The Melbourne team’s affair with the 2015 Ford Focus ST long-termer continues, but the relationship isn’t without its troubles.
A good part of any long-term test car’s role is being the office patsy.
Anyone who needs wheels for a night or a weekend is often thrown the keys, and any last minute airport drop-offs or pick-ups are usually carried out with the help of a long-term garage resident. And the situation has been no different with our Stealth Grey Ford Focus ST.
As such, most, if not all the team has spent some time with the $38,990 five-door manual-only hot-hatch. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest likes and dislikes encountered to date.
Most who have driven the flagship Ford Focus, have initially found it extraordinarily fun to drive. “Raw and exciting” has been some of the feedback, with others being impressed by the 184kW/345Nm (360Nm with ‘overboost’) 2.0-litre turbo-four despite barely getting the car out of third gear.
Gutsy, fast and powerful, most love the sound of the engine when giving it beans, however, some feel, while the engine note itself isn’t bad overall, the ST lacks some of the theatre – the spool, pops and burbles for example – offered up by other turbocharged models doing the rounds.
Good torque from down low in the revs means there’s little need to rifle up and down through the gears when gingerly putting around town, but that said, the six-speed-manual transmission has received plenty of praise too.
“It’s great to have a manual gearbox in a car such as this,” some have said, with others adding, “It gives the full experience of driving a hot-hatch.” The Focus ST’s forgiving clutch uptake has also been appreciated, though some note that, despite the hot hatchback’s ability to genuinely shift along once on the move, a little turbo lag is still present (though far from deal breaking).
Clearly an office dominated by revheads, the overall vote is that while the Ford’s ride is indeed firm, it adds to the experience of the car rather than takes away from it. Further, the majority feel it’s largely controlled and rarely unpleasant.
With a visually sharper exterior look compared with the pre-facelifted Focus ST, the 2015 car’s styling has received a unanimous big tick. The consensus is that it not only looks fast, but that its more aggressive lines and angles are a definite step up from the rest of the more conservative Focus range.
A key element of the 2015 update, the ST’s newly added 8.0-inch colour touchscreen-based infotainment system with Ford’s voice-activated SYNC2 has won most over.
Undeniably cleaner and clearer than the previous car’s button-happy setup, responses have ranged from “great to use” and “very intuitive”, to “it all just makes sense”.
The ST’s overall interior fit and finish has also been winning points, with the flat-bottomed multi-function leather steering wheel getting particular attention for its nice feel and good shape. You can’t please everyone though…
Fun at first, just as many people have consistently found the initial novelty of the car wears off after a while behind the wheel. Several reasons have been behind this but one of the main ones is torque steer.
If ever there was a car to best demonstrate the effect of having one front wheel pull harder than the other, it’s the Focus ST.
“You can’t actually steer the car in a straight line when accelerating fast off the line,” said one of the team. “After a bit more time with the car, what at first felt like a mad, fun car, just feels like a mad car,” said another. And finally, “It makes me feel like I’m on the verge of mounting a kerb at times,” another added.
Another major gripe has been with the ST’s heavily bolstered partial leather Recaro bucket seats. Sure, more slender individuals say they find the seats extremely supportive and “perfect for dynamic driving”, but the majority view things differently.
“If the target market for the vehicle is 16-year-old Russian ballet dancers, then the seats are just fine. Myself though, I have trouble actually breathing when sat in them.”
“I’m a wide load, but still. I’ve never been that uncomfortable in a car that wasn’t also significantly smaller,” another shared, while someone else said, “Personally, I love the seats, but they’d be a proper squeeze to get in to for ‘larger’ individuals.”
On top of the seats themselves losing favour with several members of the team, some have felt that they also make the Ford’s cabin feel cramped, with one individual saying, “Which I don’t think the Focus otherwise deserves – the standard Focus feeling much more spacious with just the regular seats in it”.
More minor issues have included oddly high-mounted indicator and wiper stalks that require a fair reach of the fingers to get to and the occasional rough idle – the latter noted particularly on cold startups.
And despite the new infotainment system vastly tidying up the Focus ST’s centre stack, one team member felt there was now too much emphasis on the touchscreen and not enough buttons. “Several key bits of navigation, namely at the bottom of the touchscreen, are also hard to accurately select without staring at the screen,” they said.
A big strike against the ST though, is the hot-hatch’s 12.0-metre turning circle – mentioned previously in the car’s first long-term report. Proving to be a problem on more than one occasion, across the board, the team feels that apart from being simply annoying, the issue is especially poor given the traditional maneuverability of a small hatchback.
Stay tuned for our upcoming final report on the 2015 Ford Focus ST. And in the meantime, let us know, has the Melbourne team got it right or wrong? Are we spot on, or have we missed the point? Tell us in the comments section below.