Development of a new hot Ford is big news, especially when it’s about the ballistic RS models. But before you get all the way up to that level of madness there are Ford’s ST models, which aim to offer more of a balance between performance and everyday usability. The new Focus ST is a completely new development that, since the halt in production of the old model a couple of years ago, aims to win back ground it has since lost.
It really is all new, sitting on a new chassis and using a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine in place of the characterful old five-pot in the 2005-2010 model. Times have changed since 2005 and the car has been approached in a very different way. A ‘sound symposer’ between cylinders three and four captures an irregular — but entirely real — beat and amplifies it as a substitute for the old five-pot warble.
A wonderful looking thing, this is Ford’s ‘global car’ strategy in action so the same car will be sold in 40 different countries, albeit with minor spec changes between certain regions. It’s yours in striking red, metallic blue and special ‘Tangerine Scream’ orangey-yellow paints, with white, black and silver also available for those searching for the more subtle Q-car look.
Buyers can add an ‘ST Pack’ that brings a dark grey wheel finish and red brake callipers, which does look fantastic, and it’s reasonably priced. In fact pretty much all the extras are priced to entice, which could prove a wise business move by Ford.
Speaking of pricing, Ford is keen to point out that the ST has the Golf GTi in its sights, not the extreme Vauxhall Astra VXR or Renaultsport Mégane 265. It’s an altogether saner car and wants to win back its share of hot hatch heartland.Three grades are available, mirroring the original Focus ST range from 2005. ST, ST-2 and ST-3 all share a healthy common core of kit including sublime Recaro seats that offer just about the perfect balance between comfort and support. After stints of around 130 kilometres of tricky UK back roads ata time the ST feels as comfortable as it did when you climbed in.
It’s on those twisty roads that you can explore the chassis and handling characteristics, and while it’s not as adjustable on the throttle as, say, a Renaultsport Mégane, it’s remarkably composed and balanced. It biases a little towards understeer of course, but it’s incredibly forgiving even if you’re driving it clumsily.
Building and maintaining a driving rhythm in the ST is easy, and it’s a hugely confidence-inspiring car. The brakes are strong and consistent, the seats grip like limpets and the slightly padded leather steering wheel feels fantastic beneath your grip. The engine delivers its shove in a very linear way, so there are no power jumps to catch you out.
But the good news doesn’t stop there. One or two hot hatches, like that Mégane for instance, ask you to compromise in other ways in order to gain ultimate driving ability. But the ST will happily potter around town and impress you with its compliant ride, smooth and torquey engine and good-looking, well-screwed-together interior.
The car is set up to be the best all-rounder it can be, and the thing that ends up striking you after spending time with the ST is that it has no major deficiencies. Not in the chassis, not in the build quality, not in the way it sounds and not in the way it looks. Not even in how it’s priced or its likely running costs, which is remarkable in its own right. But here’s the really good news, the Focus ST arrives in the Middle East early 2013.
Not as mad as a Renault Mégane 265, the ST, er, focuses on everyday usability.