Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Ford Focus ST | Putting the rage in other drivers

The hot hatch world is about to get even hotter in the coming months when Ford lets their new Focus RS out of the cage. It’s a four-wheel-drive 350hp monster that promises to fulfill all young YouTube watchers' dreams of becoming the CEO of DC Shoes (who’s name I forgot). Tom or something…

It’s a significant step up from the Focus ST, which has been racing through our streets for a while now. And, depending how you look at it, is probably racy enough.

The hot hatch market doesn’t have the same pedigree here than in other parts of the world. Like England, where in the 90s, they were mostly stolen for joyriding and thus subject to sky high insurance premiums. It was there where Ford first turned the Escort into a fire breathing rally machine with its tail firmly in the pounce position.

My first hot hatch experience was in a MazdaSpeed 3. My abiding memory of it was that it was a torque steering psychopath trying to kill me. So when it came time to try its competitor the Focus ST I was a little scared.

The reality, however, is that it’s not very scary at all. Not that you can tell by looking at it. It’s draped in more aggressive looking bumpers and side skirts. And has a fantastic centre mounted tailpipe that looks like two hexagons joining together. And if you’re willing to pay an extra $1100 you can add some sick matte black racing stripes with complimentary glossy black painted rims.

It really makes the car look aggressive, and don’t be surprised if other drivers react more aggressively towards it. On the way home from a trip I squeezed into the left lane on the freeway (in a tight spot). The man behind me went ape: driving back past, shaking his fist, getting in front of me and slamming on the brakes. I have never encountered such an aggressive bit of road rage in my driving career. Though that may be because I own an old gold Honda Accord that’s virtually invisible.

I could have taken him. He just had an old Jeep Grand Cherokee. I meanwhile had a 252hp version of Ford’s 2.0 litre EcoBoost engine. With a 0 to 100km/h rating in the mid sixes, I could have left him in the dust. But I didn’t. I timidly hid behind a semi truck until he exited the freeway, shaking his fist some more.

The freeway isn’t really the place for the ST anyway. It has sporty Recaro seats, that ruin posture. They’re kind of like skinny jeans, too tight, and a little insulting, to those without a Recaro ass. And the gas tank is a little small. I consumed about 8.8 L/100km and that never got me farther than 500 km.

It’s on the back road twisties where this car really shines and surprises. I struggle with high-powered front wheel drive cars. It was a part of the torque-steer trauma from the MazdaSpeed 3. If you don’t know, torque steer is a phenomenon with front drive cars when too much power is going to wheels that can turn and they in turn turn on their own. It can be a handful. The Focus ST, however, controlled the torque steer really well.

And that helped make it drive even better on the normal road. It’s a very fun car to drive. Around corners, the torque vectoring system pulls the car towards the apex letting you push that little bit harder. Even better, though, is the traction control system. As I’m very risk averse I don’t like turning the traction control due to the limits of my driving skill. But the ST has a special sport mode. It helps prevent you from completely losing the car, while still allowing a bit of lift off oversteer tail wag. It’s very fun, and I’m actually sad I only discovered it on my last day of testing.

It really is a fantastic hot hatch. It has all the practicality of a conventional Ford Focus. But when you push it, it will push you. It can put a smile on your face and really that’s all you can ask for.

Starting at a $29,995 MSRP, it’s not exactly cheap. But compared to the other hot hatches on the market and even the more powerful and capable Focus RS, I’d say it’s worth it. Especially if you want to performance with your practicality. Just be careful not to annoy other drivers.

2015 Ford Focus ST

Price as tested (Base Price): $34,814 ($31,564) inc. Freight + PDI
Engine: 2.0 Litre Direct Injection Turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 252 hp (5,500 rpm)  Torque: 270 lb-ft (2500 rpm)
Transmission: 6 speed manual

Fuel Consumption NRCan (city|hwy|combined): 10.2 | 7.3 | 8.9  L/100km

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