Ford Focus ST Test Drive

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calvinp
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Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:33 pm

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So. After testing the Mazda 3 MPS the last time viewtopic.php?f=22&t=9171. I figured that I'd go test drive another contender in the fast and practical category in the hopes of finding something worthy as a replacement for my GT. And, for those of you who read my rant on the 3 MPS, it was no secret that I didn't find the handling to be anything to write home about. And to be fair, it might have just been the seats that weren't doing it any justice but that was sufficient for me to write it off as a potential candidate for my RX8 replacement when the time comes.


Now, I managed to organise a test drive of the latest Ford Focus ST and very much looked forward to it. I had the car to my self (and the missus) with a full tank of fuel for a good 2 hours to drive as we pleased.

I took it up Norton Summit via Magil and headed straight for Lobethal, a route that me and the RX knew well.

I sure you're all dying to know how I found the Ford.

Lets start with the things I didn't like

1) Seats

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Sure, they were Recaro buckets, but try as I might, I can't seem to get comfortable in them. Odd, but true. I didn't think I'd find a pair of uncomfortable Recaros, until now... lol Im only noting this because it has significant impact on how I see the car later on.

I do note that I feel a LOT more upright than with in the RX. Like, you're driving a mini van :P so...the aura is less sports car, more econobox underpinnings :P [man..just read it again, and it sounded rather harsh..lol]


2) Small margin of torque steer

As per par for the course of powerful FWD, the Focus is no exception when it comes to torque steer. It wasn't brutal like the MPS, but it WILL rear it's ugly head when provoked. Full throttle in 2nd gear is best undertaken with both hands firmly on the steering (if you're a wimp like me), and you DO notice the Torque Vectoring system trying to compensate and you end up playing steering tag with the system. Not a big downside, but noticable non the less.
To be fair, I found the system very impressive.

3) Chassis's lack of conviction on powered corner exits. Not too sure if this can come together with the torque through front wheel issue, but even when Im not trying to feed all 360nm through the front hoops past apex, the chassis doesn't feel quite as 'chuckable' as the RX.

It'd probably keep up with the RX if a good pilot was at the wheels (I certainly think so, maybe it's just me and my crap driving haha)... but lets just say.. that at the limits, the Ford's chassis limit will be the bottle neck and not driver skill. The RX on the other hand, can be exploited by a good driver and rather than be the limit, can complement driver skill. Not really fair to the Ford I know, but that's a gut feel. Like, when I drive the RX, I feel that Im the limiting factor. On the Ford, I feel that the car is the limiting factor. Like I can't quite make it dance and flow through the bends.


3) Huge turning circle. You cannot do a u-turn in one bite. Well, at least, I can't. But in the city, I can see it being a real bummer. It didn't present itself as a problem on my test drive, but then again, I didn't get to use the reverse camera either.

4) Back seats not as much leg room as the RX... surprise surprise! The back of the front seats are heavily scalloped to give the back seat passengers some badly needed knee space. But rear seat is so so IMHO. However, you can squeeze 3 back there if you need to , provided that non are Roseanne Barr sized.

5) Trunk is no where as spacious as you'd expect for a hot hatch. In fact, the MPS beats this hands down :P Heck, my accord beats this..lol
But, seats fold flat and you have some very flexible and usable space back there. Space saver spare hidden below floor board.

What I like.
1) Very daily friendly. Im talking about day in, day out. Drop kids off, buy grocery friendly kind of friendly. I absolutely adore the reversing cameras with projected path that's tied to your steering angle. Love it.


2) Power on demand. It is very hard to catch the Focus without power. In the right gear, response is almost N/A like. In fact, you can't hear the turbo whine and unless you knew that's it's turboed, you'd be hard pressed to find lag. That's a really high accolade coming from someone who is spoilt by the razor sharp response of the rotary engine.


I love the fact that you can lazily cruise in 6th on the highway an STILL accelerate when you boot it. Impressive engine indeed!


3) Fuel economy. Punted quite hard, it still returned impressive fuel figures (not a huge thing, but it's a fact). I'm realising that anything this side of a V8 will return better fuel economy than a Rotary..lol.


4) Interior quality. It is VERY well equipped. The amenities in here make the RX feels like a pauper. lol.
Navigation is standard, blue tooth link is smart and allows you to use your phone without touching your phone. You can interact with your phone's calling/ messaging functions via the main screen. It is very user friendly (well, if you can call 24 buttons that). Plenty of well thought out features that make it as luxurious as it is sporty.





Driving impression.(here's my biggest thing, I suppose)

For a car that places such emphasis on performance fun. The Focus is eminently liveable as a daily driver. In fact, if you discount the heavily bolstered seats, and drive sedately, you'll find all the refinement and practicality of a regular Focus.



However, it comes alive when punted hard along a mountain pass.

Points to note though. It was impossible for me to drive the twisties in the Focus ST in anything but 3rd gear. 3rd gear was sweet, had torque, was flexible... just stick it in there, and drive. Easy.


Problem is, I normally do the same stretch in 2nd on the RX.


