TVG Test Drives The 2012 Ford Focus ST

‘A gentleman doesn’t drive a Ford’, is what I read on the TVG fan page last week. Once upon a time I would have said the same thing, unless it was an original model T. There’s no arguing that Ford has a certain stigma attached to it, but the company today is far from the company it was even 5 years ago and now stands for efficiency, innovation, safety, value and in this case with the 2012 Ford Focus ST, performance.

Testing cabin noise at Ford on Monday.

Once upon a time the term Gentleman was given to an educated man. In the motorcar market, the educated man is the enthusiast, the enthusiast purchases a car for the right reason – passion. The uneducated man purchases a car for the wrong reason – brand. Let this article serve as a quick lesson.

When I stepped out of the 2012 Ford Focus ST for the first time I was honestly blown away. It’s not that I doubted the Ford (noting the success they’d had with the Focus RS) I knew it would be capable, I just didn’t realise how capable.

Impressive is the word I’m going to use to describe the entire car. The interior is evocative and energetic; the exterior is subtle but assertive, the details are thoughtful and plentiful, the performance is exhilarating and quite honestly, unbelievable. But that’s what I love about it, that it’s truly hard to believe you are in a Ford Focus.


I had the car for 5 days and over those 5 days every single person who got in it was astonished by it. An enthusiast gets this feeling every time he gets into his car because that’s the reason he bought it, if it didn’t deliver that passion he wouldn’t have purchased it. Driving the Toyota 86 recently and living with the Focus ST this last week has made me realise just how ripped off people are getting who seek entry-level European branded cars just to fill some aspirational desire. This Focus is going to change the game. I know I said that about the Toyota 86 but this thing eats the 86 for breakfast, lunch and dinner for only a few grand more.

Driving the car is effortless, something you realise the first time you find yourself in third gear. The gear change is invigorating and delivers the most delightful driving sensation. The throttle responds instantly and puts some serious power into the front wheels when you stamp your foot to the floor. The most enjoyable thing about the car is the throttle steer out of the first two gears; it feels like it’s challenging you, and you feel like a rally car driver – it’s fantastic. Secondly, the 250hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine sounds simply immense. We speculated as to whether there may be some sort of intake resonator amplifying the engine note, either way, it sounds awesome.

Boost gauge ads to the boy racer experience.

Earlier I mentioned the word capable and this car is more than capable at speed and at cornering, as well as the two combined. It’s so happy at high revs; you almost question why the car has a 6th gear – I can only think of two reasons, highway efficiency and the speedo that tops out at 280 is not far from the truth. The chassis is balanced so well that the car grips at outrageous speeds and I know because on Monday I was taken around the Ford test track by Shane the handling technician and as he accelerated into a corner at over 160km/h the ST was still glued to the road. If I wasn’t already impressed with the ST, when I got out of it after a couple of laps with Shane who continued a calm conversation with me as we drove the fastest I’ve ever been in a car ever, I was astounded. Shane, who has had a key role in developing the car and has been testing cars for 14 years, said it’s one of the most exhilarating cars he’s ever driven and that was enough for me. I’m sold, I want one.

Sublime Recaro sports seats to keep you in place.

To cap it all off this car is so liveable, the SYNC audio system by Microsoft and the navigation work seamlessly, to the point that when you leave the car the Bluetooth setting will pause the music and restart it the moment you hop back in. The rear seats and the boot are more than sufficient; you can get a fully-grown man in both. Perhaps the front of the car is a little too understated but at the end of the day that’s my only issue.

Simple but effective.

Handy compartments in the rear so you don’t lose your change.

Separated roof lighting, ideal for long trips.

You could drive 2012 Ford Focus ST every day or you could drive it in the week and drive your RS6 on the weekend. I’m not saying don’t go and buy a lovely European high-end performance car, what I’m saying is buy this car as well because it’ll give you a similar driving experience and you can load it up with mates after a trip to the beach, park it in a tight parking garage or leave it in a side street after a big night and not be worried about it because it costs $38,990, not $138,990.

In conclusion, my overarching point is this car has a place in every man’s garage, whether he owns one car or 5 cars. Forget the name of the brand and model and realise this is a purist’s automobile and it’s a Ford. At this price you just can’t match the 2012 Ford Focus ST on performance and driving pleasure, or the pleasure you’ll get out of people’s reactions to it when they’re in the car with you.

Focus sitting tight at 200 on the constant speed track at You Yang on Monday.


James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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