Just over two years ago I made the spontaneous decision to buy a Focus ST! I went to the local Ford dealer to look at a Falcon Ute, and due to the end of production, buying the Ute just wasn’t possible. I remembered looking at an ST previously and liking what they were about. Hot hatches had always appealed to me (I had also looked at the Golf GTI, but the pricing turned me off). I placed the order, and had to wait around two months for its delivery.
February rolls around and my Moondust Silver ST ends it’s boat ride half way around the world from Saarlouis Germany and makes its way into my driveway. Initially I was a little apprehensive about the Recaro seats, as their narrowness was often discussed in reviews. This proved to be unfounded and they have to be some of the most comfortable seats in the Ford lineup, and the deep bolsters that apparently offend the reviewers hold you steady when enjoying the twisties.
Speaking of twisties, probably the greatest positive of the ST is the way it handles. The balance between comfort and “sportiness” can be difficult to strike, but I believe Ford did a really good job here. It is on the firmer side, but compared to the Fiesta ST and the Focus RS it is more compliant. The controllability in the front and rear end is borderline astonishing, with predicable lift off oversteer and understeer that is difficult to provoke. The ST just handles brilliantly and paints a smile from ear to ear. Helping the corner carving abilities are the brakes. Put simply they’re brilliant, a progressive pedal with tremendous stopping ability from the large diameter discs in the front, and I personally haven’t experienced any fade from spirited driving (although, I suspect that would be a different experience on a track).
The drivetrain in the ST had big shoes to fill when following on from the previous XR5 Turbo, with the Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre five cylinder unit being an absolute gem. Admittedly the 2.0-litre Ecoboost doesn’t produce the glorious noises of the ‘5, but the sound in the cabin is acceptably “sporty”. The Ecoboost unit does deliver torque in a way that makes you wonder exactly how they made it do what it does. With the full 340Nm available at just 2500rpm and 360Nm on over-boost (an extra 3 PSI), the ST pulls hard from down low. The engine isn’t something that you need to wring out, and when daily driving I often won’t exceed 3000rpm, as there just isn’t the need. The top end definitely falls off in power, and going above 6000rpm isn’t worth it other than for the sound. The six speed Getrag-sourced manual transmission is easy to use, with a light enough clutch and reasonably short throws, combined with a shift lever position that couldn’t fall to hand easier if they tried, which combines for a great experience behind the wheel.
From a fuel economy perspective, my long-term average is around 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres with a combination of highway and city driving, and longer highway trips generally seeing fuel usage of around 7.7L/100km. Probably my only negative about the drivetrain is sixth gear – it could’ve been a touch taller. At 100km/h the engine is at approximately 2350rpm (and 2500rpm at 110km/h), which makes overtaking easy, as you rarely have to downshift – but it could be a little lower in my opinion.
Tech-wise the Focus is decently equipped. I optioned the Tech pack which gave blind spot monitoring, forward collision auto brake, lane departure assist, auto wipers and auto headlights with active bending. The 2017 model year brought Ford’s SYNC 3 to the ST, which is a massive improvement over the previous SYNC 2 in general use, plus it gained Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Android Auto functions well when I use it, which is probably only around a quarter of the time I’m in the car. I’ve found the lane departure warning to be not quite up to the tasks on narrower country roads, so I’ve tended to turn it off in those situations. The auto high beam can sometimes do silly stuff but otherwise the rest of the features work well and definitely help reduce the workload.
The overall interior is a bit on the “interesting” side of things. The design was always a bit odd and some would argue that it hadn’t aged well since 2011. The facelift for the LZ model saw improvements to the centre area, which is now much simplified and easier on the eyes. Interior space is good with two people, and okay for the back seats (but these are rarely used). Boot space is good and the easy-to-fold rear seats increases that area massively.
Overall, in my two years and one month with the ST (and 72,000km) it has proved to be everything I wanted it to be, namely a comfortable car that is capable of putting a smile on my face on a good mountain road.