Ford Focus ST: Never faster, sharper and more practical

Ford has done a great job with the next-generation Focus ST. The spacious, comfortable and stylish family compact has now received its sporty version as well. The two letters ST have long been synonymous with fast Ford. In the vicinity of Zadar we did the first kilometers with a Focus that has 280 hp and more.
The Ford Performance sports department has been very valuable lately, with the new generation of Focus also tasked with developing a sports ST version. Alongside it, they have developed something completely new, at least as far as Europe is concerned, a Ranger Raptor sports pickup modeled after its big brother from the US, the Ford F-150 Raptor. At a regional presentation in the vicinity of Zadar, we tried both the ST and the Raptor, and in the first part we bring impressions from the first kilometers behind the steering wheel of the Focus ST.

We are definitely in the golden era of sports compacts or hothatches where apart from a very wide and varied selection, buyers of such cars can really satisfy all tastes, whether in aesthetics, performance or usability. Still, one of the main postulates of a good hothatch is the pleasing blend of sporty performance with everyday usability, and Ford has been able to make an excellent compromise of seemingly incompatible features to previous generations of the Focus ST.

The benefits of modern technology, such as highly efficient and powerful turbochargers, adjustable dampers that make the button press comfortable or uncompromisingly hard and manageable, have made this segment even more attractive and desirable. With the new platform and generation that has made Focus one of the most spacious and comfortable cars in the class, the Sport ST has become even more desirable.

In Zadar we were thus greeted by the Focus ST column in distinctive and special colors of Ford Performance blue and Orange Fury orange, and although it is brand new, it retained the distinctiveness and design details that clearly link it to previous generations of ST. The large grille and air vents, the distinctive ST markings, the aerodynamic sill extras and the large roof spoiler clearly distinguish it from the regular Focus. The central exhaust “cannon” solution this time was replaced by a double finish on the left and right sides. We have to admit that this looks much better and more honest to us. Simple and wide metal pipes with no false ornaments and excess chrome. That’s how it should be on one hothatch. With large 19-inch rims hiding 330mm discs and large red double-piston calipers further reveal sports genes.

Engines available for Ford Focus ST:

Petrol – 2.3-liter EcoBoost – 280 hp at 5,500 rpm, 420 Nm at 3,000 rpm
Diesel – 2.0-liter EcoBlue – 190 hp at 3,500 rpm, 400 Nm at 2,000 rpm / min

When we opened the door, the scream was similar. Everything is known, but still everything is new. The large Recaro seats have equally large pronounced lateral supports and clearly follow the design of those in the previous ST. Good sports seats and their proper position are important for a sports compact, and they have done well in Ford. The side supports hold both the upper and lower body perfectly, and are also very comfortable. True, the depth of the seat might be annoying when you go in and out often, but it’s a price we’re willing to pay to not have to keep ourselves behind the wheel in a bend. The position behind the wheel is also good, the seat can be adjusted generously and goes low enough into the floor. It might be a good idea for the steering wheel to adjust an extra inch or two in depth.

Only the driving environment and cockpit are almost identical to the regular Focus, which is good. Unlike the previous generation, whose massive center console corrupted the driving atmosphere, it is now much more airy and comfortable. True, we’re not thrilled with the big “tablet” that pops up above the center console, but it’s a general trend that Ford couldn’t, or maybe shouldn’t, resist.

Still, at ST we are least interested in infotainment and the excellent Bang and Olufsenaudio system. The impatient push of the start button at the steering wheel awakens the 2.3-liter turbocharger, and deep baritone and exhaust crackle is the only music we want to listen to. Ford has custom engineered the Mustang engine for ST needs, with a modern twin-scroll turbocharger and innovative antilag technology taken from the exclusive Ford GT, so in Sport and Race track mode the throttle response is really sharp and a “turbo hole” “is inconspicuous.

Although many hothatches have long crossed the 300-hp magic limit, Ford has “pulled” 280 hp for the ST from this engine. And so it’s the most powerful Focus ST of all time, and anyone who thinks it may be small should look at the compelling torque of 420 Nm. In practice, this 2.3 gasoline goes really just as convincingly as some 2.0 engines with more maximum power. The acceleration is fierce and if you weigh the throttle well and with good ground, you can reach 100 km / h in less than 6 seconds .

The diesel ST is also available in this generation, but you will understand that “we didn’t have time” to try it this time, too. For those who go the extra mile, the 2.0-liter EcoBlue still offers a very amusing 190bhp and 400Nm and a performance very similar to the previous diesel ST we tested several years ago. For the full usability and flexibility of the Focus ST you can also get the station wagon, so you don’t have to give up the sporting pleasure even if you need a boot of about 600 liters.

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However, the bends are ST’s natural habitat, so we just enjoyed the very precise steering, but also the frequent use of a manual transmission. The Focus ST has thus taken over the steering wheel, which has already proven to be excellent in the Fiesta ST. This Electric Power Steering System (EPAS) is 15 percent faster than the standard Focus and requires only two steering wheel turns from one end to the other.

Also, gearboxes that are so precise and short-circuited are why we think that driver cars like the ST still have to be offered with manual transmissions. One particular detail Ford has offered is the “rev matching” feature, which automatically adds to the throttle when changing gears, for even better and more efficient “jogging”. If you are accustomed to adding interstices on your own, it will be a little harder to get used to this function at first, and it will often be a joke with two interstates, yours and Focus. However, at the end of the day and with a really tough turn, this feature will appeal to even the most ardent traditionalists. For those who would rather have an automatic, Ford offers a 7-speed automatic with the option of changing gears on the steering wheel.

Through the turns, the Focus ST also helps with electronic differential lock. Also included in the gearbox is an eLSD system consisting of hydraulically actuated clutches that limit the amount of torque the engine sends to the left or right wheels, depending on the amount of grip. This system can send up to 100 percent of power to just one wheel, which significantly helps accelerate from sharp turns, but also from straight-line acceleration on worse ground. Borg Warner is responsible for the development of this system, and it definitely offers more precise control, but also more refinement than classic mechanical differential locks.

With the adaptive suspension offering a good range of comfort in Normal mode to extremely solid in Race track mode, we especially liked the fact that Ford in Focus ST also managed to offer adjustable braking mode. With the Electric Brake Booster (EBB), Normal mode brakes are comfortable and jerk-free, while in Sport and Race mode the brake calipers bite into larger steel discs.

What we have noticed in the Focus ST’s ride is quite obviously suspending Ford to show all its talents in making a sports compact. Already the engine itself has the potential for even more power and performance, while the suspension and the interior are clearly tuned to strike a fine balance between a sports car and a day-to-day car that won’t be a problem to go on a family outing or make daily trips to school or kindergarten. To show the full sporting arsenal, however, we need to wait a little longer when the Focus arrives with the other two letters on the boot. Somehow we have no doubt that the RS will again set standards among the ultimate sports compacts, for those who still want everyday usability, and then the ST will remain the better choice.

The Ford Focus ST is already available for orders in the Bosnia and Herzegovina market, the basic ST-2 is essentially fully equipped, while for the 19-inch wheels, heated and leather seats, the rear-view camera and LED lights, the ST -3 package.

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