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FeaturesMe and My Test Drive: Living with a Ford Focus ST

Me and My Test Drive: Living with a Ford Focus ST

Matthew Macconnell tells us what Ford’s newest and fastest Focus ST is really like.

It’s no secret now. Whenever Ford releases a new Focus, we’re sure to get a performance ST variant – and with each guise, they’ve extracted more power and unleashed more technical trickery. The Mk2 ST produced 225bhp from its 2.5-litre five-pot, the Mk3 had 247bhp from its 2.0-litre and now the Mk4 ST spits out 276bhp from its MK3 RS-derived turbocharged 2.3-litre.

Wednesday morning: the doorbell went, I was handed the keys to a £39,830 Mean Green Mk4.5 ST and told to enjoy it for the week – excellent. I was eager to see what all the ST fuss was about as I had never driven any previous Focus ST variants.

After clambering over the rather high bolsters on the comfortable and hugging Ford Performance seats, you’re greeted with a 13.2” touchscreen and a 12.3” driver cluster. Put the key down, push the start button and both screens illuminate with the ‘ST’ logo and a nifty head-up display (a £450 option) rises out from the dashboard.

Press the start button again and the 2.3-litre burbles into life and gives off a deep but fruity tone. Setting off, even in its ‘Normal’ setting, you could feel its sense of urgency; it was a bit like a Dobermann puppy getting ready to drag you across the park because it’s spotted a red squirrel – the squirrel, in this case, being a nice bit of winding backroad. Sticking it into reverse revealed a rear-view camera and parking sensors which come as part of the optional £300 Parking Pack, alongside door edge protectors and Active Park Assist.

Living with a Ford Focus ST

Throughout the day it rained heavily and was predominantly yuck. The roads were greasy and this was a perfect opportunity to try out the ‘Slippery’ setting found within the ‘Drive Modes’ section of the central touch screen. Sticking it into ‘Slippery’ calmed the front differential, reined in the throttle and the stability and traction control were on red alert; its now toned-down behaviour gave very little slip and plenty of grip to the front wheels.

Arriving at the shop, the ST received attention from youths, one of them parked next to us, gawking. Four large bags of shopping later and the ST’s 375-litre boot (the same size as the non-ST variant) still had plenty of space.

Living with a Ford Focus ST

The weekend arrived and it was time for the ST’s first proper run, and with a car club too. We were to meet at the Soutra Café, south of Edinburgh, where a range of cars, from Ferrari 458s to Golf GTIs, would drive some twisting backroads to the Jim Clark Museum at the Scottish Borders. The car received a fair bit of attention, yet again, due to its striking facelift appearance and vibrant £825 colour selection.

We set off from the car park which was directly onto a 60mph limit. Engaging the ‘S’ (sports) mode on the steering wheel turned the dials black and red and some noticeable weight was added to the steering. Mashing the throttle to get up to traffic speed, the front-wheel drive ST desperately tried to gain traction through its first, second and occasionally third gear before finally catching grip.

The ST was incredibly agile, ballet dancing around some tight bends thanks to its goliath amount of cornering grip, new chassis, clever front suspension geometry, 10mm ride height drop and an electronic limited-slip differential; it urged you to push it further.

My test car also had the ‘Performance Pack’ which unlocks the hair-on-fire ‘Track Mode’. This setting adds additional steering weight, firms the suspension and loosens the ESP – all of that combined is simply too harsh for some of Britain’s lumpy roads and is best kept for its intended track use, unless you want to be bounced around inside or have an arm workout.

Living with a Ford Focus ST

Next was a quick stop in the picturesque fishing village of St Abbs for some photographs and then back up towards Edinburgh on the A1; being nearly two hours from home meant I had plenty of time to try out the ST’s Driver Assist Pack. The adaptive cruise control worked a treat and any cars it sensed in front popped up on the 12.3” cluster, in picture form as a Mk5 Mondeo, and it would gradually decrease the ST’s speed on approach.

After all the picture taking it was great to have the wireless charger in front of the gear stick, although this seemed to be more frying pan than charger as it alarmingly cooked my smartphone rather than charge it. Once home, our run for the day averaged out at 30.1mpg, although we managed a 37.8mpg earlier on in the week through mixed town and motorway driving.

Living with a Ford Focus ST

The final test was to see how close we could get to Ford’s claimed 0-60mph time using the RaceBox. Ford claims that the ST will hit 60mph from rest in 5.7 seconds, achieving a top speed of 155mph if given enough room. From a standstill, on a perfectly dry road in ‘Sport’, the car first managed to crack a respectable 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds by setting off with slightly raised revs.

Next, it was time to try the launch control feature. The ST torque steered its way to 60mph from rest, with the wheels scrambling for grip: here, it managed a slightly slower time of 6.23 seconds. Measuring the in-gear overtaking performance resulted in an incredibly rapid 4.98 seconds from 30-70mph through the gears thanks to all 420Nm on offer and using the in-built flat-shifting feature. Letting off the throttle produced some ear-pleasing pops from the exhaust while the 60-0mph brake test generated a stopping distance of just 35m.

Living with a Ford Focus ST

As a Focus ST newbie, the car consistently impressed not only me but also those who had a passenger ride or even a walk round throughout the week. Although, it did make me wonder if it has reached its apotheosis. I mean, where will Ford take the Focus ST next? Surely there’s only so much power you can throw at a front-wheel drive hatchback – or is there?

Find more info:
Ford UK 

Join the club:
Ford Classics UK

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