six inches. Where do those inches go? Some of them are consumed by the Ford’s longer nose, but plenty can be found in the ST’s 50% larger cargo hold.

Since I mentioned the Mustang earlier, that tight rear seat is one of the main reasons you’d select a Focus ST over a V6 ‘Stang. Despite being smaller than a GTI, the ST offers two extra doors, three more inches of leg room and a 5th seat belt. In addition to the added passenger room the Focus also boasts 10 more cubic feet of widget storage in the back.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002

Infotainment

Base ST shoppers get basic entertainment to go with their basic seating. All STs come standard with a 6-speaker audio system sporting a 4.2-inch color LCD, SYNC voice commands and a sea of buttons. The unit is housed in the same binnacle as the 8-inch system so there’s plenty of blank space to remind you that you didn’t pony up for the MyFord Touch system. The ST3 package that is my realistic base for the ST solves this by removing the button bank and inserting the screen you see above. Bundled with the resistive touchscreen is an upgraded 10-speaker Sony speaker system with a subwoofer and a center channel. Sound quality in the 6-speaker system was disappointing while the Sony system impressed. One thing to know if that the Sony system tends to have exaggerated treble and bass tuning by default but it is adjustable.

This is about the time when I usually comment on MyFord Touch being somewhat sluggish and suggest that the competition has an acceptable alternative. The alternative however is Volkswagen’s ancient infotainment lineup. All GTIs share the same 8-speaker sound system that slots between Ford’s base and up-level system in both speaker count and sound quality but everything else pales in comparison. The GTI has no SYNC-like voice command system in any model and the base GTI doesn’t even get a color LCD in the cabin. The Driver’s Edition GTI gets VW’s low-cost navigation unit which, when compared to MyFord Touch, is like taking a Palm Pilot to an iPad fight. Hopefully VW will up their game for 2015, but more than likely Ford’s only real infotainment competition will come from Mazda’s slick MazdaConnect system.

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002

Drivetrain

The last Focus ST was powered by Volvo, a logical choice since Volvo’s S40 and Ford’s Focus were cousins to begin with. This generation Focus is 100% Ford. Instead of the oddly-alluring 2.5L five-cylinder, we get a 252 horsepower tune of Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine cranking out 270 lb-ft of torque. (There is a bit of confusion on the HP numbers, in the video I mention Ford’s initial numbers of 247 HP and 266 lb-ft which was later updated to 252/270. Apparently running 87 octane gasoline in your ST will yield 247 while 93 will get you 252.) This is the same four-cylinder turbo used in the Ford Edge and Taurus except that the boost has been cranked up and it is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. (As far as we can tell this is no longer the Volvo M66 transmission manufactured by Getrag.)

Drive

Compared to the VW, the Focus is 52 ponies more powerful and serves up 63 more lb-ft while the Mustang V6 beats the Focus by 48 horsepower and 10 lb-ft. As you would assume with numbers like that, the Mustang is faster t0 60, but thanks to the turbocharger on the Focus the difference in our testing was just 1/10th of a second and is more down to driver skill and traction than vehicle output. The VW on the other hand can’t makeup for the power deficit by being 100lbs lighter and was 3/10ths slower.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006

The big difference between a Mustang and a hot hatch is of course which wheels are getting the power. Because the ST funnels all its power through the front wheels, torque steer is a genuine concern. Rather than limit engine power in 1st and 2nd like Mazda did with the old Mazdaspeed3, or use a limited slip differential like Honda uses on occasion, Ford decided to program the electric power steering to compensate. Coupled with the EPAS system is a stability control system programmed to torque vector power across the front using the car’s large front brakes. The system works passably well but not as well as the Ford’s “Revo Kunckle” which they use on their larger cars. Due mostly to the greater output, torque steer in the ST is more pronounced than in the GTI, but much less noticeable than in the old Mazda. I’ve always found mild torque steer in a fast front-driver an entertaining phenomenon so it never bothered me.

