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Ford Focus ST 2012 review

The muscle car era is being left behind by turbocharged hot hatches.

Value

Coming in at $38,280, the Focus ST should have a long list of eager buyers keen to get behind the blue oval brand. The ST comes equipped with a range of voice command features, a 5-inch colour screen display which is integrated with a nine-speaker audio system and a SYNC connectivity system which enhances Bluetooth and the voice control systems.

Technology

Ford has dropped the turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder in the XR5 in favour of a turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder. This is effectively the unit in the four-cylinder Falcon and despite smaller capacity, delivers 184kW of power and 340Nm of torque -- 20Nm more than the XR5.

There's an overboost function that briefly takes torque to 360Nm and its sprint time to 100km/h is just 6.5 seconds, making it line-ball with the Volkswagen GTI. On price it comes in below that car and equivalents from Mazda, Mini and Renault.

Transmission is by six-speed manual only, which will limit its appeal, although competitive economy of 7.4 litres per 100km should not put too many off. Special plumbing tries to make the most of the stifled sounds generated by turbocharged engines, and it's partially successful but could use a bit more growl going up through the gears.

Another turbo limitation is rev-ability, and while the ST has strong, linear power delivery with great flexibility at low revs, the redline arrives relatively early. The suspension is a revised version of the standard set-up, with upgraded shock absorbers and springs that lower the car 1cm.

Design

The Focus is a good looking car and the ST improves it with 18-inch alloys, a reworked grille and body kit. It looks best in candy shades; dark colours can make it appear bland, especially from the rear. Inside, Recaro seats keep you snug and there's a driver-pleasing wheel.

The gearshift action and pedals are fine and traditionalists will be pleased to see an old-fashioned handbrake. Where it loses me is its over-fussy dials and an air of immaturity to the centre console design, which is a confusion of buttons and dials. Where do you start?

Driving

The electric power steering has a system to counter torque steer -- wheel-tug under hard acceleration -- and another system that brakes the inner wheel during cornering to reduce understeer -- the tendency to plough straight ahead. Torque steer isn't absent but the Focus is one of the best-handling hatchbacks around and this one only enhances its reputation.

It turns into corners quickly and thanks to variable ratio steering, introduced here, it tackles hairpins without your hands leaving the wheel. It has a nicely planted feel on the road with body movements well damped and a very acceptable ride quality. Overall composure is excellent and falls short only of the very best in this category, such as the Renault Megane RS265. Negatives include a little too much tyre and wind noise.

Verdict

This year, for the first time, a Focus will be Ford's best-seller. Performance of the future is a turbo four.

Pricing guides

$11,895
Based on 314 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,500
Highest Price
$22,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ambiente 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $5,500 – 8,470 2012 Ford Focus 2012 Ambiente Pricing and Specs
RS 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $20,200 – 27,500 2012 Ford Focus 2012 RS Pricing and Specs
Sport 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,800 – 9,020 2012 Ford Focus 2012 Sport Pricing and Specs
ST 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,000 – 16,060 2012 Ford Focus 2012 ST Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.