With everything that’s going on in the automotive industry it’s hard to focus on the... well, Focus. However, the latest in the line of Ford’s small passenger car – the Focus ST – demands attention.
Built in Germany, at $38,290 the Ford Focus ST is right in the melting pot of European-style hot hatches and is on sale now. It is covered by a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty and Ford’s capped price servicing.
Voice commands (fully tuned to the Aussie accent, we are told), more elaborate than previously, can be used to make phone calls or select music from a digital media player. With automatic phonebook downloading hands can stay firmly on the steering wheel; eyes firmly on the road ahead.
A 5-inch full colour screen displays sat nav info and is integrated with the Sony nine-speaker audio system, while a full bag of active and passive safety systems has earned the Focus ST a five-star ANCAP rating. Ford, however, is most proud of its SYNC connectivity system, advanced software, developed in conjunction with Microsoft, that enhances Bluetooth and voice control of systems.
With the suffix ST, for Sports Tuning, the hot hatch, which tops off the latest Focus range, makes use of the company’s EcoBoost engine, in this case a 2.0-litre GTDI turbocharged four-cylinder unit. This is the first time EcoBoost has been brought to bear in a Ford sports car, and hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission, has the car hitting 100 kilometres an hour from rest in a spritely 6.5 seconds – that’s the ‘Boost’ bit.
The ‘Eco’ part comes with the gasoline Direct Injection GDI engine surprisingly sipping just 7.4 litres of 95 to 98 RON petrol per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle, while at the same time putting out 172 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, giving it Euro stage 4 status. Radiator grille shutters further improve fuel economy by automatically closing to improve Focus aerodynamics.
A sports suspension is uniquely tuned for the ST and together with 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 Tyres with deflation detection help to overcome insecurity on corners. A black trapezoidal grille incorporating red ‘ST’ sets the scene up front, while bi-xenon HID headlamps, daytime running lights plus static cornering lights point to the use of state-of-the-art automotive technology.
The Focus ST has been designed to catch the attention of the onlooker. Side skirts are the latest in fashion and lead to a bold rear sporting a roof-mounted spoiler and centrally located twin tailpipes. In the cabin, occupants are met with Recaro leather trimmed sports seats – snug fitting all round for the average-build person – sports alloy pedal covers and leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel, gear and handbrake levers.
Smart key is backed up by a dash-mounted engine start / stop button. Satellite navigation and reversing camera come to the aid of the driver, while occupants can take advantage of dual zone air-conditioning.
Launched in Australia in the alpine region of Victoria, my co-driver for the day cheekily suggested we take the bright yellow-to-orange car, in which ‘we wouldn’t draw much attention to ourselves.’ Yeah, right, with a name like Tangerine Scream was there ever a more apt colour for a halo car?
And the drive? It was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a birthday – relaxed with just the right amount of added adventure on the tight twisty roads to put the icing on the cake. Nothing fancy next, with power being distributed to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Backed up by gear-shift indicator on the dash, the gears slip from cog to cog with the swift and smooth action of the stubby lever on the centre console aided by a no-nonsense clutch.
Increased pedal pressure is rewarded by an increasingly sporty sound from the motor finding its way into the cabin, while torque is automatically varied between the front wheels to maintain tyre grip on fast bends further adding to the enjoyable driving experience.
The steering is sublime. The new system takes power steering to a new level. Electrically assisted, operation is at maximum power at low speeds, when parking, for example, and gradually reduces on acceleration, keeping the driver in touch with what is happening between tyre and road. Feedback becomes more direct as the speed increases and steering wheel turn is trimmed for the equivalent direction change.
‘Scream’ machine... the Focus ST has just the right amount of attention grabbing looks for a hot hatch.
Ford Focus ST
Price: from $38,290
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cyl turbo-petrol, 184kW/340Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, CO2 172g/km