Hands on with the new Ford Focus ST
What I learned from driving the hot hatchback around for four days.
Initial thoughts? Do as the instructions say and don’t operate the car on public roads while in Track Mode.
Secondly, I think I need to update my own set of wheels. The trusty four-year-old Hyundai i10 is a wonderful city car – you’ll park the thing anywhere – but it’s not quite as well suited to the wide (relative) expanses of Ireland as, say… the new Ford Focus ST.
Although, to be fair, few run of the mill cars are as well suited as the ST.
Ford cars fall into a few categories; from the God-tier that contains the Ford GT, their highest performing car.
Next is the not-quite-deity-but-still-pretty-holy-tier containing the Focus RS and the Mustang.
And finally, we have the sub-celestial-being-tier, which contains both the Fiesta ST and the Focus ST.
For the review, I was driving the Ford ST2, prices of which start at €43,253.
So what have Ford created with their latest ST?
Well, the fourth generation release is the fastest and most powerful version since its inception. The 280hp/420Nm 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost covers the ground fast.
Now, 280hp might not sound like a whole lot compared to some of its rivals, but the 420 Nm of torque provides a whole lot of grunt, meaning the ST takes just 5.7-seconds to go from 0-100km/h. It also has a top speed of 250km/h (insert eye emoji here).
It's the first front-wheel drive Ford to use an electronically controlled limited slip differential, and means that a computer preempts when you're about to wheel spin and redirects power to the wheel with the most grip. The result is a car that feels solid on the road when cornering, even in wet weather, and one that's able to get the power down when you really need to.
If you give this car the gun, you can expect it to skip around a bit and the front-wheel drive will struggle initially for traction before the computer kicks in and it bites. This sounds like a knock against the ST, but to be frank, it’s anything but. It makes the ST more enjoyable to drive and gives the feeling that when you put your foot down, there’s a set of wild horses under the bonnet raring to break free.
As standard, the dampers have one pre-set mode, but if you want to fork out a little extra for the Performance Pack, three pre-set modes are there to choose from: Normal, Sport and Track.
You’re going to want to drive in Normal 99% of the time as the ride will get noticeably bumpier if you flick it into Sport mode.
We’ve established how quick the ST is across the ground, but when it reaches these high speeds, just how quick is it to slow down?
We’ve good news on that front. The brakes are fantastic and have been made bigger and stronger than previous models, with 330mm/302mm discs front/rear, performance pads and an electronic brake booster. Ford claims it’s four-times more resistant to wear and that the lighter ST can stop as quickly as their much vaunted RS.
Inside the car, you have a sleek interior with Recaro seats that are both comfortable and eye-catching. I can also confirm that lengthy stints in the seats result in just the tiniest bit of bum numbing, meaning it's suitable for long commutes and road trips.
They’re not true bucket seats, but cup your ribs and legs lightly to give a subtle cockpit vibe to the car.
This feeling is accentuated by the wonderful Heads-Up display, which is almost Formula 1 style, that allows you to absorb vital information - such as your speed - without taking your eyes off the road.
There’s subdued red ‘ST’ icons dotted around the cab and an exuberant ‘Ford Performance’ emblazoned across the door sills.
A thick steering wheel is leather-lined and there’s a dedicated Sports mode button if you need a quick change of pace for overtaking. Although, the Normal mode will still serve you well in that regard. It's a busy steering wheel but it's relatively easy to manoeuvre.
In the back you’ve got plenty of legroom but, as you have to expect with most hatchbacks, you’re ideally not going to want more than two people in the back.
Two different versions of the Focus ST will go on sale in Ireland, the ST2 and the slightly higher spec ST3.
The diesel ST starts from €39,595 while the petrol ST starts at €41,099.
The four days I had with the ST came to an end all too quickly in a car that was comfortable yet compact, quick to drive yet surprisingly spacious, and generally what seems to be, a great all-round car.
On a positive note for the public, Ford have hinted at plans for additional ST versions of other models so the smart money might be on Ford introducing an Puma ST or something along those lines.