Helping the steering tendencies is a variable ratio steering rack that uses a quick 1.8 turns lock to lock vs 2.1 in the GTI, 2.8 in the standard Focus and 3.1 in the V6 ‘Stang. Thanks to the ratio the ST feels very nimble and eager to change direction. Unless you need to U-turn of course which is when you will discover that this tiny hatch has a nearly 40-foot turning radius.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009

Thanks to a light 3,200 pound curb weight (100lbs heavier than the VW but 300lbs lighter than a V6 Mustang), 235-width Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires and a well tuned suspension, the Focus ST sticks to the road like glue. TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad to confirm or deny the Mustang trouncing Gs the plucky hatch can pull, but after a week making passengers sick on winging mountain roads I’m a believer. What makes the Focus more impressive is how neutral the car feels despite being a front-heavy front-driver. It’s more lively, less civilized but more rewarding to drive than the GTI. The V6 ‘Stang does give you rear-wheel- drive dynamics and more shove in a straight line, but I’d be willing to bet I’d be faster around a track in the Focus ST.

What surprised me about the Focus the most however was how livable it is. The suspension is firm but never harsh and my spine didn’t revolt on a 5 hour drive to Los Angeles. Cabin noise was high at 76 dB but that’s not far from the last Golf I measured and average for the economy car segment. Thanks to an active noise generator that opens a valve to pipe sound into the cabin from when at full throttle, normal driving happens without the incessant droning of a Fiat Abarth. While the Tangerine Scream paint job and yellow trimmed seats scream “boy racer”, the truth is the Focus is quite the grown up. With a starting price some $1,300 less than a GTI the Focus delivers a solid value proposition. Fully loaded the difference narrows to less than a grand in cash but more than $3,000 when you factor in the Ford’s greater feature content. While I’m sure that 2015 will bring a VW GTI with more refinement and an improved interior, VW has confirmed the ST will still be the horsepower champion and likely the value leader as well. Compared to that RWD Ford on the lot, the pony car is less expensive but less practical as well. For the cost difference between the Mustang and the ST, you could buy all manner of performance mods for your pony to compete with the ST, but I have a feeling I’d still buy the Focus. For 2014 Ford’s hot hatch is without a doubt the hottest hatch on sale in America, but with Volkswagen planning on sending their 290HP Golf R to the USA and Ford’s own high-power Focus RS rumored, things are just starting to warm up.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3

0-60: 5.95

1/4 Mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 98.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.7 MPG over 1210 Miles

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 76.4 dB

 

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Capsule Review: Ford Focus ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/capsule-review-ford-focus-st/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/capsule-review-ford-focus-st/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492367 I wish I had more time with the Focus ST, but circumstances conspired to cut my loan short; I was off on the West Coast, driving a hot hatch older than I am, as well as two competitors, the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. Driving those two back to back gave me some context before […]

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I wish I had more time with the Focus ST, but circumstances conspired to cut my loan short; I was off on the West Coast, driving a hot hatch older than I am, as well as two competitors, the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. Driving those two back to back gave me some context before I drove the first truly hot Focus since the first-generation SVT version. In Europe, that car was also an ST, dubbed the ST170, because the RS was top dog in Ford of Europe’s hatch hierarchy. I hear that we’ll be getting the next Focus RS as well, complete with the 2.3L Ecoboost, but of course, my Ford sources will neither confirm or deny that.

Squint really hard, and the Focus ST looks just like the Corgi Cosworth toy that my Grandma bought for me at Asda and which I ended up smashing against a Corgi Metropolitan Police Range Rover while engaging in a youthful re-enactment of “The Sweeney”. It must be the Performance Blue paint and the hatch spoiler, which resembles the orca-esque monstrosity that came on the Cossie hatches.

The rest of the car is fairly agressive-looking without being over the top. I would be a little embarrassed to show up for a date or a lunch meeting with the Mazdaspeed3’s goofy mug smiling back at my would-be passenger, but at least with the ST, the front fascia looks appropriate. Hopefully nobody notices the overly large fascia-bumper panel gap.

Exterior styling aside, it’s the interior that will pose the greatest challenge for any occupants. Americans can opt for standard seats, but Canadian market cars only come one way; with the ST3 Package, including the Sony-branded MyFord Touch system and the Recaro seats. As nice as the Recaro’s look, they are absurdly confining; I’m 5’10 and 175 lbs with a 32″ waist, yet I’ve felt more comfortable in one-piece racing buckets. My brother and father, who are around my height but much stockier, were visceral in their criticism of the constricting bolsters. My father in particular raised an interesting point; guys like him (middle-aged, carrying a few extra pounds thanks to a white collar job) are the ones who buy performance cars, but the seats alone would DQ the ST from his list.

