Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology, found in a range of Blue Oval products from the Fiesta light car to the Falcon large family sedan, deserves more attention than it is getting from the Australian car buying public.
Truly a technological tour de force, the EcoBoost engine in all its capacities - the 1.0-litre version won the 2012 International Engine of the Year award - has matched performance and fuel efficiency in a manner unchallenged by most rivals. Now with the latest model to make use of the system – the Focus halo car, the ST – maybe all that is about to change.
Built in Germany, the $38,290 Ford Focus ST is covered by a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty and Ford’s capped price servicing. Ford is shouting loudly about its SYNC connectivity system; advanced software, developed in conjunction with Microsoft, that enhances Bluetooth and voice control of a number of systems.
Voice commands are more elaborate than before and can be used to make phone calls or select music from a digital media player. With automatic phonebook downloading, hands need not leave the multi-function steering wheel and eyes the road ahead. However, while using this system the Ford driver may not be concentrating fully on their driving, thus increasing the chances of a crash.
Making use of Ford’s EcoBoost technology, the Focus ST - for Sport Technologies, or Sports Tuning, whichever Ford info you read - is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine pumping out 184 kW of power and 360 Nm of torque.
A new electrical system takes power steering to a new level. At low speeds maximum power is on hand, gradually reducing on acceleration, feedback becoming more direct and steering wheel turn trimmed for the equivalent direction change. Torque steer, although managed to some extent, can sneak up on the driver under acceleration close to the limit.
In full sports car operation the Focus ST is capable of the sprint to 100 kilometres per hour from standstill in 6.5 seconds. However, as befits a vehicle of the carbon counting era, the car has an Eco mode which helps the driver work efficiently with gear changes, anticipation of traffic conditions and at speeds on highways. A display, using up to five petals (the most efficient), scores the driver for fuel efficiency.
If EcoBoost has been hidden, the same cannot be said about the ST packaging, which has an unmistakable look about it. The car immediately presents its sporty credentials with a black trapezoidal grille incorporating red ‘ST’, bi-xenon HID headlamps, daytime running lights plus static cornering lights. Side skirts, a bold rear roof-mounted spoiler and centrally located twin tailpipes bring down the curtain on the complete hot hatch.
A five-seater, keyless entry opens the door to an ST cabin with soft-touch surroundings; always a sign of quality. Occupants can settle into body-hugging bespoke Recaro seats covered in black leather with contrasting tongues of material matching the car’s exterior colour.
Up front, seat features include length adjustment and cushion tilt, while an all-new rear bench, made with special foam, makes sure passenger comfort is not compromised. Legroom and headroom are good in the back and front. Leather trim extends to the multifunction steering wheel, and gear and handbrake levers. As well as a range of standard instruments and dials, sport-style gauges, on top of the dash, monitor turbo boost, and oil pressure and temperature.
Going backwards, a crystal clear full-colour image projected on a 5-inch screen on the central dashboard, together with guidelines, helps show the way. The screen is also home to sat nav info and maps. The suspension is fully in harmony with the active safety features of the car, having upgraded shock absorbers and springs, which lower the chassis by 10mm compared to other Focus models.
The rear suspension additionally has also been revised with a number of new parts developed specially for the Focus ST, which rolls on 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 Tyres with deflation detection. The package has resulted in the vehicle earning a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Accelerator pedal pressure is the key to a crescendo of under-bonnet sound designed to stir the driving enthusiast’s soul. The sharp action of the stubby gearstick – optimised by the dash-mounted shift indicator – is matched by the take-up of the clutch; it’s either in or out, there’s little leeway here.
Brakes on the test car took time to get to grips with, being as sharp and attentive to pedal movement as the clutch. Alloy pedal covers cash in on the ST’s sporting nature. An unusually wide 12-metre turning circle for a car of this class resulted in some frustrating to-ing and fro-ing in limited parking areas.
Australian Focus ST owners can be assured they are in good company around the world, with drivers from Los Angeles to London and Lucknow enjoying the ride.
Ford Focus ST 2.0-litre five-door hatchback
Price: from $38,290
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol, 184kW/340Nm (360Nm with overboost)
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Dimensions: 4358mm (L), 2010mm (W), 1474mm (H)
Spare: temporary steel
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, 172g/km CO2