The Versatile Gent featured the last generation Focus ST around three years ago and we were eager to see how the new model stacked up against its enjoyable predecessor, and spritely younger sibling in the form of the Fiesta ST! Mark jumped behind the wheel for a week to find out.
A few weeks ago, I raved about the madcap Ford Fiesta ST and how its thrills and fun factor were off the Richter scale.
Then the other day, I had a spin in its big brother, the $38,990 (+ORC) 2015 Ford Focus ST and found myself asking, ‘is bigger always better’? Applying that question to a bank balance, favourite food or holiday, bigger is better. But I’m not so sure it is the case for the Ford’s pair of hot hatches.
Sitting in the Recaro racing pew that holds you tighter than a boa constrictor, behind the chunky D-shaped steering wheel, the Focus ST feels very familiar to its baby brother. It has lightning fast, nicely weighted, electric power steering, short throw gear changes and big meaty brakes.
Its balanced chassis, sports tuned MacPherson strut front and Control Blade rear suspension, wide stance, torque vectoring control and Velcro-like Goodyear tyres conspire to ensure the Focus ST corners with driver pleasing agility and composure.
Unsurprisingly, it jiggles about on all but the smoothest surfaces but when a car handles this sublimely, who cares. Besides, it’s still softer than the Fiesta ST due to its extra weight and longer wheelbase.
Its 184 kilowatts and 360 Newton metres two-litre, direct injection, Eco-Boost turbo four rockets the Focus ST to triple figures in 6.5 seconds through the front wheels.
The engine is a gem. It revs with astonishing ease to the redline and when the turbo kicks in, it sounds like adrenalin escaping. There’s no hint of torque steer, even when you plant your foot; it just points its nose at the horizon and heads there very rapidly.
The slick-changing six-speed gearbox matches the engine’s characteristics beautifully and only requires short throws to get from one gear to the next. Unfortunately, the positioning of the pedals don’t allow for blipping of the throttle on downshifts.
As the Focus ST runs on 95 RON fuel, those long drives and country blasts won’t even hurt your hip pocket. Fuel consumption isn’t a consideration when buying this type of car, but for the record, I achieved an average of 8.1L/100km for the week. And had loads of fun burning up every litre.
Styling wise the Focus ST is very ‘in your face’.
Sitting lower than other Focus models, it has a forward raking profile like Dan Ricciardo’s Red Bull F1 car, red brake calipers nestled in behind spiderweb 18-inch alloys on low profile hoops, pumped wheel arches, front and rear spoilers, a rear diffuser with twin central exhausts and a sports body kit. In the battleship grey of the test car, it had a menacing presence.
While it looks like a street fighter on the outside, inside it is surprisingly quiet and refined. The black plastics are mostly soft to touch and it can easily carry four adults, (five is really a squeeze) in comfort, with plenty of leg, foot and headroom.
I enjoyed using the voice activated Sync2 touchscreen for the HVAC, phone, entertainment and navigation and loved the convenience of the puddle lamps at night and the illuminated red ST logo on the doorsills, which matched the dials of the two instrument clusters.
Versatility is a party piece with hot hatches and I tested the Focus ST’s out with a trip to collect an assortment of screws, timber and Allen keys from Ikea to turn into a bookcase. The ST carried it better than I constructed it.
The Focus ST is lavishly equipped with the previously mentioned Recaro race seats, leather multifunction steering wheel, a superb Sony audio system, the Sync 2 infotainment screen, dual climate control, push button start, satnav, proximity key, auto wipers and lights and lots more.
Safety wise you get lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, reversing camera, traction and stability controls, antilock brakes and airbags throughout. It scores a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the bigger, more spacious and versatile Focus ST, and would recommend it in a heartbeat.
That said, I simply can’t go past the smaller, lighter, and ultimately, (to me) more engaging Fiesta ST.