After a few days, I was able to look past them – in fact, it’s hard to imagine putting up with the regular Focus seats. This is what the Brit mags would call a “very quick point-to-point car”. At one end of the spectrum, we have the Volkswagen GTI. It’s not quite as performance oriented, but it does drive well while providing an appropriate amount of comfort and refinement. At the other end of the spectrum is the ‘Speed3, which feels like a garage-built tuner car with a warranty. In between those two is the Focus ST.

There’s more power than the GTI, but less than the Mazda. There’s less torque steer than the Mazda but more than the GTI. The ride and handling, steering feel and braking capability are a happy medium between the two. Every reviewer with a keyboard and an HJC DOT helmet seems to have coaxed some kind of “lift off oversteer” from this car. I can’t say I ever really pushed it that hard on public roads, but I also save my most aggressive driving exploits for wheel to wheel competition, a domain notoriously devoid of auto journalists.

On paper, the ST sounds a bit dull and wishy-washy, a true “warm hatch” that’s not much more exciting than a Honda Civic Si. But this car has charm. Mash the gas pedal and keep the wheel pointed straight and you will experience acceleration free of turbo lag and the masculine growl of the ST’s engine note; I don’t care if it’s piped in via a “sound synthesizer” or whatever Ford calls it. It does the job without alerting the outside world (or John Law) of your presence with an obnoxiously loud muffler. Each and every one of the 252 horsepower on tap is useful in the real world of cutting through traffic or taking an on-ramp just a little too quickly, unlike most of today’s steroid-enhanced sports cars, where driving them on the street makes you feel like you’re firing a Ma Deuce from the 5 yard line of an indoor gun range.

Of course, the ST has its flaws. The shifter is abominable, with an action that feels like rowing a broomstick through a tub of Greek yogurt. The pedal placement for heel-and-toeing was also all wrong, though that may be a function of my size 11.5 shoes. The Sony-branded MyFord Touch system wasn’t nearly as infuriating as previous iterations, but I’d rather not have to unplug my iPhone three times just to be able to access my music. I never got close to the EPA ratings of 23/32 mpg either, but again, caveat emptor.

There’s a lot to like about this car; the power, the looks, the fact that I could fit my Costco groceries and a bicycle in the back of the hatch with ease. But in Canada, the ST comes out to about $34,000, plus 13 percent sales tax, which is a crapload of money for a guy like me. For comparison, a Mustang V6 with the Performance Package and Recaros (which may not be as lithe, but would lay waste to an ST in any objective performance category) is about $4000 cheaper and probably gets equivalent or better gas mileage. Even financing a Focus ST over 84 months means payments of about $450 a month, and I’d be paying off a complex, electronics-laden car long past its warranty period. And OEMs wonder why young people aren’t buying new cars anymore.

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Review: 2013 Ford Focus ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-ford-focus-st/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-ford-focus-st/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:22:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464111 When you’ve reviewed over 600 cars, few new ones surprise you. With the polished road manners and granitic structure of a far more expensive car, the 2012 Ford Focus was one of the few. But its 160-horsepower engine, while easily adequate for daily driving, doesn’t provide the thrust many driving enthusiasts demand. For 2013, this […]

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When you’ve reviewed over 600 cars, few new ones surprise you. With the polished road manners and granitic structure of a far more expensive car, the 2012 Ford Focus was one of the few. But its 160-horsepower engine, while easily adequate for daily driving, doesn’t provide the thrust many driving enthusiasts demand. For 2013, this should no longer be a problem. A 252-horsepower Ford Focus ST has joined the line.

Some people find the exterior of the Focus overdone, but when shod with large five-spoke alloys it’s the most attractive car in the segment to my eye, with an athletic stance, excellent proportions (for a front-drive hatch), and hardly a line out of place. For the ST, Ford has enhanced the egg with a cleaner front fascia with a black grille, a centrally-located exhaust, and a larger spoiler. Big buck AMGs should be this tasteful.

