Thursday 22 March 2018

Ford's ST returns to core values: performance and economy

Ford knows a thing or two about making fast cars go even faster - and the new Focus ST is a sports car for the masses, writes Geraldine Herbert

SUREFOOTED AND AGILE: Over hills and on the motorways, the new Ford Focus ST leads the way in the hot hatch stakes
SUREFOOTED AND AGILE: Over hills and on the motorways, the new Ford Focus ST leads the way in the hot hatch stakes

The unveiling of Ford's 600bhp GT with its high-tech, carbon-fibre construction in Detroit last month was a timely reminder of Ford's impressive racing legacy.

From the legendary RS2000s, the Sierra Cosworths and the XR range of Escorts and Fiestas there have been some stunning road-going racers. The latest in this thrilling line-up is the new Focus ST. The ST stands for Sports Technologies - what else?

There is nothing subtle about the styling and the exterior is now far more aggressive than before, dominated by the Aston Martin-esque black mesh grille. Under this exterior, the changes are also striking with upgraded suspension and steering along with high performance tyres to sharpen the drive.

While Tangerine Scream is still the colour of choice for standing out in the supermarket car park, the Metal Grey or Panther Black are the more subtle options.

Behind the wheel the Recaro sports seats wrap firmly around you, which is just what you need as the ST catapults from 0 to 100km in 6.5 seconds.

The interior is simple with intuitively placed elements and you can tweak the driving position until it fits perfectly. While it can tame the sharpest hair-pin bend, the ST would be just as much fun on the school run.

In estate guise, it is a very practical car with a boot capacity of 1,516 litres. Along with the 250PS EcoBoost petrol, the ST is now also available for the first time in diesel, delivering 182bhp, 0-100 km in a smoking 8 seconds and with an incredible claimed economy figure of 4.2 litres per 100 km or 67mpg and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km.

Purists will opt for the petrol but while the diesel may be slower, it is deliciously smooth and the estate makes for a compelling family car.

The ST feels good just driving around town and both engines are discreet and refined in heavy commuter traffic.

Our test routes were the mountainous roads in the hills above Barcelona, where blind corners, corkscrew curves, straight lines for intermediate sprints and changing road surfaces would challenge the most agile of cars.

On the S bends it, is beautifully sure-footed with a sublime exhaust note. It is an entirely authentic sound and when it's partially enhanced as that hot hatch soundtrack pumps a deep throaty noise into the cabin, all is forgiven.

On these roads, the ST just begs to be driven hard and the steering is fast and responsive. The formidable suspension tuning proved crucial on the roads; while obviously harsher than the regular Focus, it is incredibly smooth.

Prices for the new Ford Focus ST start at €39,100 for the 2.0 EcoBoost and €39,800 for the 2.0 TDCi. An extra €1,000 is likely to be added for an estate version.

Running costs are predicated to be lower on this car than the previous version and, according to Ford, it is the most fuel efficient Focus ST ever thanks to an auto start-stop that improves the EcoBoost engine version's fuel efficiency by 6pc.

Combined full economy on the 2.0 EcoBoost is 6.8 litres per 100km and a very impressive 4.2 per 100km for the 2.0 TDCi.

Standard spec on both versions includes 18" alloys; unique ST body with spoiler, front and rear bumper, rocker panels and front grille; auto start-stop; ST scuff plates; heated front Recaro seats; auto lights and wipers; special ST suspension; keyless start; and Thatcham alarm.

There is currently no sharper and more complete hot hatch than the Focus ST - that is, until the new Focus RS is launched.

Sunday Independent

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