Driven: All-new Ford Focus ST

2012-06-30 20:40

NICE, France - The latest Ford Focus ST looks hot and has performance figures to suggest it's quite the mover, but does it carry as much clout powered, as it is, by a lowly four-cylinder? We headed to the twisties in the south of France to find out more.

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Vehicle specs

Ford’s recent win in the International Engine of the Year competition has the automaker on a serious buzz. While the 1.0 turbocharged EcoBoost engine is seemingly hogging all the attention for the Blue Oval right now, on the opposite side of the spectrum Ford’s followed through on the hype with the introduction of its latest Focus ST. It will be launched in South Africa in November, 2012.


South African hot-hatch lovers adore their Volkswagen Golf GTIs but if first impressions are anything to go by, the guys from Wolfburg should be slightly concerned.

Sure, the Focus looks the part with its new front bumper with a bigger grille and gaping air intakes, a very characteristic centre-mounted twin tailpipe, huge 18” alloys and ST-specific goodies in the cabin, but it’s on the road where the true battle waits to be fought.

For this ST, Ford’s had to do without the 2.5-litre, turbocharged, five-cylinder, Volvo engine that gave the previous version its distinctive burble and earned it scores of fans. In its place is Ford’s own EcoBoost engine – a turbo four-cylinder sending 184kW and 360Nm to the front wheels of what is Ford’s most powerful ST yet and its first global performance car.

Dieter Schwarz, head of Ford Team RS, admitted the “most challenging task on this (ST) project” was managing the move from five to four cylinders and making sure fans would not be disappointed by the new soundtrack. To sort that out, the engine has a redesigned intake system with an “active sound symposer” to cleverly relay the engine rumble (from as low down as 2000rpm) directly to the cabin. 

To warm the cockles of the true enthusiast’s heart, only a slick six-speed manual is offered at this stage.


While this certainly seems to be a handful, Ford’s added some clever tricks to make the experience more fun, less frightening. There’s the new electric variable steering that's less sensitive in the straight-ahead position but requires less turning, for example, through a hairpin. This is supplemented by a Torque Steer Compensation system that, along with the steering, uses software to counteract torque steer.

Furthermore, to allow the ST to be a cornering demon, the car is also fitted with an improved Dynamic Cornering Control system for a quicker and lighter turn-in and it figures out the torque distribution to the front wheels before you’ve even had time to think about it.

Based on the ST’s handling prowess, it’s hard to imagine it being related to the regular Focus. It’s utterly composed, cornering fast and flat while a prod of the throttle serves to pull the tail back into line while the (standard) Recaro sport seats do a good job of preventing the front passenger from spilling out in faster switches.

As fun as that may seem, Ford’s mandate for the Focus ST has always been about more than outright performance – it has to be comfortable as a daily driver, too. The latest version certainly doesn’t disappoint.


The Focus ST’s ride was incredibly comfortable on the motorway and rural sections of the route through the south of France and the dramatically revised chassis did a good job of soaking up the rough patches and dips. Suspension enhancements for this ST include uprated shocks and springs and a revised rear suspension with new knuckles and an all-new anti-roll bar. Compared to other Focus models, the ST’s chassis is also 10mm lower, but, in its pursuit of a sportier ST, Ford has not let the side down by compromising on the sporty hatch’s comfort levels. 

It’s an incredibly drivable hot hatch yet also super-refined. It definitely leaves you in no doubt of its capabilities when you floor the accelerator but short-shift to sixth for a spot of cruising and a pleasantly quiet cabin.

The new Focus ST will be available in hatchback and wagon form in European markets; South Africa will only receive the traditional hatch and it will be launched here in November 2012.

  • Stig - 2012-06-30 21:07

    Megane RS 265

      timothy.magayisa.7 - 2012-07-02 22:02

      I'm with you Stig. Megane RS is the hot hatch of the moment.