Inside, Recaro buckets included with either option package are the most noteworthy upgrade (the base ST is fitted with the supportive buckets from the regular Focus). With the ST3 Package, the seating surfaces are entirely covered with charcoal leather. I prefer the partial leather seats in the ST2 Package, as their center panels are covered in a niftily textured fabric and their bolsters inject some much needed color (yellow, blue, or silver). With either option the Recaros provide both excellent lateral support and long-distance comfort (unless you’re too broad for them). The ST also gains some auxiliary gauges atop the center stack. As in other upper trim Foci, interior materials appear of high quality and feel solid.

My least favorite aspects of the regular Focus cannot be altered without a major redesign of the car. The instrument panel remains tall and deep beneath a severely raked windshield. A more open view over a more compact instrument panel would make for a more engaging driving experience. The center console is also more intrusive than most, but this doesn’t bother me like it does some people. If you like a lot of room behind the wheel, the Focus isn’t the car for you.

Move to the back seat, and if you or the driver is much over 5’9″ you’ll wish you hadn’t. Legroom remains short of the segment average. If you aren’t very tall, though, you’ll likely find the rear seat comfortable.

While the regular Focus is available as a sedan and a hatch, in North America the ST is available only in the latter body style. This does make for a practical car, if not as practical as the wagon offered in Europe.

The engine in the Focus ST is no low-volume bespoke mill. It’s also available beneath the hood of most other Ford models, in the larger cars serving not as the high-performance option but as the high-MPG option. For the ST it does kick out another 12 horsepower, for a total of 252 at 5,500 rpm, but this is entirely due to a less restrictive intake and exhaust. The engine itself is physically unchanged. Good things follow. First, as we’ll discuss in more detail below, Ford charges surprisingly little for the ST upgrades. Second, refinement is worthy of a mainstream $30,000+ car. Third, fuel economy is much better than with the most direct competitor. The MazdaSpeed3 has EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway. The Focus ST does far better, with guilt-free EPA ratings of 23/32. (These estimates aren’t hard to replicate in the real world if you go easy on the gas.)

As it often does, refinement cuts both ways. There no kick or even a solid shove as boost kicks in. Instead, thrust builds very smoothly, and before you know it, the car is traveling well over 80 mph. Ford fitted a “sound symposer” to pipe intake noise into the cabin at high rpm. Nevertheless, the engine remains sufficiently quiet that a few times while powering out of a turn I felt the engine go limp, briefly wondered if a safety nanny had kicked in, then noticed that I was riding the 6,800-rpm rev limiter. It’s not easy to time shifts without keeping a close eye on the tach. First tops out very quickly. Between this and the tires’ inability to transfer all the engine’s torque to the pavement at low speeds, and ideally first would be a little taller.

While the ST’s peak power figure is actually a little low for a boosted 2.0-liter (likely due to its mainstream role), the engine excels in the midrange, with peak torque of 270 pound-feet at 2,700 rpm. An overboost function unique to this application plumps out the midrange another eight percent for up to 15 seconds. With this much torque channeled entirely through the front wheels, the question isn’t whether there’s torque steer, but how much. Well, there’s enough to mildly tug the steering wheel this way and that during hard acceleration, but not nearly enough that you have to fight to keep the car on your desired line. Hard shifts from first to second also effect a little wheel hop. The shifter and clutch for the mandatory six-speed manual transmission aren’t the best–you’ll read no rifle bolt analogies here–but they commit no notable sins.

There’s enough thrust that hard acceleration provides thrills despite the wet blanket of refinement and the family sedan-like 3,223-pound curb weight. But Ford offers the Mustang for those seeking straight line kicks. The Focus ST is really about handling. Even the regular Focus tackles curvy roads with aplomb. For the ST, Ford has added a variable-ratio steering rack, lowered the suspension a centimeter, firmed up the springs and dampers, totally revised the rear stabilizer bar, enhanced the suspension electronics, and fitted Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric three-season tires (in the same 235/40R18 size also offered on the Titanium). Thanks to these upgrades, the hatch’s handling goes from surprisingly good to amazing. The feel is much the same, with the body control of a much more expensive car, just taken up another couple notches. Between the tires’ extremely high limits, the revised suspension hardware, and the electronic torque vectoring, you’ll have to push the car harder than I was willing to push it on public roads to encounter more than a hint of understeer. On the other hand, lift off the gas at corner entry and the rear end slides outward enough to help the car through the turn (but not so much as to be scary). The Focus ST’s steering doesn’t provide nuanced feedback, partly because it uses an electric power steering system and partly because the tires simply aren’t slipping much. But thanks to its tuning and variable-ratio rack this system manages to feel both very solid on center and very responsive when the wheel is turned.

