In North America, we haven’t seen that many “Hot Hatches” from many automakers. A few years back the only brand that had one was Volkswagen but now the market has expanded and with plenty to choose from it’s getting harder to find the perfect balance.
Meet the Focus ST, for 2017 it’s largely unchanged since its refresh in 2015. But make no mistake, that doesn’t mean it’s not able to bring fun to the masses.
Starting with looks, the refreshed Face comparing to the 2013-2014 model breathes new light to the front end with more angular headlights and grille. The Headlights are powered by HID and they also turn with the wheels. Through a quick test on the back roads at night, they do swivel quickly and is able to light up the road perfectly.
Inside the cabin, the Focus is just that a Focus. With a bit of upgrade here and there such as the flat-bottom steering wheel and three small dials on the top, it’s essentially the same. But in the new Focus, they have soft-touch materials around and glossy black plastic on the centre console. The cluster is also slightly changed with red needles rather than blue. Overall the interior is dark but it’s a nice place to be and offers good ergonomics all around.
Another amazing upgrade are these Recaro front seats. Offering plenty of lateral support they hug your body through turns and twists. These seats are great. However, for someone that’s a bit bigger it might be difficult as the side bolsters are quite large and will squeeze your body in.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about the rear seats. They’re flat and offer little to no support. However, it’s completely understandable. the rear seats are above the fuel tank and if there are bigger bolsters it’ll push the rear passengers up and into the ceiling. For passengers above 6 feet, it’s probably recommended to call shotgun as soon as possible as headroom is limited with the sloping roofline.
Behind the rear seats is the smallish trunk, the load floor is high and with the Sony subwoofer, it reduces the space available.
Above the display are these three dials. Being small and further away that liked they show some of the vehicle’s information. But since it’s quite small it’s pretty hard to see and use on a day to day basis.
One of the best things about the Focus ST is this right here. The 6-speed shifter is slick and smooth, throws are a bit long and spaced a bit further apart than liked. However, after a few days, the shifter felt right, with the oversized carbon shift knob it just felt amazing.
The most important part of the Focus ST is how it drives. Behind the wheel, the ST is agile and is able to carve a sharp line into corners. The front end of the ST is able to dart left or right with a twitch of the wheel, making the car feel smaller than it actually is. Accelerating out of corners with a bit of lock will show the front-drive roots of the ST. Being that it doesn’t have an actual limited slip diff, power is fed to the front wheels with the least amount of friction. But Ford has thought of this and has added a braking system that allows power to be sent to the other wheel when slip is detected. The system works pretty well, accelerating out of long sweepers the car will not run wide and by lift off the throttle, it’ll tuck nicely into the corner.
Unlike the base version, the ST get’s some of the safety features removed such as blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assist. However, the outside mirrors do have a convex edge to aid merging into traffic, but blind spot monitoring would have been a nice addition and it’s common to see in this class
Powering the ST is a 2L EcoBoost motor that produces 252hp and 270 lb-ft of torque at 2500rpm. With tons of low-end torque, massive amounts of shifting is not required. Best part it’s relatively efficient, in the city I was able to get 10.2L/100km which is a bit better than rated at 10.5 city and 7.8 highway. But the ST is notable being frugal, it’s about driving it on the ragged edge and using all of the engine’s power.
Power is nothing without control, for 2017 the ST comes with Good Year F1s which are just fine, being all season tires they don’t offer the same amount of grip that’s found on previous generation’s Summer performance tires. A set of tires would be a nice upgrade for this generation of ST, but not only for grip but for sound. These tires at speeds above 60km/h are loud and intrusive.
Overall the ST is an amazing vehicle, but it’s biggest rivals are getting better and worst yet Ford’s own Fiesta ST is a much more enjoyable vehicle being lighter and cheaper. At $37,000 retail it might be a bit much however with current incentives one can be had for $33,000 and at that price, it’s below the equivalent GTI.
Priced well with incentives, this fun little Focus is a great addition to any family.