Ford Focus ST (2012) Review

By: Bruce Newton

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Ford Focus ST . Bruce Newton gets to grips with Ford's hot hatch

Ford Focus ST (2012) Review
Ford Focus ST

 

Ford Focus ST (2012)

When it comes to hot hatches, how good is too good? Is slicker, more refined, quieter and more comfortable always a step forward? For that matter, is faster actually better.

These are the sort of questions that lurk almost shamefully in the back of my mind as my frontal lobe goes beserk with glee every time it's confronted by another winding section of the Napoleon Way in Ford's new Focus ST.

The third-generation ST is just so easy to drive fast on this twisting piece of French tarmac. Sure, somewhere out there beyond the 95th percentile, it probably starts to break down, betrayed by its front-wheel drive and lack of a mechanical limited-slip diff. But back here on Planet Normal, driven hard but responsibly, the ST is almost impenetrably good.

From the relatively hum-drum basis of a standard five-door Focus, Ford's European and US performance tuning arms have co-authored a car obviously better than the second-generation five-cylinder ST (badged XR5 here), which in turn was a significant improvement over the original ST170.

Under the bonnet slots the same 2.0-litre Ecoboost direct-injection petrol-turbo four as found in the Falcon, albeit with a smidge more grunt, mounted transversely and attached to a six-speed manual gearbox.

The ST's foundations are built upon a massive torque shelf - third or fourth gear will cover a huge variety of traffic and road conditions. And yet the shift feel is so good and the pedal position so perfect for heeling and toeing that it's a pity you don't need to use them more often.

The chassis is uprated with a variable rate electric steering system that eases hairpin turn swivelling (but also contributes to a gargantuan 12.0m turning circle), new rear suspension knuckles and anti-roll bar, lowered, stiffened springs and dampers all-'round and larger front discs.

Instead of the LSD and Revoknuckle front suspension that did such a great job in the old RS, cost considerations mean the ST relies on electronic assistance to quell both wheelspin and torque steer. The former it achieves successfully, the latter is still apparent, if not obnoxiously so. Any less and the steering would've ended up numb.

It's all so incredibly convincing, and yet afterwards I find myself hankering to drive the same hairpins, closing radii and blind crests in something less perfect, like a Honda Civic Type-R.

Back-to-back, the Focus ST would destroy the bucking, hectoring Type-R on any piece of challenging road and you'd arrive at your destination sweat and migraine-free, and minutes sooner.

But sometimes the effort is the making of the achievement, and in the ST, it's really no effort whatsoever...

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Ford Focus ST

ENGINE: 1999cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger

POWER: 184kW @ 5500rpm

TORQUE: 360Nm @ 1750-4500rpm

WEIGHT:  1362kg

GEARBOX:  6-speed manual

0-100KM/H: 6.5sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED:  248km/h (claimed)

ON SALE:  October 2012

PRICE: $40,000 (estimated)

 

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