Observation? I think in terms of acceleration and 'feel', the RX in 2nd thruough sections will run the turbo Ford quite hard where the turbo's torque cannot be brought into outright play due to the need for a longer gear. And, suffice to say, chassis wise, I found that I had to brake more to help with turn in on the Focus where I can just 'chuck' the RX into the turn and she'll sort herself out. So, I found myself braking to adjust entry, cruising past apex and then applying throttle as the turn straightens....lots of that..just to keep the turn in in check. WIth the RX... it's more, lift, turn, floor. It's almost like this route was DESIGNED for an RX in 2nd gear at 7,000++ rpm in mind. So, there's a bit more (with the Focus) of brake, turn, accelerate, brake, rinse, repeat.


You'll need to hold on tight with BOTH hands if you do want to attempt an overtaking move along the twisties, utilising the mountain of torque available to pass the offending sedan creeping along at a snail's pace. There's noticeable torque steer if you're going to stomp on the loud pedal with any kind of conviction. The 'overboost' function does nothing to help this situation. Although a big welcome when you're cruising on the highway, it gets a tad squirmy in the tight twisties.

Turn in is surprisingly good for a FWD with such a high roll centre. Although the 'feel' is not quite 'easy tuck' but more like 'shove it in there' tuck. Can't quite put a finger on it. But if you do get a chance to grab a test drive. Just note the willingness for the car to turn in on a 25km/h hairpin and compare it to the RX. The RX just 'feels' a smidgen more... well...'alive'.


The other thing is, and this is rather obvious. Although the chassis has good balance (for a FWD), you can upset it by punting it through a series of bends in quick succession... that's one on the way to Lobethal, just before it drops into a 40 km/h left sweeper, plenty of view of on coming traffic before you enter the bend. The chassis does not seem to flow easily from one direction change to another. Granted, it did well. But again, not quite as effortlessly as the RX. Commendable for what's been achieved on a hot hatch tho.




Honestly, I love it. The way it drives, the way it accelerates, it's fuel consumption. The way, at 8 tenths, it's quite possibly the nicest FWD I've driven. (and I've driven my share of fun FWDs) It gets the heart racing. :)



BUT... I can't quite get comfortable in it. No idea why, but it's JUST NOT comfortable...lol


The seats are great compared with the MPS. Bolstered buckets bearing the famous R brand hold you in firmly during cornering. They are less aggressively bolstered than the GTs. The head rest is at a wierd angle for me though.


Indeed, I thought that it might be how high the seating position is, but the seat's already at its lowest. It might also be the reclining angle, the head rest making it hard for my head to settle in a natural position, making my neck strain. Odd, then, that I don't have this issue in my RX.

Maybe I DO need to recline the seat a bit more... too hard to say at the moment.

Suffice to say, I like the Focus ST a LOT more than I did the 3 MPS. And for those of you out there who are thinking along the same lines, I'd highly recommend that you too, give it a test drive and see for yourselves.

Yup, it'll certainly be on the list of cars on the swap list when the time comes to retire the RX. But it's not quite that time, yet.

Despite ticking most of the boxes... it's just not quite the same. For a lack of a better word, I'd say that it lacks soul. Not that it's a big thing, but it's a hard to quantify thing non the less. And that, is what makes us stick with the little engine that could in the car that is SO out of sync with the rest of the automotive world and yet feels so 'right' each time we drive it.


Bring on the Megane 265 next!


C

Thai
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by Thai » Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:28 pm

I'm interested in the mercedes A45 AMG. It will be good to review it.

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calvinp
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:52 pm

Ever thought about organising a test drive and sharing your experience? Unfortunately the Mercedes A45 AMG is not a car I'm looking at at the moment.

But it would be interesting if you'd share your thoughts as to why you'd swap your 8 for one of them.

Thai
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by Thai » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:06 pm

The quoted figures of 4.6 sec to 100k, 265kw, allwheel drive, and dual clutch sound great. Recent news release by car review websites indicated that this car will be for sale in sept.

I imagine there will be a long queue for test drive.

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calvinp
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:23 pm

Best start queuing now, Thai. :)

Can't wait to read about how you find it.

Thai
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by Thai » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:34 pm

Yes sir!

I will register on Monday

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calvinp
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:44 pm

You're right Thai.. that AMG is one sweet looking ride! Good luck with the queue!

Would definitely be very interesting to see how you go with it! :) /cheer


c

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70nyd
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by 70nyd » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:48 pm

Awesome review :D
The st is a great car
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calvinp
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:10 pm

yes... I think it's just about the best 'do it all' car at the moment. Factoring heavily on the day to day usability.

I Do like the fact that I can treat it like a regular run about tho.

gudge
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by gudge » Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:34 pm

Fifth Gear did a shootout recently with the ST, Vauxhall VRX hatch, Megane RS and Golf GTI.

Megane was the winner, ST 3rd. It will be interesting to hear your view.

Also, on the same episode (I think) Jonny was recommending so sporty 2nd hand cars, Boxster, Z4 and RX-8. He chose the RX-8 (but price was a bit of a factor as well).

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calvinp
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Re: Ford Focus ST Test Drive

Post by calvinp » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:50 pm

Yea..saw that episode...very interesting comparo of the 3 hot hatches... even more interesting that the Astra does not have a regular handbrake! :)

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