Being a small car is tough these days. Competition out there is intense and buyers are always looking for the best value. Raise the performance bar to hot-hatch territory and things heat up even more. Exclusively available with five doors and a six-speed manual transmission, the Ford Focus ST is one model that boldly walks the fine line between winning and potentially losing fans.
On sale in its most updated form since May this year, the Stealth Grey 2015 Ford Focus ST you see here rolls into the CarAdvice Melbourne garage as our latest long-term test car. ‘Long’ is often a point of debate with these sorts of vehicles but this one is with us for three months.
Still starting a few grand less than the segment benchmark Volkswagen Golf GTI, the facelifted Ford Focus ST has gone up in price from $38,290 to $38,990 – positioning it on-par with the Subaru WRX and $1000 below the Holden Astra VXR.
Bringing with it a noticeably sharper exterior and new 18-inch alloy wheels, the Focus ST facelift, importantly, addresses the previous model’s dated infotainment package and button-happy centre stack.
In its place now sits an in-dash 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Ford’s voice-activated Microsoft-based SYNC2 infotainment system and a cleaner audio control hub. The three dash-top gauges – for oil temperature, boost pressure and oil pressure – remain, though, as do the ST's arguably somewhat over-bolstered partial leather Recaro bucket seats. A flat-bottom steering wheel is another new addition.
Far from needing more power or torque, the flagship Focus’ stupendously gutsy turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder carries over largely unchanged, outputting 184kW of power at 5500rpm and 345Nm of torque at 2000-4500rpm (or up to 360Nm with ‘overboost’).
One feature added for the new model year is engine stop-start technology. Aimed at reducing real-world fuel usage, the efficiency-focused tweak results in claimed consumption dropping from 7.4 litres per 100km to 7.3L/100km.
An option available to buyers for the first time is a $2000 ‘Technology Pack’. Fitted to our car, it comprises active city stop, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot detection, a lane keeping aid and lane departure warning, the optional package also includes a driver impairment monitor and automatic high beams.
Fine tuning the ST’s already firm but mostly compliant and entertaining sports suspension, Ford has thrown in new front springs, ‘sportier’ front and rear shock absorber tuning, and stiffer front lower control arm and rear spring link bushes.
The practical five seater’s electronic power assisted steering has also been recalibrated but the sportiest Focus' turning circle continues to be frankly ludicrous at a near bus-like 12 metres (kerb to kerb) – not helped by a super short 1.8 turns lock-to-lock. Luckily there’s ample rear seat head and legroom and a decent 316-litre boot.
Early impressions by all and sundry in the Melbourne office have been mixed. Some love the ST’s playful nature and tightly hugging seats, while others feel it lacks some polish and class compared to its rivals and view its sole transmission is a significant restriction. Constant battles with more than healthy amounts of torque steer are also already wearing thin.
Over the coming months we’ll see how it goes in regards to performance and economy, as well as, of course for a hot-hatch, practicality. Can the 2015 Ford Focus ST win us all over? We’ll tell you in three months…
2015 Ford Focus ST
Date acquired: August 2015
Odometer reading: 6648km
Travel since previous update: N/A
Consumption since previous update: N/A
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Ford Focus ST images by Tom Fraser.