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Reader Test: Focus ST170

2008-07-09 09:04

Abri Venter

As far back as I can remember (this will be the early 1980's) my dad drove Fords - a silver Cortina 3.0S, followed by a red Sierra XR6 and then a silver Sierra 3.0 LX.

The big attraction in all these cars was the 3-litre V6 Essex engine - powerful, robust, reliable, and you could repair and modify it in your backyard with very little fancy tools required, and none of this modern electronic gadgetry nonsense.

But somewhere in the 1990s, Ford lost the plot, and Ford fans started looking elsewhere (the majority whom I know ended up with BMW, being especially attracted to the E36 325i and later the 328i, having the same 6 cylinder power and rear-wheel drive.

However, this also came at a price, so a few were forced to look at other alternatives.

Nissan 200 STi

Enter the Nissan Sentra 200STi - a legend in its time.

Powerful front wheel drive 2-litre engine developing in excess of 100kW in a relatively small body, and you can easily see why it was high on the list.

Now, you may be asking yourself what has this got to do with owning a Ford Focus ST170?

Well, after the Sierra 3.0 LX, my dad was shopping around for something a bit smaller, as the kids were all grown up, but it had to be affordable, reliable and powerful. The only car at the time that really fit the bill was a Nissan Sentra 200STi, which my dad liked so much, he gave it to my mom when later he bought the facelift 200STi (with ABS).

Eventually, however, the allure of driving a BMW became too strong, and dad decided the facelift 200STi had to go. Of course I immediately offered to buy it from him, and I became the proud owner of what, at the time, I thought to be the best 2-litre front wheel drive car ever made.

This, however, did not last long - it turns out the 200STi is also a favorite with thieves, who obviously know a good car when they see it, because 3 months later my pride and joy was stolen without a trace.

This left me up a creek without a paddle - Nissan had stopped making the 200STi, in stead you could now buy a Nissan Almera 1.8 "repmobile" - no thanks. I did not want a VW (seating position), nor an Opel (plasticky) and so it goes. This left me with very limited choice in terms of buying a performance car that was also practical and economical.

Magnum grey

Enter the ST170 - a car originally not even on my "to test drive" list, but seeing a silver one outside a Ford dealership as I was driving past on my way to the car I actually intended to test drive, the Peugeot GTI 180 (if I remember correctly) I thought "what the heck, let’s give it a go".

So, I popped in, took a drive, and I was sold.

I half-heartedly test drove some other cars after the Focus, but they came nowhere close to moving me as the Ford did.

Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting much from the Ford when I test drove it, that it surprised me so much. It was much better in every aspect than the 200STi (which I idolized, remember) - more power, six gears, better road holding, nicer ride, more fuel efficient, better quality interior, airbags, more practical - the list goes on.

And when the sales lady showed me one in Magnum Grey - I was sold. It offered me the power of the Nissan, and then some.

Now, after five years and 96,000km I still enjoy every kilometre behind the wheel. It returns incredible fuel consumption (I average between 7 liters/100km on the highway, to a highest of about 9 liters/100km when thrashing it around town) with a combined cycle of around 8 liters/100km (560km on 47 liters).

My first set of tyres lasted 63 000km (I do drive like a granny, but still). Granted, the stock clutch is a piece of crap which lasted only 80,000km, but after having replaced it with an aftermarket SPEC item, it should last the life of the car.

It also drives like a much bigger car, and you can basically keep it in 6th gear all the way when driving at 120km/h, when only the steepest of inclines will have you changing down a gear.

And cruising at 120km/h, the engine is barely ticking over at just over 3 000r/min.

This, combined with the independent rear suspension, makes for an incredibly smooth, relaxed ride.

Comfortable drive

I can drive all day and not feel fatigued. And it doesn't just drive like a bigger car, it IS big. One of the few hatchbacks I know that can fit 3 people on the rear seat and they don't feel cramped, with plenty of head, leg and elbowroom.

Then there is the practicality of a hatchback - fold the seats flat, and you have a very usable load space.

I have personally transported, on various occasions, a 74cm television (still in it's box), a dismantled wooden double-bed frame, 20 bags of compost weighing 10kg each, and ten 10kg cement sleepers.

And when we want to take the dogs for a walk at my sister's estate, I merely remove the parcel shelf and chuck them in the back and off we go.

Even with the seats not folded flat the boot is sizable and you can easily fit luggage for 4 people for a weekend away.

I can honestly say that I will keep on driving my car until the wheels come off.

Nothing currently on sale comes even close to offering me what my car offers. And there's only one way my car will be even better than what it is now - when it is paid in full!

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