After 14 years with my trusty N15 SII Pulsar SSS and a new job needing an hour drive on the cards, it was time to seriously consider a new car. Truth be told I’d been looking for well over a year at the options available to me and there was plenty of choice. The VW Golf Gti was near the top of my list, as was the Skoda Octavia VRs and Renault Megane GT220 – all providing swift and stylish options for my next daily drive. It was however a contender out of left field that turned my head every time I saw one on the road.
Whilst the povvo pack Ford Focus is a familiar sight on the roads and held no real interest, the Focus ST had such a stance and aggressive look, it found its way higher and higher up my list. When the time came, it was a test drive at City Ford in Zetland that did it for me. I’m a larger man and I read concerns about the tight hugging seats for big guys but I felt immediately comfortable in the ST. I also read concerns about the clutter on the dashboard with multiple buttons adorning the fascia – however to me that was a benefit. The buttons are clearly labelled and easy to use – and unlike many brand new cars you don’t need multiple presses to get where you want – in the ST it’s one touch.
With my two main concerns taken care of it was time to look at the many positives of the car. The engine is amazing – the first time I put my foot down I was a bit shocked by the power it put down. The acceleration is remarkable and whilst there’s a bit of torque steer, it actually keeps you on guard if you’re being a bit heavy footed. The steering, ride and handling really couldn’t be any better. The ST handles like it’s on rails and bestows a level of confidence not many other hatchbacks can provide. The Sat Nav, cruise, Bluetooth streaming, dash top gauges and its many other features started to really seal the deal for me. There wasn’t too much standing in my way of making the purchase now. The final clincher was the colour. The electric blue of the Focus ST really sets it apart on the road – verging on purple, the deep blue has a depth of colour that just makes you want to dive in. They had one in stock. I was sold.
After almost 2 years and 30Ks with my blue Focus ST, I’ve affectionately named STewie (one of the best cartoon characters, and has ST in the name!) none of the initial gloss has worn off. Impeccably reliable, super comfortable, relatively efficient (with my driving style - 9.3L/100km since new) and surprisingly functional, STewie has totally won me over. We’ve taken long trips, the furthest from Sydney to Toowoomba, the back down via the coast, and this little beast did it with ease. Even a trip to the shops is a pleasure – reversing cameras and sensors make it easy to judge distance, and the little plastic lugs in the boot stop your shopping bags from sliding all over the place. The rear seats fold down to liberate heaps of room, though the chunky front seats create some rear leg room issues for taller/bigger individuals.
Build quality of the German made ST is great – soft touch dash plastics on the dash and doors make it a nice place to be and the standard floor mats keep everything protected. The sound quality from the Sony system is great and it syncs with my iPhone without worry every time. There’s a bit of a lack of places to store your stuff - my phone occupies the cup holder most of the time but it’s not something you really worry about unless there’s two of you with drinks up front. Ford’s SYNC (1st gen) works pretty well too for voice commands, however it has a limitation on what it will do with your music if you store too much on your phone or iPod. Voice clarity for hands-free calls is very good for both parties.
A visit to the local Ford dealer to check out the new Ranger and Everest afforded me the opportunity to check out he LW MK II Focus ST. I quickly found I preferred my own series. The dash, whilst simpler and less cluttered, has also lost some of its specialness and become just a little bit boring. The large colour screen and SYNC 2 however I am jealous of! The front styling has lost some of its aggressiveness which is a shame, but for me the biggest disappointment is the loss of the beautiful electric blue colour STewie is adorned with. The new blue is much darker and whilst nice, doesn’t give that depth and sexiness of the LW MK I.
Ford really deserves more than it’s falling market share shows – their range is one of the best in the market. Ford, being the first of the three remaining Australian car manufacturers to announce they were stopping manufacturing here, seems to have been hit by this the hardest. This is despite their massive increase in their research and development teams in Australia who’ve shown such skill with the new Ranger and Everest. After almost two years with my Focus ST I’m a very happy Ford customer - STewie impresses me every day. The focus (sic) Ford has put into customer care is market leading – the free loan car, professional service and free roadside membership with every scheduled service I find hard to beat. I’ve had no warranty issues or recalls and my daily drive is a daily delight. I'm more than happy to spruik Ford and the Focus ST to everyone who’ll listen!