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  #1  
Old 12-08-2012, 08:41 PM
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AzNMpower32 AzNMpower32 is offline
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Mein Auto: 2014 Mazda3 GT
Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST

3-second summary: Not perfect, but the best hot hatch you can buy.

Getting a Ford dealer to let you test drive one of their precious Focus STs is like trying to test drive a Ferrari or Aston. Honestly, I think it would be easier to do brain surgery. Most dealers just won't allow it unless you're committed to buy NOW.

But I was finally able to have the time and ability to test drive a ST at a nearby Ford dealership. After a credit check. And running through some numbers. Really, it doesn't need to be this difficult. I know they're dissuading joyriders but certainly this ain't no M5.

But it is as good as they say. The press is fairly positive on this across multiple continents in different languages, and I can see why. I test drove a fully-decked out version with xenons, full-leather Recaro seats, and many other techno-garbage equipment that I wasn't remotely interested in. Really.....let's focus on the driving experience.

The first thing you notice is how refined it is. It's eerily quiet even when you get the revs up, and you find yourself doing +10-20km/h faster than what you thought you'd be doing. Combine that with the slick (German) 6-speed gearbox that's light and a throttle that's just right, this is something you could drive day-to-day, then tear up the backroads on the weekend. The motor is flexible, smooth, and gutsy at most any rpm and pairs well with the excellent gearbox.

The brakes are sturdy, and best of all, the electric power steering is superb. BMW wishes theirs was this good. It's well weighted, communicative, and feels natural. It's easily the best electric power steering I've driven, better than that in the Golf and Polo TDI and every BMW I've driven so-equipped. The chassis isn't unsettled by mid-corner bumps and feels secure and well-planted, and the ride is just on the right side of firm.

This is easily a fun car. I wouldn't ever go nuts on a test car but around the curves at moderate speeds, the ST begs to be pushed harder and I really liked the way it felt. No, I did not try to provoke torque steer.....and it still doesn't feel quite as unhinged as a rear-drive vehicle. But I think even on this board, there are only a few of us that drive their vehicles that hard on a regular basis.

Problems? The interior is still a mess. The seats don't go down far enough, the backseat is fit only for children, and the rear seats don't fold flat. The dash just isn't elegant at all because of that stupid touchscreen, the centre tunnel encroaches on legroom (and I'm on the slender side, and only 1,72m tall), so there's none of the quality feel that you'd find on a Golf or GTI. And this may just be me, but I hate how the clutch engages at the very bottom of its short travel. The friction point is about 2mm off the floor, and combined with the torque of the engine, I stalled on the uphill start, spun the wheels on the second try, and getting a seamless downshift wasn't easy. I'm very used to the progressive, light clutch on German cars (BMW, Opel, VW) and this is yet another Ford product where I just can't like the clutch engagement. But your results may vary.

But in spite of these problems, it is very likely the best hot hatch on the market, regardless of where in the world you are. I wouldn't have one because I can't stand the interior or cramped quarters (and the clutch), but you probably should. The VW may have a more fluid drive and refined interior but the Ford drives better and is more engaging without much compromise. It does many things very well and is even fairly economical. It may be a bit pricey on paper but it's better value than those silly crossovers and has plenty of excitement to make those mountain drives all the more fun. Unless you're obsessed with fuel consumption and interiors (like me), the Focus ST is probably the right one for you.

What's great:
+ Excitement factor, yet doesn't beat the driver up.
+ Solid chassis and steering
+ Enough power for any situation.

What's not:
- Interior
- Inflexible options packaging
- Missing a few features (Auto-start stop, rain sensor, parking sensors)

As tested:
2013 Ford Focus ST w/Option Group 203A
Power: 2 litre turbocharged 4-cyl petrol, 250PS and 360Nm.
Fuel consumption: 7,2 l/100km (combined)
Efficiency ranking: E
CO emissions: 169 g/km.

Test drive took place on a mix of suburban and rural roads (approx 14km) in Buncombe County, NC. Weather was sunny and 18C and pavement was good to fair.
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Last edited by AzNMpower32; 12-08-2012 at 08:44 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-11-2012, 01:53 PM
Michael Schott Michael Schott is online now
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Thank you for the review. If I can't squeeze an F30 into my budget when my lease comes up, the ST is high on my list.