  • lumifi - 2012-07-01 01:01

    184 KW, almost 250 KM/H, o to 100 KM/H in 6,4 (the same as a Porsche Cayman), 7,4 l/ 100 km... is something very hot, very good, very attactive!! Top gear pointed it as most desirable most exciting and best hot hatch nowdays!!

  • lumifi - 2012-07-01 01:01

    184 KW, almost 250 KM/H, o to 100 KM/H in 6,4 (the same as a Porsche Cayman), 7,4 l/ 100 km... is something very hot, very good, very attactive!! Top gear pointed it as most desirable most exciting and best hot hatch nowdays!!

  • rodney.chevalier - 2012-07-01 08:54

    New golf coming soon 200Kw, 110kg lighter. The hot hatch wars continue

      Cyrus - 2012-07-02 06:54

      Depends on your source of information. Ive read some that say the Golf 7 Gti will only have 160+ kw and another stating the 200kw+ ......I am more incline to believe the 160kw+ based on VW past history of power outputs on the GTi. VW has always been conservative with the power increases of the GTi - 110kw ->132kw -> 147kw -> 155kw....thus a 160+kw seems more plausible

  • Cyrus - 2012-07-01 13:08

    Is it just me or is Ford really losing out on a huge chunk of the market by not releasing a Double clutch transmission option. DSG in the GTi is very popular internationally and some previous manual lovers have been won over (me included).....

      dintwe.mohutsioa - 2012-07-02 12:04

      even alfa saw that gap and bridged it with its TCT lets hope we ll see the new focus, new opc, and megane rs with dsg like boxes, already new a45 class will be beefed up with 7 speed MCT, plus the new v40 on the cards hot hatch game getting heated up i like it

      ofentse.ramorula - 2012-07-02 12:38

      @Jonathan, the VW's DSG is manufactured by Getrag so is the 6 speed manual for the Focus ST. Car manufacturers dont really manufactures g/boxes themselves, so it is a bold statement that you just made.

      musazwane - 2012-07-03 09:34

      This is a drivers car. Ford has DSG in the 1.6 Fiesta. That's for sissies.

      Cyrus - 2012-07-03 09:50

      At Musazwane I was waiting for some troll to make a comment like that. Maybe you right hey,...... I suppose thats why F1 cars and all other top end racing series use semi autobox cars......perhaps thats why all top end sports cars come with semi automatic........perhaps thats why Deon Jobert (Local Racing driver) stated that the 1M Coupe would be faster with a semi autobox.........but hey I must be some bloke that cant drive so thats why I like semi autobox.

      armandearl.vanzyl - 2012-07-03 11:21

      Cyres F1 Still utilise a clutch system and the driver still needs to change the gears himself. As with most racing.

      shayne.r.barker - 2012-07-03 15:43

      Learn to use a gearbox! DSG is for pussy's!

  • ronald.ragadza - 2012-07-02 09:27

    Bring it on. I want to see it in metal.

  • kevin.w.howes - 2012-07-02 09:50

    August is around the corner and then...the hot hatch beast arrives OPC come to papa.

  • dintwe.mohutsioa - 2012-07-02 12:36

    guys i dont know if its only me but we getting spoilt for choice when coming to hot hatches ony now if this massive competition can bring the cars price down, would be nice to pay around 298K for brand new base hot hatch and the gov maybe may go easy on duty taxes coz these hot hatches are most favoured by young people starting to work

      gregbecker - 2012-07-02 13:47

      Go test drive a Peugeot 308 GTI. Not as fast as the others off the line but top speed and in gear acceleration is astounding and it makes an awesome noise. Complete with 5 year full maintenance plan for just over R300k! You'll get a bargain if you play one dealership off the other for discount...

  • ofentse.ramorula - 2012-07-02 13:10

    Cannot wait to trade in my car......

  • dawood.bawa.1 - 2012-08-01 16:47

    johanathan, wake up go learn more bout cars first, read up on the new focus gearbox, and than come renew your statement

  • Jonathan Diederiks - 2013-08-05 13:16

    Renault, no thanx, crappee reliability and horrid looking car (big bulging beehind), great performance though.

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