A bevy of electronic controls supplement the suspension hardware. Unlike in the regular Focus, the stability control can be switched to a sport mode or disabled entirely. As with any well-designed front-wheel-drive chassis, it’s not much needed. Ultimately, at some point I failed to reach, the front tires are going to scrub, and then backing off the throttle will safely reduce speed. When the stability control is disabled, curve control (which modulates the throttle and brakes to maintain a safe speed and line through turns) is also disabled. Curve control arguably doesn’t belong in the ST to begin with, but even when enabled it’s less of a nuisance than in models more likely to need it. Torque vectoring, which modulates the brakes to counteract understeer, is never disabled. As noted above, it’s quite successful in its mission. But it’s not entirely transparent. You can feel the brakes at work, forcing the chassis to take a different line than it inherently would. As a result, the Focus ST’s handling doesn’t feel entirely natural, and your control of the car seems less direct. Cars with balanced weight distributions retain an advantage here.

Some people find the ride of the regular Focus to be overly firm, but I find it nearly perfect, with precisely damped body motions over imperfect pavement. Despite its firmer suspension, the Focus ST didn’t seem to ride significantly worse than the regular Focus. I say “seem,” because the route prescribed by Ford didn’t contain any awful roads. During my first mile in the driver’s seat I thought the ride felt a bit busy, with some small sharp reactions, but this thought never entered my mind in the hours that followed. Even based on this limited experience, the Focus ST’s ride is clearly much more livable than that of a truly hardcore machine like the Evo, or even a VW Jetta GLI, Scion FR-S, or Genesis Coupe R-Spec. On top of this, noise levels from all three sources (wind, road, engine) are so low when cruising that the Focus ST feels like it’s traveling 20, even 30 mph below its actual velocity.

The sticker price on a regular Focus can exceed $27,000. So how could Ford possibly add a turbocharged engine, sport suspension, and Recaro seats without pricing the car out of reach? Well, they have. Run a Focus Titanium and a Focus ST through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool (with both loaded up to make their content as similar as possible), and you’ll find that the latter’s unique features only add about $2,100, a shockingly small amount given what you get in return.

Consequently, the Ford Focus ST starts at a very reasonable $24,495. For the Recaros in partial leather, Sony premium audio, and the MyFord Touch interface, add the $2,385 ST2 Package. Nav adds another $795, a sunroof (not on the tested car) another $895. The “tangerine scream” tri-coat paint on the tested car (more orange and dynamic in person than it appears in these photos) costs $495. Don’t believe in paying extra for paint? The “performance blue” resembles my favorite shade on the 2002-2005 Focus SVT.

Compared to the ST2, a MazdaSpeed3 is $1,885 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $1,100 less afterwards. The Mazda provides a somewhat more visceral driving experience but looks and feels like a far less expensive car. A Volkswagen GTI costs about the same as a similarly-equipped Focus ST, but doesn’t perform or handle nearly as well. Very much comparing an apple with an orange, the rawer, far less livable, and far less practical—but rear-wheel-drive and inherently balanced—Scion FR-S costs $460 more before adjusting for feature differences and about $2,300 more afterwards.

You can buy a more thrilling car than the Focus ST. You can also buy a more stylish car, a smoother car, or a more practical car. But if you’re seeking style, performance, handling, refinement, and everyday practicality all in same car, the Focus ST hatchback isn’t approached by anything else under $30,000 (as long as the wagon isn’t offered west of the Atlantic) and it isn’t often matched above this level. The stratospheric prices of Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes have never seemed less justified. If (like me) you’ve been thinking that the Focus ST might be the car for you, it is.

Ford provided insured, fueled cars along with lunch at a media event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

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