After reading the reviews, my biggest concerns about the RT are the ride and the lack of power seats. The former is more of an issue than the latter. I drive a non-sport E90 and it's fine. How does the ST ride in comparison if you've had experience in a similar E90?

I don't mind the dash in the Focus. It's of course more economy minded than in a BMW but I like the idea of a touch screen. You also mentioned the back seat and I'm surprised you find it so tight. It's a small family car and in Europe it's a fairly large vehicle. We don't often have anyone in the back seat other than my 2 year old in a front facing car seat but it does happen.
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Old 12-11-2012, 03:46 PM
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AzNMpower32 AzNMpower32 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Schott View Post
Thank you for the review. If I can't squeeze an F30 into my budget when my lease comes up, the ST is high on my list.

After reading the reviews, my biggest concerns about the RT are the ride and the lack of power seats. The former is more of an issue than the latter. I drive a non-sport E90 and it's fine. How does the ST ride in comparison if you've had experience in a similar E90?

I don't mind the dash in the Focus. It's of course more economy minded than in a BMW but I like the idea of a touch screen. You also mentioned the back seat and I'm surprised you find it so tight. It's a small family car and in Europe it's a fairly large vehicle. We don't often have anyone in the back seat other than my 2 year old in a front facing car seat but it does happen.
The top-spec 203A package did come with 6-way adjustable electric seats- at least for the driver, didn't check the passenger. One small squibble was that I couldn't get the seat low enough for my tastes (think go-kart) and the bottom cushion angle is not adjustable like on most German cars. However the mid-grade package seats with partial leather are manual adjustments only.

The rear legroom seems a bit compromised because of how think the padding the Recaros are. I'm not particularly tall (1,72m and just 64kg) so I dont have the front seats very far back, but I personally wouldn't want to spend a long trip sitting "behind myself" if you know what I mean. The Focus platform itself doesnt lend itself to a lot of room; rear headroom was an issue when I sampled the standard Focus.

As for the ride, it is far better than you might expect based on appearances. I would say it's a smidge firmer than the Golf TDI (which comes with sport suspension in the US) and rides roughly the same as my mother's 325i sport, which coincidentally, has the same Goodyear F1 Asymmetric 2 tires. The twisty backroad portion was in fair condition but not perfect and it was still comfortable. However, I don't know about how it rides over poor roads commonly found in the Northeast, but I haven't read complaints from reviewers and magazines.
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  #4  
Old 12-12-2012, 05:20 AM
Michael Schott Michael Schott is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AzNMpower32 View Post
The top-spec 203A package did come with 6-way adjustable electric seats- at least for the driver, didn't check the passenger. One small squibble was that I couldn't get the seat low enough for my tastes (think go-kart) and the bottom cushion angle is not adjustable like on most German cars. However the mid-grade package seats with partial leather are manual adjustments only.

The rear legroom seems a bit compromised because of how think the padding the Recaros are. I'm not particularly tall (1,72m and just 64kg) so I dont have the front seats very far back, but I personally wouldn't want to spend a long trip sitting "behind myself" if you know what I mean. The Focus platform itself doesnt lend itself to a lot of room; rear headroom was an issue when I sampled the standard Focus.

As for the ride, it is far better than you might expect based on appearances. I would say it's a smidge firmer than the Golf TDI (which comes with sport suspension in the US) and rides roughly the same as my mother's 325i sport, which coincidentally, has the same Goodyear F1 Asymmetric 2 tires. The twisty backroad portion was in fair condition but not perfect and it was still comfortable. However, I don't know about how it rides over poor roads commonly found in the Northeast, but I haven't read complaints from reviewers and magazines.
Thank you. The power driver's seat would be nice to have. I'll have to take a test drive when the time is right.
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  #5  
Old 12-12-2012, 07:38 AM
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Chris90 Chris90 is offline
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Great review.

I'm sure I would like this car, sounds like a real driver's car, and anything with Recaro seats gets my attention. I'm a little afraid to go to the Ford dealership cause I'm usually disappointed when I actually sit in a Ford.

It's hard to see trading in my ZHP for one, since my car is also a driver's car, and I already own it. but if I needed a car I'd look hard at the ST, and I like the styling on the Fiesta ST even better. If that car is as fun to drive as the Focus ST, I'd seriously consider it as a commuter car.
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