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Ford Focus ST arrives in October

So anyone shopping for a Volkswagen Golf GTi has again got a reason to include a feisty Ford on their list of potential rivals.

It's not a white-hot Focus RS, which was a sellout success last year despite a $59,990 pricetag, but a new ST turbo that takes the place of the retired-from-duty XR5 that did well during its run down under. Don't let the new name confuse you, for the ST is almost a straight update for the XR5 - with a $38,290 pricetag and a 184 kiloWatt EcoBoost 2.0-litre engine - and a new headline body colour called Tangerine Scream.

There are sure to be other ST models, and Ford has already shown a Fiesta tease wearing the Sport Technologies tag as it migrates the name around the world of blue oval vehicles. It says the Focus ST is the first "global performance cars" and plans to sell the Focus ST in more than 40 countries.

Ford is trumpeting everything from more power and a six-speed manual gearbox to equipment that runs to sports steering, multi-layer ESP stability control, bi-xenon headlamps and predictable body upgrades. There is also fuel economy of 7.4 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 172 grams/kilometre, plus a capped-price service plan. Just like the Toyota 86, Ford has added a 'sound symposer' that pipes induction noise from the engine into the cabin.

"The price is up a little bit, but there is a lot more equipment. The price puts the car right into Golf GTi territory, and also the Mazda3 MPS," says Neil McDonald of Ford Australia. "This is the replacement for the XR5. The name change is a global one and we're aligning with those vehicles."

Ford has cleverly timed the local announcement of the Focus ST for the same day when Opel is revealing its launch program for Australia, including its own warmed-over hatch. It's the Astra GTC, available with both 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbocharged engines from $28,990.

But Opel, which is setting up for the first time as an independent brand and not just supplying cars to Holden, believes there will be no comparison with the new Ford. "It's a different buyer and a different car," the product marketing manager at Opel Australia, Min-Sean Chew, tells Carsguide. "Our car is a stylish coupe with brilliant dynamics. Theirs is just a hatch."

The Focus ST continues down a road pioneered by the XR5 in April, 2006 when the fast rod arrived with a $35,990 bottom line. It went away towards the end of last year as Ford switched its focus on Focus to the value models and supply from Thailand. McDonald is hinting, but not confirming, more hot hatch action for both the Focus and Fiesta.

"I would imagine there will be more on ST," he says. "There has been speculation about the Focus RS but we haven't announced anything." The first Focus ST deliveries will be in October.

And, while there is no Fiesta ST yet, Ford Australia is just about to begin sales of a limited-edition Fiesta Metal, with a tuned 1.6-litre Duratec engine that delivers 98 kiloWatts. It also has 17-inch alloys, sports suspension and special black paint with a price of $22,990 for the 250 cars in the run.


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