Review: 2013 Ford Focus ST

The new Ford Focus ST (Sport Technologies) is first global performance car from Ford, shipping to more than 40 countries around the world. The Focus ST features a 2.0-litre...

Ford Focus ST

The new Ford Focus ST (Sport Technologies) is first global performance car from Ford, shipping to more than 40 countries around the world. The Focus ST features a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that generates 184 kW and 360 Nm of torque. There’s plenty of technology packed into this 5-door hot hatch including SYNC, an EcoBoost engine and sound symposer to name a few.

The EcoBoost engine is designed to deliver a car that performs well, but delivers great fuel economy and friendly on the environment. While power and economy are usually mutually exclusive, it seems the scientists at Ford have succeeded in achieving a great balance of both. Every 100km consumes just 7.4 litres while producing 172g/km of CO 2 emissions, down 20 per cent over the previous European Focus ST.

We got a chance to put the Focus ST through its paces today on a sporty drive from Albury to Bright. The perfect mix of road types produced a good opportunity to try out the handling, performance and economy. When the driving stopped it was time to grab a bite to eat and spend some time interrogating the technology inside.

Ford Focus ST

Design & Style

The New Focus ST’s design is strong and aggressive while remaining subtle enough to appeal to both sexes. Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille, bulging side skirts and dynamic rear bumper with prominent diffuser-style vents in the lower fascia add to the appeal. The roof spoiler isn’t just there for looks, it’s a critical part of the aero package that helps to improve high- speed stability and reduce drag.

The honeycomb style rims are wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 AS2 (235/40 R18) tyres and help set it apart from the standard Focus model. The ST Styling doesn’t end there, there’s a chrome dual exhaust pipe located in the centre of the rear bar.

Inside the performance car is kitted out in style. The Focus ST features a specially-designed steering wheel badges with the ST branding so you don’t forget about those 184 kW under the bonnet. The ST’s performance driving feel is immediately when you get hugged by the Recaro seats, providing comfort and support around the twisty bits.

This time round, there’s a new signature colour Tangerine Scream that you’ll see splashed over the brochures. This adds to other delicious colours including Candy Red, Frozen White, Moondust Silver, Panther Black and Performance Blue.

For Australia, the Focus ST offers partial leather Recaro seats with cloth inserts matched to the exterior colour, dual zone climate control with cabin filter, automatic Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, auto-dimming rear view mirror and rain sensing wipers as standard.

Ford Focus ST

Technology

We’ve covered Ford SYNC before on techAU and the same voice-controlled system is available in the ST. One of the biggest difference in the ST over the base model Focus is the inclusion of a 5” TFT display in the console, combined with and 9 speaker Sony Audio system.

The rest of the technology in the car is a list longer than your arm. Rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, automatic dimming headlights, automatic dimming rear vision mirror, deflation detection system in the tyres and automatic folding mirrors with approach lighting, keyless entry and keyless start.

There’s a new Sport Steering System with a variable ratio steering rack which helps to reduce steering sensitivity when driving in a straight line and increase sensitivity when cornering. The steering wheel can be turned to almost full lock without the driver needing to remove either hand to change position; providing more control through tight corners and hairpins.

Ford engineers added something called a sound symposer to amplify the throaty frequencies we enthusiasts crave in performance cars. Engineers worked their magic to naturally amplify engine frequencies found between 200 and 450 Hz that are most pleasing. They use of a composite “paddle” that vibrates with intake air pulses. While the sound tube concept has been used on Focus XR5 in the past, the sound symposer used in Focus ST is unique.  While it sounds fancy, the system works. Cruising is quite, but smashing the accelerator provides a rewarding growl from beneath.

An electronically controlled valve that opens and closes based on driver inputs – engine speed, accelerator pedal position and gear selection. In lower gears in the Focus ST, the valve is mapped more aggressively, while in higher gears the effect is dialled back to enable quieter cruising. This is not possible with conventional, passive sound tubes.

All of these elements add up to a car that uses technology to positively support and enhance the experience of owning the vehicle. While we’re not yet able to walk into a showroom and walk out with a driverless car, that day is on its way.

Ford Focus ST

Performance & Comfort

Those Recaro seats.. oh my those Recaro’s. Before today I was already familiar with Recaro’s, I put Evo 8 seats in my car, so I’m well versed in their benefits. When you’re engaged in sporty driving, there’s no room for moving around during corners. Thankfully the Recaro’s in the ST are amazing.

Not some carbon fibre moulded back breaking supercar seat, but a performance bucket that holds you tighter than your Mrs clinging to her Louis Vuitton handbag. As expected, they were amazingly comfortable even on a long 100+km drive.

The Focus ST EcoBoost engine can overboost by automatically spinning up the turbocharger to higher rpms for up to 15 seconds at a time. The result is up to 7.4% more output between 3,000 – 4,500 rpm of the torque curve.. a neat little trick.

As for performance, the Focus ST has fantastic power-to-weight and when your right foot drops there’s plenty of power to be had. The turbo strapped to the 2.0L engine doesn’t suffer from turbo lag as many do, the response to dropping your right foot is immediate.

The biggest strength of this car is its handling. A 10mm lower chasis helps distribute the weight perfectly for great cornering at speed. In the mountainous twisty bits, the understeer usually associated with front wheel drives is nowhere to be seen. The grip level is achieved not only from a great suspension setup, but the Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber as well. In a word, impressive.

Downsides

Unfortunately the 6-speed manual transmission was not a highlight of the ST. The gear shifts felt light and not deliberate as drivers would like. It was far too easy to select the wrong gear as horizontal movement had no perceivable notches or increments.

I’m a massive fan of SYNC as a platform, but the 5” display tucked deep into the dash is noticeably small. This really should have been the focus of the centre console with a 8-10” touchscreen to make control more accessible and intuitive. Probably the biggest issue is that we still don’t have AppLink in Australia. This means SYNC’s potential is being hamstrung in this country compared to it’s international friends.

This car now comes out of Europe and while the indicator stalk got the Aussie right-hand treatment, the bonnet release did not. This means you’ll be visiting the passenger side if you want to top up the windscreen washer.

Probably the biggest disappointment is that Ford couldn’t fit Active Park Assist and Active City Stop in the budget. When meeting a price point, inevitably some things will be cut, but given these are both available in the Titanium Focus and this car is most expensive, important driver assists like these should have been squeezed in.

Gallery

If you’re after the press images, you’ll find them on Flickr which you can get to by clicking the image below.

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If you’d prefer the real deal, aka photos taken without the retouching, then check out my photos from the press launch.

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Price & Availability

The new Focus ST goes on sale in Australia from October and costs $38,290. At that price it’s not the cheapest of the category, but is demands your attention. Take one for a test drive and try it for yourself. Early interest in the 2013 Focus ST has been strong with more than 500 expressions of interest in 3-4 weeks since the site went live.

Meanwhile Australians still wait for Ford to bring the Focus Electric down under. If you’re seriously after an environmentally friendly car, that’s surely the one to wait for but expect the price to far exceed the ST.

The single biggest reason why someone should buy this car is its handling. The cornering properties of the chassis and suspension setup could have easily come from a much more expensive vehicle. The adaptive steering is also under-rated and only truly appreciated when jumping back in your own car. Be careful, I was too used to reduced movement required by the ST and almost understeered into the side of a round about.

The best sign of a well executed product is when you’re not using it, you feel like your right arm is cut off. The Focus ST has this in spades. While not perfect, the 2013 Ford Focus ST is a seriously strong contender for the hot hatch crown.

More info @ Ford Australia

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This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn’t seeking credit.