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Ford’s improved Focus ST impresses

21.08.2015

THE Ford Focus ST has been a favourite amongst those looking for an alternative to the ever-popular GTI badge. Now Ford has given its hot hatch a slight makeover and I spent some time with it to see if it is still able to run with the likes of the new Golf GTI, Opel OPC and even the track-bred Renault Mégane RS.

On the face of it, the new Focus ST doesn’t look all that different to the previous model but upon closer inspection one will notice new headlights, a revised front bumper and a cleaner rear end. Our test unit was finished in stealth grey, which is now my favourite colour for the ST.  All in all the changes have given the ST a more subdued look - in my opinion. I do like the look but I feel that it’s slowly losing its aggressive character. I guess Ford is trying to appeal to a broader market as the Golf GTI looks pretty normal and people tend to fancy that car more than any other performance hatch out there.

The Ford’s biggest change is to be found inside. The new Sync II system is so much better than the previous one. The previous system had more buttons than Apollo 11 and you kind of needed to be an employee at Nasa to operate the controls. Not so, anymore. The Sync II system is clean and the big touchscreen displays all the information that you need; it incorporates all the important things such as iPhone connectivity, SatNav, climate control and other more detailed functions. It’s easy to use; ok, it will take some time to get used to but unlike the previous system - which I’m still trying to figure out - it will take up less of your time, which means that you will have more time for driving, which this car does quite well.

Look, the Ford ST is no precision tool like the GTI and it’s not as poised on track as the Mégane RS but it does offer you proper old-school fun. By old-school I mean it allows you, to drive it, not a computer. Ford’s ST development team just seem to understand what customers want when it comes to hot hatchbacks. The Fiesta ST is not the best pocket rocket out there yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that lights up your pants as much as what the Fiesta ST does.

The Focus ST is no different; it’s not the best car out there in terms of handling but it is one of the most enjoyable drives out of the lot. For this latest model the engineers at Ford have made the new car stiffer with modifications to the body structure, while the suspension features new springs, adjusted shock absorbers and stiffer suspension bushes which have improved its handling. When you put the traction control off, it actually goes off. The car’s turn-in is direct and you can even get the rear to misbehave at times.

Its 2.0-litre 184kW engine develops 360Nm of torque which is impressive. The power is sent to the front wheels via a short shifting six-speed manual gearbox and 100km/h is reached in about 6.5 seconds. Now ain’t that just the recipe for fun?

The Focus ST sure does tick many a box. I for one like the Recaro sports seats, which offer great support when you decide to hotfoot it through some corners and the sound that this thing makes is pretty sweet. It’s more of a rumble and in actual fact, it almost sounds like the older 2.5-litre unit.

Ford is offering different versions of the Focus ST, an ST1 and ST3. They have the same engine and same power but are just fitted with different features.  I drove the ST3, which had all the bells and whistles and it also costs the most. At R421 900, the ST3 is quite a bit more costly than the R381 900 ST1. If you care about all the added goodies then I’d suggest the ST3. A German alternative with all the extras that the ST3 has is going to cost about thirty to forty thousand Rand more.  If you just want a fast, fun and practical hatchback then the ST1 is a car that you need to check out.

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Article written by Justin Jacobs
21.08.2015
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