Monday, 2 July 2012 12:25 PM
The endless pacing and waiting is over. The new fast Ford is here. Let the drooling and wanting commence! But wait, is the new 247bhp Ford Focus ST worthy of a good old drool down at your local dealer? Yes! And don’t worry; Ford dealers have been issued with extra mops and buckets to deal with the slicks left by hot-Ford-fans wanting speed and handling! And for under £22k.
I think it’s fair to say that when Ford get a hot hatch right, they get it really right. And while we’ve enjoyed some fast ‘n’ fun times behind the wheel of the until-now-hottest 180bhp Ford Focus Zetec S recently, myself and the many other fans of hotter hatches here in the UK – the new ST’s biggest market - have been waiting for the next step in performance news from Ford.
But, before we delve deeper into the snorty new ST, let’s get a quick disappointment of the way. There will be no new Focus RS in the future. There, I said it. Deal with it – this quick-witted 247bhp-er should help!
Ford Focus ST first drive review
So, what sets the new ST apart from its other Focus cousins? There’s the red “ST” badging, of course, but, like all other the Focus models, the ST will come as a 5-door hatch and estate only.
There are also ST-only front and rear bumpers with extra depth and aggression, a lower and wider stance, and a special centre-exit exhaust tailpipe that’s said to be modelled on the TIE Fighter spaceship from Star Wars. Two new paint colours can also only be found only in your ST brochure; Spirit Blue and the loud ‘n’ proud Tangerine Scream pictured here.
The keen eye’d out there will have spotted the front-end styling changes for the ST, also. Where once there was small, single-bar grille surrounding the blue oval – on lesser Focus models – there now sits a curve of bodywork on the ST, with a deep black grille now below the badge. This is probably the most noticeable ST-cue, and I think it looks a little evil-snake-like!
Into the interior:
Exactly what ST interior you get depends on what trim package you buy. The base ST is priced at £21,995, ST2 at £23,495, and ST3 at £25,495. And as the price climbs so do the goodies.
Ford have chosen to keep the entry-level ST at a very keen performance-per-pound-paid price level, with all the on-road performance goodies included with ST, but not so much on the dress up side of things. So, a snip under £22k gets you all of the 247bhp, and all the ST-tuned suspension and brakes, and those handsome (cloth) Recaros. The all-important bits in my opinion.
All STs will enjoy the deep and delicious Recaro bucket seats we see here, just in different states of leather trim, and again, regardless of price paid, the Focus ST interior is modern, spacious, well laid out and ergonomically top notch.
And sliding into our top of the range ST3 test car and I immediately feel right at home. The third generation Ford Focus has long been one of the most comfortable hatches I’ve driven, ever, and with these more expensive and even more supportive Recaros to cosset me I’m one seriously comfy driver. Even at 6’ 4” tall. And it’s all down to expansive every-direction driver’s seat adjustment and a very far-reaching (ST-badge’d) leather steering wheel.
There are three ST-extra gauges angled towards the driver atop the dash and they recount oil temperature, turbo boost pressure (up to 1.8bar – which is a fair old push!) and oil pressure. These ST bits and further sporting enhancements throughout the cabin give a pleasant feeling of a high level of plush for a reasonable price paid.
Well this is what it’s all about – when we slide into an ST we want some action. And the new Focus ST doesn’t disappoint.
The new ST is around 20 per cent more efficient than the previous MK2 ST with its 2.5-litre, turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, but still comes up trumps with more standard power at 247bhp. Ford quote a combined economy figure of 39.2mpg, with CO2 at 169g/km. Good stuff for a 154mph car with a big boot and plenty of adult space. But, it’s all about the 6.2secs to 62mph, right?
Ford have tuned the sound output of their new ST to sound as much like the old 5-pot ST as would be right to do so, as punters loved the old 5-potter burble.
The new ST has a classy depth to its horsepower soundtrack and it doesn’t shout too loudly about its quicker intentions, especially from outside the car. I think it’s a good balance for the intended buyer. In a “quiet” colour you could almost sneak around in the ST, but buy it in Tangerine Scream and you’ll be about as obvious as a gas main going up!
The usual and friendly Focus traits of well-weighted pedals and slick 6-speed gearbox are all present in the ST, but nice new fast bits include a quick steering rack that tightens towards the full-lock the further you turn the wheel and ST-only shocks, dampers and anti-roll bars. All together this little lot makes the ST feel even more alive than the great-to-drive rest of the Focus range, and really on its toes and full of grip and poise. In my opinion the new ST will make a great back-lane-blaster, and will doubtless do the motorway to the mother-in-law’s in smooth and quiet style.
The ST’s price is kept all the keener by ditching an expensive front-end differential and suspension set-up as seen in the previous ST; torque-steer and traction are now dealt with electronically by the ESP system. It might not sound like the most elegant solution, but Ford have tuned it all in and it worked well on our quick test drive. Further, hardcore back lane blasting will be needed to fully confirm this. But, on first taste, the new Focus ST drives hard and fast without being too edgy, and stops, turns and hits apexes with a full five-ST-gold-stars.
Ten second sum up:
The new Ford Focus ST looks wild without going OTT and is plenty quick and sharp to steer; all to a throaty but not lairy soundtrack. In short, it can do fast fun with road-grabbing safety and feels like it’ll munch the motorway miles with ease. And with prices starting at a tad under £22k, the new ST is going to be very hard to beat.
Prices and availability:
The new Ford Focus range starts at £21,995 OTR for the ST, to £23,495 for ST2, up to £25,495 for ST3, as hatchback prices. Add £1,100 for the estate car in each trim. ST will be in Ford dealers from the end of July.
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