• One ST model, two levels
• Revised styling, chromed inserts
It’s been an interesting 13 years since the first Ford Focus ST burbled out into the media spotlight and gave a severe bump up the backside to the long-standing dominance of VW’s Golf GTi.
The Golf GTi had the stage pretty much to itself from launch in 1976 – almost 40 years ago. That was a 1.6 punting 81kW and it hung around until 1982 when a 1.8 making only one extra kW took over – its main challenger being Opel’s Kadett in various forms.
The Golf reached two litres and 85kW in 1991 and further metamorphoses took it through another 20 years to the power peak of the 173kW Golf GTI Edition 35 in 2012, falling back to 162kW with a TSI engine in 2013.
140 000 FOCUS ST UNITS SOLD
It was in 2002 that Ford dropped a 125kW/196Nm engine into its Focus family car and stuck an ST badge on the boot. There have been two more developments since then – 2005 saw the introduction of a Mk2, 165kW/320Nm engine and seven years later came the current turbocharged 184kW/360Nm (at 5500 and 2000-4500rpm respectively) Mk3.
GALLERY: Ford Focus ST 2015 update
Over those 10 years about 140 000 Focus ST units were sold – and raced and rallied - and well-heeled boy racers revelled in the fun they supplied. Most often, probably, up against Golf GTI’s.
Which is where things stuck in South Africa until this week (July7 2015) when the face-lifted Focus ST Mk.3 four-door hatchback was launched with track sessions and a gymkhana for the motoring media at the recently upgraded and extended Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone, KZN.
Oh, and 350km of the N2 freeway from and back to King Shaka airport.
NEW STYLING, NEW RIMS
Zimbabwe-born Kuda Takura, now performance manager of Ford SA, explained that Ford’s GT, RS (yes, it’s coming soon, probably with the Mustang!) and lastest ST now “belong in one team”.
The face-lift, he said, brought new styling and wheel rims (17, 18 and 19”), revised cabin finishes, a second-generation Ford Sync system (on the dearer ST3 model) lower consumption (6.8 litres/100km), automatic engine stop/start and new chassis control.
No auto gearbox is contemplated – you don’t like a six-speed manual, well, tough.
And there are two versions of the uprated car: ST1 and ST3, the higher number meaning a higher level of equipment – and price – to add, for instance, xenon headlights that react to steering direction. A good moment to mention that the steering has been recalibrated, the suspension made firmer and the stability control upgraded.
Hill-start assistance is there, too, though I worry that somebody in control of a vehicle of the ST’s potential might have trouble pulling away on a hill.
The most obvious change in the cabin is the now flat-bottomed steering-wheel adorned with ST badging, Sync II controls that were launched with the Ford Fusion, and cruise-control buttons. There’s a plethora of chromed inserts and red detailing and stitching and six crash bags.
'MORE ENJOYABLE, MORE REWARDING'
Hook a Bluetooth phone to the Sync and 250 voice commands become possible to control both units; the screen is touch-sensitive and high-resolution.
Tracey Delate, general marketing manager with Ford SA, said: “The new Focus ST delivers an even more sophisticated balance of performance, driving dynamics, refinement and style, which are at the core of the Ford Performance DNA.
“The new Ford Focus ST is now even more enjoyable and rewarding to drive – it’s in a class of its own.”
Key innovations, Ford says, include “industry-first enhanced transitional stability” as part of the vehicle’s electronic stability control. “It senses vehicle stability and driver inputs, predicts when a skid or loss of control might occur, and intervenes as required using individual-wheel braking to maintain precision and control during rapid changes of direction at speed.”.
Electronic torque-vectoring optimises torque distribution through corners “to maximise traction and reduce understeer”. Three driver-selectable modes exist to suit road/track conditions:
• Standard: ESC and traction control fully active.
• Sport: No engine torque reduction by traction control, reduced ESC brake interventions to facilitate more sporty driving; ETS disabled.
• Off – No engine torque reduction from traction control and ESC systems and no ESC brake interventions (torque-vectoring remains active); ETS disabled.
There are minor changes to the ST’s appearance: Ford describes them as a lower and wider stance, sculpted bonnet; slimmer headlights and rectangular fog lamps.
“The sports body-kit includes skirts and diffuser elements each side rear-central twin exhausts,” Ford says, “and a rear roof spoiler and black light bezels and ST badging complete the look.
“The signature ST honeycomb upper grille has been made slimmer and sits higher on the nose and the lower fascia offers sharper and more distinct sculpting. At the rear, the width of the car is emphasised by a new full-width graphic in the lower fascia.”
LIGHT UP YOUR FEET
As mentioned, the new Focus ST will be available in ST1 and ST3 trim levels. Recaro sports seats are standard on both but with grey/charcoal/anthracite black fabric on the ST1, black leather on the ST3.
Standard features on the ST1 include keyless start, footwell illumination, ST-branded leather steering-wheel and gear shifter, ST scuff plates, ST triple-dial cluster, 18” alloy rims, cruise control and an advanced Thatcham alarm and anti-theft system. Ford’s Sync with Bluetooth and voice activation is included, along with steering-wheel controls and two USB ports.
Combined with the full leather trim, the Recaro seats used in the ST3 derivative are heatable and have eight-way power adjustment for driver and passenger.
Dual-zone electronic climate control is standard, along with the new Sync2 system with 20cm touchscreen, high-end Sony audio system and nine speakers, dual USB ports and SD card slot.
Externally the ST3 is distinguishable from the ST1 with eye-catching horizontal diode daytime running lights and bi-xenon headlights.
Ford Focus ST 1 – R381 900
Ford Focus ST 3 – R421 900
Add the sunroof and 19” rims options and you’re looking at R428 440 or just R6540 for the 18” rims option.
Metallic paint? Another R750.
Both levels of ST will be sold with a four-year or 120 000km warranty and a four-year or 80 000km service plan. Service intervals 20 000km.
WAITING OUT THE RAIN: Usually sunny Port Shepstone kept its promise of rain for the launch of Ford's latest revision of the 184kW/360Nm 2015 Focus ST at the Dezzi Raceway. Four of the cars wait it out in the pits. Image: Les Stephenson